A CHANGE IN DIRECTION

We were driving down a highway one day when, straight ahead of us, there was what appeared to be a silo and a walkway going over the highway to a tall structure on the other side of the road.  While that may not be earthshaking, when I looked up from my reading it appeared to me that we had to drive directly underneath that walkway and in between the silo and the other structure.  There was nothing but farmland on either side of the highway for miles and the road seemed to be flat, no rise in elevation or hills to consider just more farmland up ahead.  But, there stood these two structures and the tiny bridge. 

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I have to say I was startled, and wondered how we were supposed to navigate this passageway.  My fears were unfounded, however, when we got to the point of no return and the road curved so that the buildings were on the right side of the roadbed.

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A change in direction.  We think things are going along just fine.  We have our lives all laid out.  The plan is determined and things are being put in place to execute that well-thought-out plan.

When all of a sudden, there is a change in direction.  A curve in the road that we didn’t see or even consider.  The flatness of our life’s terrain is a source of comfort and security.  We know what is going on and we don’t have to worry about surprises. 

Jesus said that His followers would have problems and trials in this life, He certainly did and He told us that we should expect it also. 

“Blessed are you when people hate you and when they exclude you and revile you and spurn your name as evil, on account of the Son of Man!”

Luke 6:22 

But, Jesus also said that God, His Heavenly Father, knows all about all of His creation.  When a little sparrow falls from the tree, God knows about that.  Jesus then said, if God cares for the sparrow, just imagine how much He cares for you!  Again, Jesus said God knows how many hairs we have on our head. 

“Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? And not one of them will fall to the ground apart from your Father. But even the hairs of your head are all numbered. Fear not, therefore; you are of more value than many sparrows.”

Matthew 10:29-31

If that is the case, do you really think God would be surprised about anything that would happen to you?

As certainly as the sun comes up in the morning, there will be surprises that come into our lives, some good ones and many others not so good, and we have to learn to handle them, sometimes in a split second.

How can we do that?  By leaning on the One who loves us with an eternal love and who does, indeed, have our life plan before Him.  While we may be surprised by events that occur and seem to derail our life, God is not surprised by any means.  He is omniscient – He is all-knowing.  Further, He is omnipotent – He is all-powerful. 

Combining those two eternal and immutable attributes of God, He knows all things that will happen to you and He is strong enough to be sure that His plan for you will be fulfilled.  That does not mean that there will not be difficulties for us as Christians.  Rather, it means that when there is a difficulty, we can be certain that we are in God’s hands and that He is in control of the situation. 

This is when faith comes into play.  We need to have faith in God so that we can truly rest in His eternal arms during whatever trial or difficulty we are experiencing at any given time.

A change in plans often is unwelcome, distressing and disturbing.  But it often brings surprises and growth in our spiritual life that outweigh all the distress originally felt.  In the process, we can learn a great deal about our God and our relationship with Him. 

Think you are running into an unmovable obstacle? Think again, God may have turned the roadway just in time so that you are, once again, on the straight and narrow way!

Father, I praise your name and give you all glory and honor because only You are God.  There are many imitations and false gods in today’s world, there are many things that man has made into a god such as money, fame, privilege, possessions, even family.  Forgive us when we replace You for anything else.   You are the one and only true God, and it is to You that our love and allegiance must be directed.

 

The Donkey and The Horse

After publishing the post HORSE, WAR AND PROVIDENCE, I received a comment from a dear friend at church that prompted the need for additional thoughts about the post.  

First.  In biblical times, what the king rode announced his intentions. If he came on a donkey, he was coming in peace.  In the book of Zechariah we read this prophesy:

“Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion! Shout aloud, O daughter of Jerusalem! Behold, your king is coming to you; righteous and having salvation is he, humble and mounted on a donkey, on a colt, the foal of a donkey.

Zechariah 9:9 ESV

We know what Jesus rode into Jerusalem during His incarnation.  At the beginning of the week we call The Passion Week, Jesus was going into Jerusalem to celebrate the Passover and knowing that He was going to be charged, convicted and executed for crimes that you and I have done, not for any wrongdoing that He, in His perfect obedience to God, had committed.  But, before the crowds hollered “Crucify Him” they screamed “Hosanna to the Son of David”, as He rode into the city on a donkey.  

