God’s Plans and Letting Go of My “To Accomplish” List

The first weeks of 2021, of a fresh planner, of setting goals and making plans, or trying to picture a good year, have spurred reflections of last year. I pulled out my 2020 planner, something that was much neglected, and looked at the goals I’d written out on the first few pages. While some of them were a little far-fetched to begin with (learn French in the middle of Michigan with no one else to speak it with? Seriously?) Others seemed reasonable.  Write once a week.  Schedule 1 special day with each of your sisters/nieces.  Plan a trip to Niagara Falls.  When I wrote this down, none of these things seemed like stretch goals. They were the manageable, toned-down versions of the goals I had in my head. Things like:  Write a killer post/article every day and write a book in your free time.  Developed the perfect Lorelei/Rory-esque relationship with each of your sisters/nieces. Plan a trip to Europe and then a subsequent trip to Asia. There was little doubt that my goals were attainable baby steps.  And yet, by the first week of April, most of my goals and plans for the year had been scrapped. What seemed reasonable, if not trite, just three months prior now felt laughable. I might as well have writtennThe Sea of Tranquility instead of Niagara Falls.  So sitting down to write goals had a different tone and feeling this year.  “If the Lord wills” is something I’ve heard fellow believers add to the end of their plans my entire life.  “We’re going to go to Florida for Spring Break if the Lord wills.” “We’ll be holding our brand spanking new baby boy the second week of July if the  Lord wills.” “They’ll be visiting this weekend and, barring any rain, we’ll go to the farmer’s market if the Lord wills.” It’s always hit me wrong.  While I believe in the sovereignty of God, this felt more like a mockery, saying something normal and reasonable then acting as if would only come to pass with God’s special blessing. It felt like a cousin to the prosperity gospel that seeps into so many circles and teachings.  But yet, this year’s planner felt like a lesson in humility. Like a recognition that each plan I made was simply that, a plan I made not a certainty that would come to pass. For the first time, my…

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Rejoicing in the Promise of a New Heaven and a New Earth – The Bible in Lent: Day 39

We’ve reached the end of the Bible in Lent journey! It has been an intense 40 days of reading the entire Bible, often multiple books a day, and getting a glimpse at the big picture message.  From Genesis to Revelation, we see over and over again the promises of a good God who is calling us to rely on Him. In Genesis, we saw the perfect world God had created marred by the sin of our original parents. The beautiful relationship mankind had with their Creator was broken, but there was a promise. A promise that one would come to defeat the serpent.  And we see the serpent’s defeat and the undoing of Death in Jesus’s death and resurrection. As we finish the Bible, we see the promise is still being fulfilled. We live in what is often referred to as the “already not yet.”  Already, Christ has defeated Death and secured eternal victory and restoration of the relationship with God for those who follow Him. Not yet do we fully experience that victory and restoration. We are waiting for His second coming when the old domain of sin and death will pass away and a new heaven and earth will be established.  So today, in this in-between time, we live in light of that promise, knowing the victory and coming world that is ours in Christ.  And I saw no temple in the city, for its temple is the Lord God the Almighty and the Lamb. And the city has no need of sun or moon to shine upon it, for the glory of God is its light, and its lamp is the Lamb. By its light shall the nations walk; and the kings of the earth shall bring their glory into it, and its gates shall never be shut by day—and there shall be no night there; they shall bring into it the glory and the honor of the nations. But nothing unclean shall enter it, nor any one who practices abomination or falsehood, but only those who are written in the Lamb’s book of life.  – Revelation 21: 22-27 RSVCE  The New Heaven and Earth are coming.  In Revelation, we see a beautiful picture of what will come and the intimacy with God we will have in the new creation.  While we wait for these promises, we should not grow weary or doubt the reliability of God’s…

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From Milk to Solid Food: We Need to Progress to Spiritual Maturity – The Bible in Lent: Day 38

