Sunday, June 28, 2015

Making Plans

Making plans for the summer?

I love planning things, from parties and trips to business projects and classes. Like Eric Liddell of Chariots of Fire felt the pleasure of God when he ran, I feel God’s pleasure as I plan. We are made in God’s image, and because He plans, we plan too.

Look here, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we are going to a certain town and will stay there a year. We will do business there and make a profit.” How do you know what your life will be like tomorrow? Your life is like the morning fog—it’s here a little while, then it’s gone. What you ought to say is, “If the Lord wants us to, we will live and do this or that.” Otherwise you are boasting about your own pretentious plans, and all such boasting is evil. (James 4:13-16)

So does God not want us to plan? Not at all. God just wants to be part of the process. He us to remember that He is sovereign in all things and when we plan, remember it is God who is in control, not us.

The scriptures give some great questions to ask ourselves as we plan.
  1. Did we pray about our plans, searching the scriptures for God’s wisdom?
  2. Are we seeking advice from godly trusted friends? Are we open to what they are telling us?
  3. Did we consider how our plans affect others? Is this a win-win or will my plans need others to be inconvenienced, hurt, or devalued? My dear friend Sue Taylor’s moto comes to mind: Fun isn’t fun unless it’s fun for everyone.
  4. When working with others, do we fret over their success?
  5. Are we manipulating others? Are we being devious? Are we pushing our way, trying to control situations out of our control?
  6. Although we trust God’s in control, are we still working hard to make our plans succeed?
  7. If our plans are not working out, are we looking for the good and the God in the situation? Or are we whining and complaining that we are not getting our way?

Even when we are trusting God, we need to remember, God is not obligated to make our plans work out to the way we want. Although it is difficult to accept, sometimes no matter how we painstakingly plan, how hard we work, or how often we pray, we will have dreams that must die.

God never promised that everything will work out in this life. No, Jesus specifically promised: “Here on earth you will have many trials and sorrows. But take heart, because I have overcome the world.” (John 16:33) Will we trust God anyway?

Sometimes our plans work out great, like a recent Saturday morning when my brother and I enjoyed taking the ferry into Manhattan. The weather was perfect and our time together sweet.

However there was another morning, when our cousin Susan planned a business trip to the top of the World Trade Center and it ended with her name engraved in bronze around a massive square pool. Why? Certainly that will be a question I will ask Jesus when I see Him. But when I embrace Susan again in His presence, perhaps the whys will not matter.

I have been frustrated and responded in anger over thwarted vacation plans and botched dinners. I have wept over career plans gone awry and family dreams that had to die. I found that trusting God is sweeter while I am waiting. Trusting God brings peace during tragic loss. Trusting God allows me to see and enjoy His great and unexpected gifts.

Jesus, help me trust You more. Help me to see what You are doing in the earth and plan with an eye towards Your glory.

For more on this, see James 4:13-5:6, Psalm 38:1-8, Proverbs 19:20-24

Thursday, June 18, 2015

Why do we have arguments?

James 4:1-10

When I think of why I have not been getting along with someone, the story always goes like this:

He is so stubborn. She is so controlling. He has a bad attitude. She is always picking on me. He is stupid. She is jealous. He is mean. She never minds her own business. He doesn’t have a good word to say about anyone.

The story always starts with him. Or her. Never me. I am trying to be patient, trying to be kind, trying to overlook the fault, just trying to help him. But he makes it so impossible. She just won’t get off my back.

James has a different idea.

What is causing the quarrels and fights among you? Don’t they come from the evil desires at war within you? You want what you don’t have, so you scheme and kill to get it. You are jealous of what others have, but you can’t get it, so you fight and wage war to take it away from them. Yet you don’t have what you want because you don’t ask God for it. And even when you ask, you don’t get it because your motives are all wrong—you want only what will give you pleasure.

