Seeking God’s Plans

Seeking God’s Plans

‘For I know the plans I have for you”[this is] the Lord’s declaration’ ‘plans for [your] welfare, not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope.’ Jeremiah 29:11 HCSB

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Why did God put me here?’ It’s a simple question to ask and, at times, a very complicated question to answer.

As you seek to discover (or perhaps, to rediscover) God’s plan for your life, you should start by remembering this: You are here because God put you here, and He did so for a very good reason: His reason.

At times, you may be confident that you are doing God’s will. But on other occasions, you may be uncertain about the direction that your life should take. At times, you may wander aimlessly in a wilderness of your own making. And sometimes, you may struggle mightily against God in a vain effort to find success and happiness through your own means, not His. But wherever you find yourself’ whether on the mountaintops, in the valleys, or at the crossroads of life you may be assured that God is there . . . and you may be assured that He has a plan.

If you manage to align yourself with God’s plan for your life, you will be energized, you will be enthused, and you will be blessed. That’s why you should strive mightily to understand what it is that God wants you to do. But how can you know precisely what God’s intentions are? The answer, of course, is that even the most well- intentioned believers face periods of uncertainty and doubt about the direction of their lives. So, too, will you.

When you arrive at one of life’s inevitable crossroads, that’s the moment when you should turn your thoughts and prayers toward God. When you do, He will make Himself known to you in a time and manner of His choosing. When you discover God’s plan for your life, you will experience abundance, peace, joy, and power’ God’s power. And that’s the only kind of power that really matters.

God has a wonderful plan for your life. And the time to start looking for that plan and living it, is now. And remember’ discovering God’s plan begins with prayer, but it doesn’t end there. You’ve also got to work at it.

One of the wonderful things about being a Christian is the knowledge that God has a plan for our lives. Warren Wiersbe

If God declares what it means to be human, then our lives are not the meaningless collections of unrelated events they so often appear to be. Stanley Grenz

TODAY’S PRAYER

Dear Heavenly Father, your word says that the footsteps of a righteous man are guided by you. I pray Lord that you will guide my steps and my plans. Thank you that the events in my life are not meaningless coincidences but they are plans that you have set in motion for me. Amen

 

 

Fields of Change

Fields of Change 

Sow for yourselves righteousness, reap the fruit of unfailing love, and break up your unplowed ground, for it is time to seek the Lord, until he comes and showers righteousness on you. – Hosea 10:12

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Character isn’t instantly created. It’s carved out.

To God, our lives are like a series of fields that need working. Once one has been worked, we move to the next. At each stop He encourages us to get busy tilling ground hardened by sin, pulling weeds grown in neglect, and planting seeds of biblical truth. He makes us willing and able for the work; and He makes each task fruitful through the power of the Holy Spirit.

But change does happen. The Bible gives us insight how. Think of Joseph in an Egyptian jail, and Moses in the desert. Recall David’s years of flight from Saul and Jonah’s time in the belly of a fish. Reflect upon Gideon in a cave and Job’s catastrophes. Consider Abraham’s wanderings and Peter’s three denials of Christ. Look at the apostle Paul’s blinding encounter with the risen Lord on the road to Damascus.

These stories, and many more like them, recount the ways of God among the men He claims for His own. As you spend time considering them, you will see a pattern emerge: brokenness, humility, and the learning of patience all come before spiritual maturity and usefulness. Open up your Bible and search out these stories. Learn from them. They demonstrate the pattern of change for your own life in Christ.

Our days are a kaleidoscope. Every instant a change takes place. New harmonies, new contrasts, new combinations of every sort. The most familiar people stand each moment in some new relation to each other, to their work, to surrounding objects.  - Henry Ward Beecher

TODAY’S PRAYER
Lord, when change comes, I pray that I will look to you for insight. As things change in my life and around me, help me to keep my eyes on you and trust that whatever the circumstance, your ultimate plan for me is a good one. Amen
 

Is Anger a Sin?

We’ve gotten lots of emails wanting to know more about anger and angry people. What about when your anger is justified? Is anger a sin? Dr. Dave Stoop, Dr. Jill Hubbard and I got together to talk about an emotion no one likes to admit they’re simmering in. Click on the image to watch now.