In the middle of Hebrews, the unknown writer expresses exasperation stunted growth of the believers he’s writing to. Instead of growing deeper in their faith, growing more like Christ, they are stagnant in the basics. He tells them they should have moved past spiritual infancy and into spiritual maturity.  About this we have much to say which is hard to explain, since you have become dull of hearing. For though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need some one to teach you again the first principles of God’s word. You need milk, not solid food; for every one who lives on milk is unskilled in the word of righteousness, for he is a child. But solid food is for the mature, for those who have their faculties trained by practice to distinguish good from evil. – Hebrews 5:11-14 RSVCE  The believers were not able to understand the depth of the faith being explained to them because they hadn’t been able to move past the basics. They were stuck in a cycle of relying on the basics instead of moving to the next step.  Because while the basics are always foundational, essential to growth, we are supposed to continue to build upon the foundation.  Christians need to have a firm grasp of the basics, but we wouldn’t stay intellectual infants, we need to grow our faith.  Similar to our discussion yesterday on training in righteousness, we need to use the spiritual disciplines God has provided to us and rely on Him to work primarily through those means to grow us.  Because moving past the basics helps us distinguish between good and evil.  When we don’t grow in the life and depth of what Christ accomplished for us, when we remain spiritual children, like children we are easily deceived. We are tossed around by false doctrine and are easy prey for the wolves in sheep’s clothing.  We should not become dull of hearing but should be eagerly deepening our understanding of the Word of God. This is not simply the task for those in ministry but is the work of all who believe.  As the writer says, the people of the church should have been teaching others, but instead, they were stuck being retaught the basics again and again and again.  I know the feeling of being stuck in a rut.  Of needing to be reminded of the core…

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Training for Righteousness – The Bible in Lent: Day 37

If you were running a marathon, I would be a fool at best and a saboteur at worst if I told you not to prepare unless you really, really felt like running that day. Because marathons are hard. To think you could simply wake up one day and go run a marathon would be foolish. It takes dedication and consistent training.  And Paul wrote to Timothy that the life in godliness was no different.  Train yourself in godliness; for while bodily training is of some value, godliness is of value in every way, as it holds promise for the present life and also for the life to come – 1 Timothy 4: 7-8 RSVCE Training for godliness, for righteousness, is not something that is often emphasized in our culture. Our spiritual lives are seen as something passive, something that just happens, but the Bible paints a different image.  Over and over again, we see the image of training like an athlete trains. We see the importance of consistency, of dedication, of pushing ourselves when we simply don’t feel like it.  We toil and strive not to earn hope, but as a response to the hope we already have in Christ.  For to this end we toil and strive, because we have our hope set on the living God, who is the Savior of all men, especially of those who believe. – 1 Timothy 4:10 RSVCE For the Christian, training in righteousness needs to be a regular part of our lives.  We shouldn’t passively go through our days, hoping that our self-focused lives will somehow lead us to live more loving, God-centered lives. No, we need to prepare, to make a plan, to train for lives around the race God has called us to run.  As we look at the high call of holiness, we need to remember that we’re not left on our own. God has given us through His word clear instructions for the types of things that cultivate a life of holiness. These spiritual disciplines need to be a regular part of our routine.  Just as we plan to care for our bodies by exercising, eating well, and taking time for rest, so too we need to care for our souls! Looking at the Spiritual Disciplines and planning, actually planning in your calendar, to incorporate them into your life is a starting point.  Rely on the Holy Spirit…

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8 Verses from 2nd Corinthians to Ponder – The Bible in Lent: Day 36

We have finally come to my favorite of the epistles, quite possibly my favorite book of the Bible, 2nd Corinthians, in the Bible in Lent reading plan.  I thought that it would be easy to write about this book. I had a few passages in mind even before I had re-read it. But I’ve been sitting at my computer for almost an hour now procrastinating because quite frankly, I feel like a child trying to remember their favorite part of something they loved.  I’ve written about my favorite passage, the one I have literally engraved into my body before so I wanted to write about something else.  As I’ve been flipping through 2nd Corinthians again, noting the passages I’ve underlined, I realized that there is so much here that I believe, but know I don’t totally understand. I need to sit and ponder these words.  There are many passages in this book that lead me into deeper wonder, that calls me to marvel at the grace and love of God.  Here are a few of them for you to ponder with me today as well:  Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God. For as we share abundantly in Christ’s sufferings, so through Christ we share abundantly in comfort too. – 2 Corinthians 1:3-5 RSVCE For all the promises of God find their Yes in him. That is why we utter the Amen through him, to the glory of God. – 2 Corinthians 1:20 RSVCE We all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being changed into his likeness from one degree of glory to another; for this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit. – 2 Corinthians 3:18 RSVCE For this slight momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, because we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen; for the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal. – 2 Corinthians 4:17-18 RSVCE So whether we are at home or away, we make it our aim to please him. For we must…

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