Plans for Life

All of us make plans.

Trust God with Your Plans

We plan vacations. You and I plan to get a promotion or a new job. We plan to have a loving, healthy marriage.

It’s obviously good to have a plan for everything we do. We shouldn’t just float through life without direction or purpose. We should ask ourselves where our plans come from:  Are they product of our own desires? Or are we seeking God?

“Many are the plans of the human heart, but it is the decision of the Lord that endures,” Proverbs 19:21 (NABRE)

If we try to map out our own life based on what we want without ever consulting our heavenly Father, then we are putting ourselves on the fast track for disappointment.

We can plan everything down to the smallest detail, but without God’s involvement our own vision is almost guaranteed to fail.

God is not the one who causes our plans to fail. We don’t succeed alone because we are not wise enough to direct our own path.

“I know, Lord, that our lives are not our own. We are not able to plan our own course,” Jeremiah 10:23 (NLT)

We were not made to be the leaders of our own lives.

You and I were made to follow our heavenly Father.  But, we don’t always want to submit to His leadership.  This is because we think He’s going to lead us away from what we want. We think that His plan is going to take too long or that the journey will be too hard.

However, when we have a revelation of God’s love for us, we can surrender the plans we have made on our own and begin to live in His vision for our lives.

God loves us infinitely more than we could ever love ourselves. His plan for us comes from His great love. Even though a child may want cake and ice cream for every meal, his father won’t give it to him. Likewise our heavenly Father doesn’t give things that indulge the flesh. When we are carnally minded our spiritual growth is stunted and we limit God’s plan our lives coming to fruition.

We should trust in His plan, because what He wants for us is always greater than what we want for ourselves.

This doesn’t mean that we must get rid of all of our personal desires. It doesn’t mean that God is going to take things away from us. It means that when we seek His will for our lives He will do more than we could ever ask, think or imagine.

I encourage yGuard Your Heart - Life Planou to start involving God in every decision you make. This will have a twofold benefit in your life: You’ll make better decisions because you’re seeking God’s will, and you’ll be more sensitive to His leadership because you’re seeking Him as your number one priority. The plans you make will succeed and last when you make them based on the will of God.

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Guard Against Disappointment

guard your heart against disappointment

Any disappointment we have experienced or are experiencing is not from God.

He did not decide that our lives were going too smoothly and we needed to face some hard times so we could stay in touch with reality. However, we make the mistake of thinking that God puts disappointment and hardships on us.

“Let no one say when he is tempted, ‘I am being tempted by God’; for God cannot be tempted by evil, and He Himself does not tempt anyone,” (James 1:13 NASB).

The danger of disappointment is allowing it to change what we believe about God.

When we continually experience failure and disappointment it can be easy to believe that it must be our path in life to never succeed. When we hear that God has a great plan for our lives we can begin to think that it must only be true for other people.

This is an example of letting external experiences harden our heart toward God.

Instead of building the foundation for our faith on the Word of God, we build it on the shaky ground of our negative experiences. We do this because we are more in tune with our emotions and our five physical senses than we are to God our Father.

If we allow this kind of hardened heart to rule our lives we will never walk in the good works that God has prepared for us to walk in, (Ephesians 2:10).

Jesus explains this in the Parable of the Talents.

In the parable there is a rich master and he is leaving on a long trip. Before he leaves he gives talents, or money, to three of his servants. He gives the first servant ten talents, the second servant five talents and the third servant one talent.

The first two servants go immediately to the market and double their money. The third servant digs a hole and buries his talent in the ground.

After a long time the master returns and settles accounts with his three servants. The first two show him that they have doubled what they were given. The master tells them to enter into his joy. He comes to the third servant to see what he has done with his talent.

The third servant says this, “Master, I knew you to be a hard man, reaping where you did not sow and gathering where you scattered no seed. And I was afraid, and went away and hid your talent in the ground. See, you have what is yours,” (Matthew 25:24-25).

Why did the third servant hide his talent?

Look at what he said, “I knew you to be a hard man.” The parable gives no evidence that the master is evil or vindictive. The servant comes to this conclusion on his own.

This servant had the same opportunity as the other two servants. He could have gone to the market and doubled his money. However, he was afraid of failure because he was afraid of his master.

He missed his calling because he had a wrong belief about his master.

This should cause us to ask ourselves the questions, “What do I believe about God? Is it based on disappointment? Or is it based on His word?” guard your heart against disappointment

If we allow our experiences of disappointment to shape what we believe about God we will bury our God-given gift in the ground and miss out on the life God has planned of us.

When we start to lay down our preconceived ideas about God we’ll begin to see Him for who He really is: our loving Heavenly Father. We’ll stop believing that He sends hardships, and plans our failures in order to test and humble us. Instead we’ll know that every good and perfect gift comes from Him (James 1:17), and be confident that since He began a good work in us, He will bring it to completion (Philippians 1:6).

