One Plan: His Plan

And there was a prophetess, Anna, the daughter of Phanuel, of the tribe of Asher. She was advanced in years, having lived with her husband seven years from when she was a virgin, and then as a widow until she was eighty-four. She did not depart from the temple, worshiping with fasting and prayer night and day.
Luke 2:36‭-‬37 ESV

The above verse was part of a Bible study I am currently reading. In the devotional content following the verse, the author discussed how our plans do not always work out the way we thought they would. We have a plan A, but then that fails so we start walking Plan B. The writer encourages us to make the best of the option that we would not have originally chosen knowing that God has plans for us that far exceed our own.

And this is a great perspective, but God was drawing me a bit further this morning, so I thought I would share. In 2015, I was living my Plan A, but then through circumstances beyond my control, Plan A was removed. I thus began walking Plan Z (yes Z, because it was not a plan I ever would have chosen!) Yet as I began walking this new plan, it became my Plan A. I began to cherish the season I once despised. Yet that season also ended, and a new one began, and then a new one after that, and God knows what season is next.

So here’s the perspective God’s been etching on my heart: instead of thinking of our lives as Plan A and Plan B (or C, D, or Z!), we need to take the perspective of our lives as simply (yet not so simply!) God’s plan. Proverbs 16:9 reads, “A man’s heart plans his way, but the Lord directs his steps.” Our steps are ordered by the Lord (Psalm 39:23). God doesn’t have a plan B; He has a purpose. He has His plan. His ways are higher and greater than ours, which means that even when our life does not turn out the way we thought it would, we are still walking His plan.

None of our steps are a surprise to God. God’s not up there thinking to Himself, “Oh man! She took a left instead of a right! I thought for sure she’d take a right! Now I need to figure out Plan B!” No, God knew our every thought, word, and action before we were ever conceived. He foreordained every aspect of our lives before He ever fashioned us in our mother’s womb (Psalm 139). God’s plan for our lives is THE plan, regardless of whether or not it matches our human expectations.

I know this isn’t an easy pill to swallow, and I understand as finite beings we will never fully comprehend the depths of God’s infinite wisdom, yet I also believe whether the path we are walking right now is smooth, bumpy, curvy, or downright treacherous–whether it’s a path we would have chosen on our own or run from if given the chance–it is the path we are on because God has ordained it. Therefore I encourage you to face today and every day with the following perspective: THIS is THE plan, God’s plan, and the one designed to bring Him the glory He deserves.

Yes, in human terms, life sucks sometimes. Plans change, people die, loved ones get sick. And in no way am I encouraging you not to mourn for those losses. Even Jesus mourned when He walked this Earth. Yet I am encouraging you to, when life throws an unexpected curve ball your way, mourn with hope. Weep for a time over what once was, but then get back up and continue walking forward. Continue walking out the path before you. It may not look the way you thought it would, but it looks exactly how God intended.

Trust in God’s sovereignty today. Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths (Proverbs 3:5‭-‬6 ESV).

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It’s not the church

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.” For there is no distinction between Jew and Greek; for the same Lord is Lord of all, bestowing his riches on all who call on him. For “everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.”
Romans 10:10-13

January 13, 1996–the day I chose to follow Jesus.  I was a junior in high school, and my life has never been the same.  As I reflected upon the anniversary of this amazing, life-changing moment yesterday, I chuckled at my eclectic denominational background.  I was raised up and confirmed in the Catholic church.   In high school I began attending a Presbyterian youth group, and then by the time I graduated high school, I was also attending that Presbyterian church on Sunday mornings. I went away to college–a Baptist college–yet during my sophomore year I began going to a non-denominational full gospel church.  If you are not familiar with the Full Gospel denomination, they believe all the gifts evident in Jesus’ time are still available today.  I remained in this church throughout college and until I got married.   After marriage my husband and I began attending the Baptist church affiliated with my alma mater.  We remained at that church until we moved to our current location.   And now we attend a Christian church while I teach at a Baptist school.

I guess you could call me a Cathobapteriancostal. 🙂

But I prefer Christ follower.

And this is the point I want to make.  At the end of days when we stand before the Father, He’s not going to ask, “Were you a good Catholic?” He’s not going to ask, “Were you a PCA Presbyterian or a PCUSA Presbyterian?” He’s not going to ask what we think about prophecy and speaking in tongues. He’s not going to care about any of the negotiables that separate denominations. 

Why? Because our denomination does not determine our salvation.

What we do with Jesus determines our salvation.

Romans 10:13 reminds us anyone (that means anyone from any denomination) who calls upon the Lord will be saved.  Catholic.  Baptist.  Presbyterian. Charismatic. FourSquare.  Whatever denomination you may attend, if you personally know Jesus–if you’ve believed in your heart and confessed with your mouth Jesus is Lord–then you are saved. You are His.

And no one can snatch you out of His hand.