“They brought the donkey and the colt and put on them their cloaks, and he sat on them.  Most of the crowd spread their cloaks on the road, and others cut branches from the trees and spread them on the road. And the crowds that went before him and that followed him were shouting, “Hosanna to the Son of David! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord! Hosanna in the highest!” And when he entered Jerusalem, the whole city was stirred up, saying, “Who is this?” And the crowds said, “This is the prophet Jesus, from Nazareth of Galilee.””  

Matthew 21:7-11 ESV

The King of Kings was riding a donkey and this had been foretold by Zechariah long before Jesus was born.  

Second.  If the king came on a horse, he was coming for war.  In the last book of the Bible, Revelation, the Apostle John had a vision of the end times and in that vision he describes what Jesus will be riding the next time He comes to earth as the triumphant King of King and Lord of Lords.

White horse statue, St Francois Xavier, Manitoba

“Then I saw heaven opened, and behold, a white horse! The one sitting on it is called Faithful and True, and in righteousness he judges and makes war.  His eyes are like a flame of fire, and on his head are many diadems, and he has a name written that no one knows but himself.  He is clothed in a robe dipped in blood, and the name by which he is called is The Word of God.  And the armies of heaven, arrayed in fine linen, white and pure, were following him on white horses.  From his mouth comes a sharp sword with which to strike down the nations, and he will rule them with a rod of iron. He will tread the winepress of the fury of the wrath of God the Almighty. On his robe and on his thigh he has a name written, King of kings and Lord of lords.”

Revelation 19:11-16 ESV

This has not yet happened, but the Bible says it will, and that which God has ordained will, indeed, come to pass. 

“I am the LORD. I have spoken; it shall come to pass; I will do it. I will not go back; I will not spare; I will not relent; according to your ways and your deeds you will be judged, declares the Lord GOD.”

Ezekiel 24:14 ESV

We must never ignore or forget that God is totally sovereign over all that occurs in His world.  As Ezekiel says, whatever God says He will do, it will happen.  When He speaks, He does not lie neither does He forget; nothing gets in the way of what He has planned. He is not powerless when confronted by those whom we consider powerful.

“The king’s heart is a stream of water in the hand of the Lord; He turns it wherever He will.

Proverbs 21:1 ESV

Beloved, if you have received the Lord Jesus Christ and have believed on Him alone for your salvation, these words should be of comfort to you.  Even though things look dismal, even when many are against you and they have surrounded you with malice, hateful words, threatening actions … you are God’s and nothing will wipe you out of His hand.

For I am persuaded, that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.”

Romans 8:38-39 KJV

Are you persuaded?  Jesus came the first time as a baby, who as an adult rode a donkey when he came into Jerusalem for the last time.  The next time He visits our world He will be riding on a white horse, coming not as a helpless baby but as the living ruling King of Kings and Lord of Lords.  

Praise His Holy Name!

Father, I thank You that You provided a way for us to come before You through the sacrificial atoning death of Jesus Christ, your Son.  Thank You Lord Jesus for being obedient, even to the point of the cross, and thank You for welcoming those who You have called into Your family.  Thank You Holy Spirit for convicting us of our sin and for guaranteeing our salvation through faith in Christ alone.  And thank You Holy Spirit for indwelling us and for enabling us to become transformed into the image of our Lord.  We praise Your Name, Triune God, for You are worthy to be praised.

PLAN AND GO – OR GO WITH THE FLOW?

I find it interesting when I talk to people about vacations.  Some folks just “go with the flow.”   No need to plan where they are going to stop, “there will be a place somewhere!”   No need to get tickets ahead of time, “there will be a seat available!” 

Others plan every hour and second of their time away from home.  They have hotel and restaurant reservations.  They have tickets, in hand, for various events they want to see or in which they want to participate.  And, they have maps galore including the most up-to-date GPS program available.  

I suspect that most people are a combination of these two extremes, but I am mostly a “planner” while my husband is more of a “go with the flow” guy.  It makes for some interesting times. 

taylor-mcgee-campbell-wisconsin-dormatory
Taylor University, Upland, Indiana — picture of McGee-Campbell-Wisconsin, my dormitory when I was a student in the late 1960s. It had been demolished by the time our daughter graduated from the University in 2000. 

We had two children in college at the same time.  They both were in out-of-state schools, each about 7 hours away from our home but in opposite directions!  This did not create too much of a problem until the year when Parents’ Weekend was held on the same date for both schools.  Normally we do things together, but given the circumstances, I went to our daughter’s school and my husband went to our son’s school.   

vmi-jackson-hall-1996
Virginia Military Institute, Lexington, Virginia, picture taken in 1998 of Jackson Hall (the dormitory) when our son was a cadet there.