It’s inside my heart. I want what I want. I want my way. I think my way is better. I want what you have. I want my comfort. I want my happiness. And I don’t care if it’s at your expense.

The Holy Spirit shows us another way in Jesus. Jesus left the comfort of heaven to rescue us. He allowed people to treat Him however they wanted. He did not force Himself on anyone. He did not follow His own agenda. No, He did whatever He saw the Father doing. He submitted to His Father’s will all the way to a Roman cross where He bled and died while the men whom He loved and came to save mocked Him and spit on Him. This our Savior.

Jesus did all this to bring us home. He gave up His comfort, peace and even His life because He valued our relationship with Him. Our Father longs for peace between us, for us to be loving and kind to each other. And we are arguing about? What??

So then, what shall we do? James tells us:

So humble yourselves before God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. Come close to God, and God will come close to you… your loyalty is divided between God and the world. Let there be tears for what you have done. Let there be sorrow and deep grief…

It is not about the argument, or even the other person. It is about humbling ourselves before God. Remembering God is big and knows best and we are small. It is about putting God first, remembering He is most important, not the issue we are fighting about. Satan wants to mess up our relationships. He wants us to argue. He must stand up to Satan. We must choose God’s way. We must be sorry for our selfishness and repent of being careless about others’ feelings.

We need to ask these difficult but important questions: Could I be a little bit wrong here? Could some of this be my fault? Am I listening to her feelings? Could my attitude use a little adjusting? Am I valuing our relationship more than getting my own way? Could it be my turn to submit? If not this time, then when?

Beloved Jesus, it is hard to ask these questions. I don’t want to yield, let go of control, admit I am wrong. But Your Holy Spirit is within me leading me to blessed peace. Remind me the relationship is always more important than the issue we are arguing over. Help me to be Your daughter and forgive, submit, be kind, and trust You for the outcome. You have shown me over and over again that You are faithful and more generous than I could ever ask or imagine.

Humble yourselves before the Lord, and He will lift you up in honor.

Saturday, June 13, 2015

Just call home

I called my mother last night. Truth be told, I have not always been great at keeping in touch. Maybe that was why she was so delighted to hear from me. “It makes me so happy that you called me,” she giggled into the phone.

Recently I have noticed, with great joy, my relationship with my adult daughters improving. They visit, spend time talking with me, even asking me what I think about matters in their lives. Maybe it’s because they are in their later 20s and maturing. Hopefully it is because I have been more respectful and less controlling. Whatever the reason, our improved relationship has given me a peace and a confidence in life. No matter how the rest of the world is going, when your family loves you, nothing else is more important.

He has shown you, O man, what is good. And what does the Lord require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God. (Micah 6:8)

With Father’s Day approaching, I remember my own wonderful dad. He’s in heaven now but I don’t need to ask him what he would want for me and what would make him happy. He would want me to do what is right and show others kindness and mercy. He would want me to take loving care with my relationships with my mother and brother, with my husband and daughters. He would want me to continue in relationship with them, not matter what else is happening. When we hurt each other, to talk it over and mend the relationship. When life gets busy, to make time for each other.

Perhaps that is why it is so powerful when Jesus reminds us that God is like our fathers. He wants us to read His word because He has something to say to us about our lives. When we are humble and seek His advice, He rejoices. He longs for us to come to Him in prayer because He wants to be close to us. He wants to hear our voice and share our life with Him. When we pray, He rejoices.

Truth be told, I need my mother’s love. I want her encouragement, approval, and wisdom. And when I hang up, I feel peace.

Likewise, I need my God’s love. I want His encouragement, approval, and wisdom. And when I take the time to humble myself as I read His word, enter into prayer, write down the thoughts He shares with me in my journal, I feel peace.

What does the Lord require of me? What would delight my Father in heaven? Taking the time for relationship with Him. As I do that I find myself having more mercy for others and strength to do the right thing.

But it’s not just for Him. It’s also for me. Because in the end, my improved relationship with Him gives me peace.