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Spanking our Children

Whoever spares the rod hates their children, but the one who loves their children is careful to discipline them. – Proverbs 13:24

Parents often ask me, is it okay to spank a child or does spanking harm them for life? Here’s my answer below. Watch now.

Unfailing Love

Unfailing Love

Yet this I call to mind and therefore I have hope: Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness. Lamentations 3:21-23

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No one is exempt from suffering. The people you think deserve it the least are often the ones faced with it. And you may suffer because those you love make some poor choices. Your wife may leave you, your child may struggle with addiction, or your brother may choose a homosexual lifestyle. Whatever the situation or whenever your heart is breaking, God wants you to give your grief and sorrow to Him. He’s the one who mends broken hearts.

The prophet Jeremiah is a man who watched, as his nation was taken captive, ravished, and almost completely destroyed because of its refusal to surrender to God. It’s no wonder Jeremiah is known as the weeping prophet. In the book of Lamentations he cried, “My splendor is gone and all that I had hoped from the Lord. I remember my affliction and my wandering, the bitterness and the gall. I well remember them, and my soul is downcast within me.” (Lamentations 3:18-20)

But look at the Scripture that follows his weepy, whiny, poor-little-ol’ me tirade. It is printed at the top of this page. What a great example for us.

We all get in to feeling sorry for ourselves. But before you stay there, remember your hope: God’s love is unfailing! And it never ends.

Though our feelings come and go, God’s love for us does not. – C.S. Lewis

When the time comes for you to die, you need not be afraid, because death cannot separate you from God’s love. – Charles Spurgeon

The Value of Connection

Connected HandsAn important aspect of dependency is that it teaches us that relationship is the most important thing in the universe. Connection is really the deepest value in God’s heart.

He constructed everything, and He Himself exists, in terms of relationship: ‘God is love‘ (John 4:16). When you allow dependent feelings and stances in life, you begin to live life the way God intended it. Relationship is not only a means to an end; it is an end in itself.

Closeness to God and others is what life is all about. Life has meaning, fulfillment and purpose in relationship. Some people have never experienced relationship as a good thing in their lives. For example, you may see dependency as being weak and vulnerable, or have fears of abandonment. Or you may have been so disconnected that there appears to be no real value in connection. Where there is no hunger, it is hard to value dependency.

As you work through these difficulties, you can learn to experience closeness as something not only good for you, but as the ‘highest good’ experience and position that God provides for us. In addition, becoming close to God and others is one of the major factors enabling you to be able to give up things you are in bondage to, such as addictions, destructive feelings and poor relationships.

‘LOVE NEVER FAILS!’ (I Cor. 13:8)

Do you need help getting connected? Join us at one of our Weekend Workshops, you will laugh, learn, and by God’s grace  be transformed.

Love Is A Choice

Love is a Choice

This is my command: Love one another the way I loved you. This is the very best way to love. Put your life on the line for your friends. John 15:12-13 MSG

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Love is a choice. Either you choose to behave lovingly toward others . . . or not; either you behave yourself in ways that enhance your relationships . . . or not. But make no mistake: genuine love requires effort. Simply put, if you wish to build lasting relationships, you must be willing to do your part.

Christ’s words are clear: we are to love God first, and secondly, we are to love others as we love ourselves (Matthew 22:37-40). These two commands are seldom easy, and because we are imperfect beings, we often fall short. But God’s Word commands us to try.

The Christian path is an exercise in love and forgiveness. If we are to walk in Christ’s footsteps, we must forgive those who have done us harm, and we must accept Christ’s love by sharing it freely with family, friends, neighbors, and even strangers.

God does not intend for you to experience mediocre relationships; He created you for far greater things. Building lasting relationships requires compassion, wisdom, empathy, kindness, courtesy, and forgiveness. If that sounds a lot like work, it is’which is perfectly fine with God. Why? Because He knows that you are capable of doing that work, and because He knows that the fruits of your labors will enrich the lives of your loved ones and the lives of generations yet unborn.

Do you want love to last? Then you must understand this: Genuine love requires effort. That’s why those who are lazy in love are often losers in love, too!