Since we were going in opposite directions, leaving at different times, it never occurred to me to make my husband’s hotel reservations.  He made his own plans when he traveled for work so I didn’t think twice about his plans for this trip, especially since he was going to an area not far from his birthplace. 

I planned my trip and even arranged for an Aunt to meet me in the small Indiana college town as a surprise for our daughter.  I had started loading the car with things that she wanted for her dorm room when my husband asked: “Where am I staying tonight?”    I responded: “I don’t know; where did you make your reservations?”  

The blank look on his face was all the answer I needed.  No reservations.  “Well,” he said, “there are loads of rooms in the area.”  So I headed for Indiana and he headed for Virginia.  He knew the area well, in fact it had been his sales territory for a number of years, so I was not concerned about his ability to find lodging. 

What neither of us knew was that all of the gazillion schools in northern Virginia had Parents’ Weekend at the same time.   What he also did not know, but soon found out, was that no rooms were available in any of the hotels/motels near the VMI campus.

I, on the other hand, was safely booked into my hotel when I tried calling him on his cell phone.  At that point in the day, he told me about all the Parents’ Weekend activities and mentioned that he did not yet have a room.  He was confident that it would be easy to find one; he just had “not really looked”.

Later, he called to tell me that he found lodging – an hour away from the college and in the direction of our home.  He was not in a regular room but in the hotel’s conference room.  I then had a mental picture of a long table with all the chairs pushed in forming a fence with his sleeping form stretched out between the chairs, a book for his pillow. Rather like the Biblical Patriarch Jacob, I thought!   

conference-room-table

While he let me have that delusion for a while, later in the conversation he told me that the room had a sleeper sofa.  There went the Jacob analogy!

Praise the Lord that He is sovereign.  In our arrogance and sin, we think that we have our life all worked out, but we must remember that our life is always under His control, whether we plan and schedule or relax about the details.  Job learned this millennia ago when he said:

“I know that you can do all things; no plan of yours can be thwarted.” 

Job 42:1-2

Moving into the New Testament, when Pilate said that he had the power to either free or crucify Jesus, Jesus corrected him:

“You would have no power over me if it were not given to you from above.” 

John 19:10-11. 

In Proverbs 19:21 the writer says:

“Many are the plans in a man’s heart, but it is the LORD’S purpose that prevails.”  

I have to confess that my planning down to the infinite detail is something of which I must repent since it falls in the category of prideful sin.  You know, something along these lines: “I’ve got this, Lord.  You can take care of more important things!” 

I further suspect that Bill’s relaxed attitude is much more like that which our Lord desires.  Rest in His arms and let Him handle the details.  I’m basing this on the teachings in Matthew chapter 6, a chapter which I commend to your reading.

In it, Jesus talked about anxiety and told His disciples, and us, not to worry about our life or what we are going to eat or wear.  God knows what we need and He will work His will through us.  At the end of the chapter, He says:

“But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.  Therefore do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble.”

Matthew 6:33-34 ESV 

Yeah, I believe that this supports my husband’s relaxed attitude about planning, and it is something that I have to cultivate in my own life on a daily basis.

Ultimately, both of us had marvelous times with the children on our respective Parents’ Weekends.   Even when things seem to be hectic, helter-skelter, and going awry, God has even the tiniest details in His hands.  What an incredible, caring and omniscient God we serve.  What a glorious blessing it is to call Him “Father” through Jesus Christ our Lord.

 

Thank You, Father, for guiding us through the hurdles that we encounter in this world.  Thank You for loving us and sending Your Son to be our Savior.  Thank You for blessing us with Your Spirit as He teaches and encourages us along the way.  Thank You that Your purpose always prevails, even when things seem out of control to our limited way of thinking! 

 

OUR PLANS AND PRAYER.

 “Many are the plans in the mind of a man, but it is the purpose of the LORD that will stand.”  Proverbs 19:21 [ESV]

I am a self-admitted planner. It is difficult for me to just “go with the flow”. Even when I am “going with the flow,” I am planning what I will do whenever the “flow” gets to wherever we are going.  Digression from the task ahead is difficult for me to allow … but praise the Lord that my planning confronted  divine guidance through prayer today.

praying hands
Praying Hands.