Walk by Faith

Walk By FaithEvery child of God has a desire to walk by faith and not by sight (2 Corinthians 5:7).

However, when we’re young in our relationship with Him we can have trouble knowing what this means and how to begin to walk by faith. The word “ walk ” in the New Testament means “our daily manner of living”. So, to “ walk by faith ” means to live every day of our lives trusting in our heavenly Father. We go to Him first in the decisions that we make. We ask the Holy Spirit to lead us, help us watch over what we say and open our eyes to opportunities to share the love of God with the people we meet.

Until we became Christians we lived our lives totally by our emotions and our five physical senses.

Living by faith is the exact opposite of living by sight, so we can struggle at the beginning.  The same way that we don’t just wake up physically fit one day, we also don’t just happen upon mountain moving faith.  It’s a process of strengthening our faith and removing our doubt and unbelief. We start to trust God by taking small steps of faith toward Him.

“I will run the way of your commandments; for you will enlarge my heart,” (Psalm 119:32).

This verse shows us that when we move towards God our ability to receive His promises increases. We shed the doubts of our old life and take on the strength and humility of Jesus. Our small-minded, fearful thinking is replaced by faith that receives what would have once been impossible.

The only way to get to this kind of faith is simply to begin trusting. You give the control of your life over to God. Most of us aren’t able to do this all at once. We insist that we can take better care of ourselves than God can. Our heavenly Father lovingly and patiently allows us to surrender our lives to Him one area at a time.

The irony of this is that once we do give Him control we realize that He does more than we ever could have asked of Him.

We see that we should have just let Him handle it all along.

When we realize that we can trust Him in one area, we will give Him more and more. This is the process of being fully surrendered to Him. But it starts with the first step.

I encourage you to begin to walk by faith today. Make a decision that you’re going to give God the control over an area of your life: your marriage, your job, your finances, etc. Watch what happens when you make your heavenly Father the chief decision-maker. I promise He never disappoints.

 

Staying Connected

Mark 4:1-9 is called the Parable of the Sower. Jesus used it to teach about the four different kinds of hearts. It’s a parable about the ways people respond to God’s word.

The first thing Jesus says in this parable is that the sower goes out to sow. Later, Jesus explains this statement by saying “The sower sows the word,” (Mark 4:14). This shows us that the Word of God is available to all of us.

Jesus doesn’t say that the sower only went to a certain race or gender. The sower went out to all people. God offers His power and promises to everyone.

The issue is not with the availability of God’s word. It’s how we receive it.

The first three hearts described in this parable are either totally incapable of receiving the Word or cannot grow in it, all because they are hardened.

The first heart can’t receive because the devil immediately comes and steals the Word.

The second heart can’t receive because it’s too shallow to let roots grow.

The third heart can’t receive because the worries, distractions and desires of this world come in and choke the Word.

The fourth heart hears the Word, accepts it and produces thirty, sixty or one hundred times more.

All four of these hearts hear the Word of God. Only the fourth one accepts it and produces fruit.

We all want the Word to have an effect on our lives. However, many times we feel like we’re one of the first three hearts. We forget what we hear in teachings, the changes we make don’t last or we get distracted by everything going on around us. We allow all of these things to push the Word out and stop its power from working in us.

This happens because our heart is clogged up by everything else we hear and see. We hear the words of the world more than the Word of God, so it’s easier to accept.

Jesus proves this later in the chapter when He says, “Pay close attention to what you hear. The closer you listen, the more understanding you will be given—and you will receive even more. To those who listen to my teaching, more understanding will be given. But for those who are not listening, even what little understanding they have will be taken away from them,” (Mark 4:24-25).

This is why we need to constantly hear the Word of God. It prepares our hearts to receive and produce. But hearts that are overflowing with the world will bear little to no fruit from the Word they receive.

This week I encourage you to turn off the radio and listen to solid Biblical teaching. Skip one of your shows. Don’t get on Netflix. Instead, sit down by yourself or with your family, and read the Bible. In a world where it’s so easy to be plugged into something, the children of God should be plugged into the Word. When we do this, we’ll see our lives begin to produce fruit thirty, sixty and one hundred times over.

Fear Not- Guard Your Heart

“Guard your heart above all else, for it determines the course of your life,” (Proverbs 4:23 NASB).

The second half of this verse shows us that the condition of our hearts will direct our lives, emphasizing the importance of our ability to guard our hearts. If we have anger in our hearts, then anger will be the driving force behind almost everything we do. If a fear of rejection is rooted in our hearts, then we will spend our lives striving to earn man’s acceptance. The list could go on and on.

This truth should lead us to ask the question, “How do I guard my heart?”