No man truly has joy unless he lives in love. - Thomas Aquinas

It is when we come to the Lord in our nothingness, our powerlessness and our helplessness that He then enables us to love in a way which, without Him, would be absolutely impossible. - Elisabeth Elliot

Love is extravagant in the price it is willing to pay, the time it is willing to give, the hardships it is willing to endure, and the strength it is willing to spend. Love never thinks in terms of ‘how little,’ but always in terms of ‘how much.’ Love gives, love knows, and love lasts. - Joni Eareckson Tada

To love another person is to see the face of God. - Victor Hugo

Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. - 1 John 4:11 NASB

 

Recovery is Like an Onion

Recovery is Like an Onion

Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit. – Galatians 5:25

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Someone smarter than me said: “Recovery is like an onion.  All the layers that exist have to be peeled away.” Well, if you’re a connoisseur of onions, you know that there are different varieties.  Some are really powerful and when you barely touch them they produce tears. Others are pretty sweet and they barely affect you when you chop them up.

And so it is with your peeling the layers in your healing process.  Some layers will affect you more than others. But, if you realize that it’s a process, and that God is with you every step of the way, you can face the pain of your past so that you can move beyond it and heal. Also, consider this:  You are in the present. You lived through the reality, whatever and whenever it was, so you can certainly live through the feelings and memories of the reality today.

Make your one desire to be made whole and to be as much like Christ as you can be. When you do, you’ll find God putting on your heart the desire and the courage to carry the message of hope and healing to those who are stuck in their pain.

Embrace the pain of the recovery and healing process. It will remind you that God is in control and you’re being held in his arms, tight and secure as He walks you through it. It means you’ll take some steps of faith, and that will be pleasing to God and healing to you.

Accepting the reality of our broken, flawed lives is the beginning of spirituality not because the spiritual life will remove our flaws but because we let go of seeking perfection and, instead, seek God, the one who is present in the tangledness of our lives. — Michael Yaconelli

We are all broken and wounded in this world. Some choose to grow strong at the broken places. – Harold J. Duarte-Bernhardt

 

Close the Gate

Close the Gate

Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you. – Ephesians 4:32

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My friend grew up on a farm, and she once told me that her sole responsibility was to close the gate behind her.  That way the live­stock couldn’t backtrack into a field of alfalfa.  All she had to do was close the gate behind her.

Back then she thought gate closing was boring work—just a whole lot of waiting. Then something happened.  She discovered that while gate closing isn’t prestigious or exciting, it’s vitally impor­tant.

On the path to wellness and wholeness, there are many gates to close.  Closing the gate means not leaving loose ends hanging.

Are there people with whom you have loose ends?  Do you need to return something you “borrowed?” Is there restitution or an over­due apology that might renew a relationship?

My friend’s mom used to tell her, “Close the gates behind you.”  Most often she was talking about more than the field gate—she was talking about all the gates of life. What gates do you need to close?

The closing of a door can bring blessed privacy and comfort—the opening terror. Conversely, the closing of a door can be a sad and final thing—the opening a wonderfully joyous moment. – Andy Rooney

Sometimes you only get one chance to rewrite the qualities of the character you played in a person’s life story. Always take it. Never let the world read the wrong version of you. – Unknown

Hope for the Broken Marriage

(A ‘broken marriage’ – in the context I am writing – is one damaged by sexually inappropriate conduct.)

mended-heartThere are a growing number of broken marriages in the United States today. Men, and a rapidly increasing number of women, are falling prey to the schemes of pornographers and a culture saturated in sexual gratification at the expense of moral integrity. These couples regularly lie to each other in order to keep their sin a secret. The more they lie the further they drift apart emotionally. The further apart they drift the wider the crevice of brokenness expands. Given enough time, the chasm between them seems an insurmountable obstacle. Thus, many couples who eventually wake up to the reality of their broken marriage feel they have fallen too far apart for any reasonable expectation of real healing and reconciliation.

As more and more broken couples reach out for help, too many are not finding what they really need to rebuild their relationship. Why? No one seems to be offering them the foundational element of long-term healing: hope. A host of well-intentioned counselors and pastors see a hurting, broken couple sitting on the couch in their office and immediately begin strategizing the best techniques to remedy the numerous problems of communication, finances, or sex they might be facing. What is wrong with this approach? Without casting a vision of hope, the counselor or pastor is simply offering a band aid as the solution for the gaping wound in the broken marriage. Broken marriages need hope for long-term healing and restoration.