I was scheduled for surgery and a number of beloved friends and family members said they would be praying that all would go well, that I would be protected from complications, and that healing would be sweet. As usual, there is a great deal of preparation for surgery and we did all that stuff, as directed, including packing the overnight bag, taking the book and Bible along with the Ipad, etc.

 “The heart of man plans his way, but the LORD establishes his steps.” Proverbs 16:9 [ESV]

 

The hospital directions were that I could have nothing to eat or drink after midnight, but a note stated that I should take my morning medications before coming to the hospital with a sip of water. I drink milk with the medicine due to the taste if I use water: so, I took the meds with 2 sips of milk, much less than ¼ cup, and we were off to the hospital.

At the hospital, we were conducted into the surgical wing and I received the beautiful gag-green hospital gown to replace my clothing. Then I was placed under a warming blanket and was getting ready for the IV and monitors, etc.  That’s when my plans went awry but God intervened in His providence and answered prayer.

The anesthesiologist came in and asked what meds I had taken. I told him, and he said, “ok”.

Then the nurse came in and went over most of the same questions again and confirmed I had taken the morning meds at home.  She then asked when I took them. I responded “my husband poured the milk about 7 and I took them right after that.”

The nurse’s head popped up from her clipboard and she said “Milk?” and that was the beginning of the end of the surgery as planned.

She left the prep room saying that she needed to talk with the anesthesiologist about the milk. I was stunned – all this havoc over 2 sips of milk?

The answer to the prayers for protection and no complications became apparent when the anesthesiologist came in and told me that even a small amount of milk causes acid in the stomach. When you go under the anesthesia, all muscles are relaxed and that includes the muscle that keeps stomach acid in the stomach.  So, if you have acid there (like from milk) when laying on the flat surgical table under the anesthesia, you can have reflux of the acid into your lungs without anyone knowing it is happening. [Without getting into the science of it, even I know that this is not something that would be considered a good thing!]

I don’t know if God directed me to take the meds with milk so that surgery could not be done on the day that was planned, but I am confident that He answered prayers in prompting me to mention the milk so that I would be protected from adverse consequences otherwise.

The surgery is now rescheduled and I will not be using milk for my meds.

Praise the Lord that He answered prayer by bringing to mind the milk that I had consumed at just the right time so that unwanted complications could be avoided. God has been in the business of hearing and answering our prayers since the beginning.

Back in Genesis, Isaac prayed for his wife:

“And Isaac prayed to the LORD for his wife, because she was barren. And the LORD granted his prayer, and Rebekah his wife conceived.” Genesis 25:21 [ESV]

Many years later, David said:

“O God, hear my prayer; give ear to the words of my mouth.” Psalm 54:2 [ESV]

“But truly God has listened; he has attended to the voice of my prayer.” Psalm 66:19 [ESV]

 

Then, in the New Testament, 2,000 years ago, we have the church praying for Peter.

“So Peter was kept in prison, but earnest prayer for him was made to God by the church.”  Acts 12:5 [ESV]

As a result of those prayers, God sent angels to the prison and released Peter at night. He went to the house where the church was praying for him and almost did not get in because no one believed that their prayers had been so miraculously answered!

Prayer at Westminster Cathedral (C)
Prayer at Westminster Cathedral, London, England

 

In speaking of prayer to God the Father, the writer of Hebrews 4:16 tells us:

“Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.” [ESV]

Beloved, the same God who answered Isaac, and who answered Job, and who answered David, and who heard and answered the church’s prayers for Peter, hears and answers the prayers of His children today when we come boldly to Him through our Lord Jesus Christ.

Think praying is only for old people?

Think praying doesn’t do anything?

 Think praying is a boring waste of time?

 THINK AGAIN!

 

Father, forgive me when I take lightly the gracious gift of prayer. Forgive me when I fail to recognize the awesome privilege of coming in prayer to the Creator and Sustainer of the Universe. Forgive me when I forget that I can only come to you because of Jesus Christ, my Savior, who covers me with His righteousness and has forgiven me of my sins. Thank you Father for hearing the prayers of your children, even those raised on my behalf. Praise your Holy Name!

JAN AND JILL AND THE FUTURE!

We cleaned out a storage unit recently and, in so doing, we came across a number of boxes that contained – who knows what!  We couldn’t tell from the outside of the boxes and we had no recollection of what we had stowed in them.  So we had a type of retro-vintage-Christmas when we opened the boxes to see what they had sheltered for so long.

After going through several boxes, I re-discovered Jan and Jill.