I’ll say it again: denomination does not determine salvation. Each of those denominations I attended throughout my life pointed me to Jesus; they just did so uniquely.

Therefore, regardless the church you attend–regardless the denomination you currently ascribe to–join me today in celebrating all our fellow Christ followers. Befriend, converse with, pray for, and pray with all of them.

Let us unite as The Church. Let us link arms and go into battle together. Let us walk out Jesus’ prayer for each of us–a prayer for unity of mind and of purpose. For when we come together as one, the world will know we are His. And the world will never be the same.

“I do not ask for these only, but also for those who will believe in me through their word, that they may all be one, just as you, Father, are in me, and I in you, that they also may be in us, so that the world may believe that you have sent me. The glory that you have given me I have given to them, that they may be one even as we are one, I in them and you in me, that they may become perfectly one, so that the world may know that you sent me and loved them even as you loved me.
John 17:20‭-‬23 ESV

No Comparison

Not that we dare to classify or compare ourselves with some of those who are commending themselves. But when they measure themselves by one another and compare themselves with one another, they are without understanding.
2 Corinthians 10:12 ESV

A ruler is a measurement tool. When we want to hang a picture on a wall, we use a ruler to measure where to place it and a level to make sure it’s not crooked. When we are building a house, we use measuring tape to calculate the size of each piece of wood. When we draw, a ruler helps insure each line is of equal length.  If we don’t use a ruler, we cannot guarantee accuracy. The picture may not be centered. The lumber may not be of equal length. And the lines may not match up.

A standard is necessary to make things right.

Yet a standard is only helpful if it is the correct one. You wouldn’t weigh yourself with a ruler.  You wouldn’t measure length with a scale.  And you wouldn’t use a compass to measure distance.

Well, in the same way, we should not use people to measure our success.  When we measure ourselves using people, we will never get it right. We will always fall short in some way.  Someone will always be prettier. Someone will always be stronger. Someone will always be better.

God must be our standard. God must be our measuring stick. No, we will never measure up to perfection, but we can measure up to His calling, for God has called each of us to something specific and something unique. No two of us have the same calling. Sure some callings may appear similar at first, but they are not. No two pastors are created to pastor in the same way.  No two writers are called to write the same way.  I am a writer (if you couldn’t tell by now), and I have friends who are writers. Although writing is what we have in common, God’s purpose for each of us is different. I’m not to measure my writing using the writings of those I know. I would fail, I would falter, and I would never measure up. I’m to gauge my writing on what God has called me to write–trusting that the One who called me will also equip me how He sees fit.

Read with me Paul’s encouragement from Romans 12:3-6:

For by the grace given to me I say to everyone among you not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think, but to think with sober judgment, each according to the measure of faith that God has assigned.  For as in one body we have many members, and the members do not all have the same function, so we, though many, are one body in Christ, and individually members one of another.  Having gifts that differ according to the grace given to us, let us use them.

Paul doesn’t tell us to use our gifts according to what others do. He says to use our gifts according to the grace God has given to us.  You’ll find a similar exhortation in 1 Corinthians 12:9: If all were a single member, where would the body be?

I have two children.  My love for them cannot be measured, for I love each one the same, yet I also love each one differently.  Each of them is unique and special in their own way. I wouldn’t want my son to try to measure up according to my daughter’s personality, and I wouldn’t want my daughter to try to measure up according to my son’s personality. Each of them is special because each is unique.

As God’s child, you are unique as well.  God has created you to be you for such a time as this.  Don’t spend time today or any day looking at those around you and telling yourself you’ll never be enough.  You will never be enough if you measure yourself using man.

You are enough; because God made you enough.  No one can take you away from you unless you let them, so hold on to your identity today.  Be proud of who you are. Embrace who you are.  For who you are is who God designed you to be.  And God never makes mistakes.

Hold On

Let love be without hypocrisy. Abhor that which is evil; cleave to that which is good. — Romans 12:9 ASV

Have you ever had to wrestle a toy from a child who didn’t want to let go? Nearly impossible, isn’t it? Well, that’s an example of cleaving. When we cleave to someone or something, we go beyond simply holding on to it; we cling to it as if our lives depended on it. We hold on with no intention of letting go.

The passage above from Romans encourages us to abhor evil (which goes beyond hatred and onto utterly detestable) and cleave to what is good. We are to hold fast to good with no intention of letting go.

In a world where right living is relative, we are to cleave to what is good. We are to continue doing good even when those around us discourage it. We are to continue doing good even when those around us reject it (and quite possibly reject us, too).

We are to abhor evil; we are to cling to what is good.

Therefore, I encourage you to cling to what is good today. Hold fast to God’s righteousness. Do not allow the things of this world to rip goodness out of your hands. Be good. Do good. Cling to what is good. Hold fast to what is good. And never let go. I repeat: never let go. “Be not overcome of evil, but overcome evil with good” (Romans 12:21 ASV).