There are many challenges to assisting spouses in a broken marriage to embrace hope. First, trust is always damaged in a broken marriage, and as such each spouse is reluctant to move toward the other for fear of being wounded even more deeply. Second, most couples suffering broken marriages have little, if any, ability to communicate well with one another. They have each learned to place their own interests first, thus making communication a tool to manipulate his/her spouse to achieve his/her self-centered agenda. Finally, the sheer distance created between spouses through lying and hiding makes it difficult for the couple to imagine closeness as God designed it.

Does it seem like the deck is stacked against the couple in a broken marriage? Only if you believe God is incapable of dealing them a new hand. And this is where hope must be reborn (or birthed for the first time) for those suffering the broken marriage. A couple must believe that God is able to heal, willing to restore, and desirous to make all things new. Spouses in a broken marriage must embrace the truth, individually and as a couple, that God can bring beauty from ashes and breathe life into their ashen relationship. Hope, true hope, is born in the one who begins to expect God to fulfill His promises even when it appears the situation is beyond repair. Hope sees beyond circumstance and anchors itself on the certainty of God’s Word.

So, how does a couple suffering from a broken marriage actually embrace this kind of hope? Surprisingly, this type of hope is gained through brokenness. That’s right. The couple who wakes up one day and realizes the extent to which their marriage has been broken is closer to hope than they might know. But such a realization and appropriation of hope cannot come without outside intervention and guidance.

Most couples can experience brokenness without any help from anybody else. In fact, it comes naturally to those who allow sexual sin to infiltrate their union. But hope, healing, and a rebuilt marriage must involve external influence. Of course, there must be the touch of God if true and lasting healing is to occur. But there must also be the instruction and guidance of wise counselors and friends to help a broken marriage be rebuilt. Without such influence the probability of the couple drifting back to old patterns of deception and self-centeredness is virtually certain.

In choosing those to counsel the broken couple, the determining factor is truth. Invite truth-tellers in; reject falsehood. How can such a broken couple determine what is the truth and what isn’t? Through the benchmark of truth, God’s Word. God never lies. Never. If particular counsel does not match up with God’s Word, it is not good for the healing of the broken marriage. And such false instruction does more to damage hope than to encourage it. Truth, though it may require painful self-examination, will always lead to the path of freedom. And freedom (from deception, bitterness, fear, and self-centeredness) is exactly what the broken marriage needs in order to rebuild to a healthy, whole, ‘oneness’ union.

Why is hope so important in this process of healing the broken marriage? Because without hope it is easy to become discouraged. Healing a broken marriage is not easy. It takes time, sacrifice, endurance, and hard work. When the road gets bumpy it is hope that reminds the couple that their efforts will not be in vain. It is hope that reminds them that God is good, patient, and loving even when this appears not to be true. And it is hope that encourages the couple that what they are working toward will be more beautiful than anything they had in the past. This is the importance of hope for the broken marriage.

God promises a good return for those who invest in seeking hope. Amazingly, the Bible even tells us that we can ‘rejoice in our sufferings.’ Why? Because ‘suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not disappoint us, because God has poured out his love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, whom he has given us.’ (Rom. 5:3-5) The benefit to pressing through the suffering of a broken marriage and pursuing hope to rebuild is that the love of God will increasingly abound. True love, true intimacy, and true joy can be experienced even by those whose marriages have been broken by sexual lust and unfaithfulness.

If you are living in a broken marriage, begin today to ask God to lead you and your spouse to hope. Keep a watchful eye for wise counselors and friends who can help you persevere, build character, and invest in hope. The small steps you take today toward a new attitude of hope will produce long-term benefits that far outweigh the current momentary sacrifice. And even if circumstances do not progress in the manner or time frame you expect, you can know that the hope you gain in Christ is not in vain because movement toward God is always movement in the right direction.

‘May the God of all hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.’
(Rom. 15:13)

We would like to help you in your journey of finding hope and healing. Please consider attending our upcoming Marriage Solution Workshop or getting a copy of some of our resources. Read what previous attendees of our Marriage Solution Workshop are saying. Call us on 800-NEW-LIFE (639-5433), we can help.