Jan and Jill, vintage friends for a young girl
Jan and Jill, vintage friends for a young girl

These two dolls are, today, lovingly called “vintage” rather than simply “old”.  They came into my possession in the late 1950s and I recall playing with them often.  As an only child, they could be my friends on rainy days and I could tell them my thoughts without fear that they would blab!  The box also contained their four-poster bed and closet, complete with drawers and hangers.

Doll bed
Doll bed

A separate box contained quite an assortment of clothes for the duo.  Of course the box also contained the accoutrements of the dolls’ haute couture such as earrings, shoes, leggings, a swimsuit, etc.

Doll wardrobe and clothes
Doll wardrobe and clothes

These dolls reminded me of a different time and place – when I was young and living with my parents.  The future was ahead of me and I could tell the dolls all the things that might happen, of course in my anticipation there was only good and no pain or sorrow.   Neither the dolls nor I had any ability to affect the course of history, I was just dreaming about what would happen down the road.

The dolls didn’t know they would wind up in boxes that were enclosed in other cartons which moved from house to house, city to city, and ultimately to an off-site storage unit, along with old magazines, records, tax returns, and junk.

I didn’t know that I would move several times before and after college; that my mother would die when I was 21 years of age; that I would go to graduate school long after college; that I would have children and grandchildren; or that I would retire after a 30-year long career in one place.  I didn’t know that I would have numerous health issues, many related to the effects of the polio I had as an infant, or that there would be times in my life that I believed I would not be able to handle another day.

No, I had no idea of any of that – but I do know Who did!

My Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, came to me when I was a young girl, speaking of His love and sacrifice for me.  I did as Paul described in Romans 10:9-11:

If you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.  For with the heart one believes and is justified, and with the mouth one confesses and is saved.  For the Scripture says, “Everyone who believes in him will not be put to shame.”

Salvation is through faith in Christ alone.  Nothing that I could do would merit my adoption by God and none of my “good works” will accomplish, affect or influence my salvation; because I am a sinner, and the Holy God cannot look upon sin.  Isaiah 6.  Rather, because of the righteousness that Christ has provided for me, I have forgiveness and I can now call God my Father.  Galatians 4:6.  I still sin, but I have been saved by grace through faith in Jesus Christ and I can confess my sin, repent from it and turn to Jesus.  Ephesians 2:8.

Jesus said:

“Truly, truly, I say to you, everyone who practices sin is a slave to sin.  The slave does not remain in the house forever; the son remains forever.  So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed.”

John 8:33-36.

While I am still a sinner, I am no longer controlled by sin.  God’s Son has set me free from the control of sin.  Praise the Lord.

So, I don’t need to know the future.  God has it in His hands and He loves me because of His Son’s sacrifice for me.  In Jeremiah 29:11, God says:

“For I know the plans I have for you, declares the LORD, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope.”

The Lord God Who said these words regarding His people in the Old Testament is the same God Who cares for His New Testament/New Covenant people.  That would be you and me, Beloved, if you are a believer in our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.   Indeed, Jesus said:

“My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me.  I give them eternal life, and they will never perish, and no one will snatch them out of my hand. My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all, and no one is able to snatch them out of the Father’s hand.”

John 10:27-29.  [The emphasis is mine.]

Jan and Jill
Jan and Jill

I know that the Jan and Jill dolls cannot remember what I confided in them when I was a young girl.  And, if they had the ability to do so, they would likely wonder what their next phase in life will be.  That, of course, is in my hands.  Unless I find some young girl who would like to have them, they may find themselves on a shelf as a reminder of days long gone.

For me, now that I have retired, I know that my future is not in my hands.  It is in the Hands of my Savior.  My job now is to pray for guidance from the Lord Jesus Christ, and then to reconfigure my days to follow the course that He has laid out for me.

While I don’t know the future, I do know Who holds my hand.  And, I have absolute trust that He will continue to hold my hand through whatever else this life has in store for me and on into the next, where I will join my Savior and the great cloud of witnesses who have gone on before me.  Hebrews 12:1.

Praise His Holy Name.

Father, thank You for the gift of Jesus Christ Who paid the debt created by my sin.  Thank You that the righteousness You require is not my own but that my Savior has covered me in His righteousness.  Thank You that, because of Jesus, I can come before You, not only in Heaven after death but also now in prayer and in worship, and I can call You Father.  I praise Your Glorious Name, through Jesus Christ my Lord and Savior.