Many people think this involves building high walls around their hearts so they can never be broken or disappointed. They think they have built the walls for protection, but in reality they have built their own prison. However, those who do this are being controlled by fear and the Bible reveals the exact opposite is to be done.

“For the love of Christ controls us,” (2 Corinthians 5:14a NASB).

 

Fear builds walls around our hearts.

It shuts us out from the world. It tells us that if we ever let anyone or anything close to us, then we are at risk for failure and heartbreak.

While this is true, it is also true that behind the walls our hearts will become hard and unfeeling, and we will miss the abundant life waiting for us on the outside. A life controlled by fear can never experience the fullness of God’s plan.

Being controlled by love is how we find our calling and follow in the footsteps of Jesus.

He lived His life to show the Father’s love to everyone who came around Him. His heart was open to the hurting and the lost. It was even open to the self-righteous people who hated Him.

If Jesus had been motivated by fear He wouldn’t have fulfilled His purpose of dying on the cross. Without His death there would have been no resurrection. So, the love of Christ is the reason we are here today.

The best way to guard our hearts is not to build high walls around them, but rather to open them to the love of Christ. His love will soften our hearts to receive every good thing He has for us. Although it will not prevent us from experiencing failure and disappointment, it will protect us from being shattered by them. It will give us Jesus’ perspective of life and people. His love will show us that failure doesn’t have to be the end, because He will always make a way.

When our hearts our guarded by the love of Christ, then the course of our lives will always be victorious.

Unconditional Love: Relationship or Religion

We are created by God to be in relationship with Him and to know Him intimately.

Unconditional-Love-Relationship-or-Religion-Created-by-God-QuoteWe all have different talents and abilities, and a specific calling given to us by our heavenly Father. But the greatest thing we can ever do is to have relationship with Him.  That is to know and love Him, because He first loved us.

Jesus said it this way, “And Jesus replied to him, “‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment,’” Matthew 22:37-38 (NASB)

When He said to love God with all of our heart, soul and mind, Jesus is being repetitive to make a point. Our heart and our mind make up our soul. The reason He said it that way was to emphasize the importance of loving God with everything that we have.

This is the reason that a hardened heart is so crippling to our relationship with God.

It’s incapable of loving Him with everything, because it isn’t set on Him.

When our hearts are insensitive toward God we’ll look everywhere else for the peace and contentment that only He can give.

It will hinder us from knowing and loving God. Worse than that, it will hold us back from experiencing God’s love for us.

Our hearts become hardened because we believe that God’s love for us is conditional.

Unconditional-Love-Relationship-or-Religion-hearts-insensitive-QuoteWe think that it’s like man’s love and is based on our good or bad actions. This couldn’t be further from the truth. However, we accept it as truth because the idea of unconditional love is difficult for our minds to grasp.

But, if we’re ever going to love God with all of our hearts, we must first receive His love by faith.

“This is real love—not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent his Son as a sacrifice to take away our sins,” 1 John 4:10 (NLT)

Receiving His love will break down the walls we’ve built around our hearts. His unconditional love will show us that we don’t need to look anywhere else for peace or contentment.  Because we can always find peace and contentment in Him.

We’ll fulfill our purpose of loving Him with all of our hearts when we believe that He first loved us.

Joy of the Lord

When we don’t tap into the spiritual fruit of joy, we negate our source of strength. “…Do not be grieved, for the joy of the Lord is your strength.”(Nehemiah 8:10b)

The truth of this verse turns the world’s definition of strength upside down. The world wants us to think that strength is the ability to work harder than anyone else. We believe that if we can just hold out longer or put in more hours than others, then we are stronger.

That might mean that we are physically stronger than others, but if we put all of our faith in physical strength, what do we do when it fails?

We’re not going to find lasting strength in ourselves, our jobs or our relationships with people. Like Nehemiah 8:10 reveals, we’re only going to find true strength in the joy of the Lord.

This is because everything that’s in the world is temporary. We won’t always be as strong as we are

right now. Our job will eventually change. People will walk in and out of our lives. We will be weak when our strength is found in these temporary things.

However, “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever.”(Hebrews 13:8).

We can and should make the joy of our heavenly Father our source of strength because He never changes.

But a hardened heart doesn’t look for joy. It’s too busy looking at all the negative circumstances and people surrounding it, and is blinded to the work of God’s grace.

That’s why a hardened heart is a weak heart, because it is a heart without joy.

It’s only when we begin to open our eyes to the amazing work of God’s grace in our lives that we begin to be joyful. Instead of looking at ourselves and seeing how far we need to go, we see how far we’ve come. This causes us to praise and thank God for everything He’s already done.

If His grace has already brought us this far, wouldn’t it make sense that it would continue to work in our lives?

“For I am confident of this very thing, that He who began a good work in you will perfect it until the day of Christ Jesus.”(Philippians 1:6).

God is perfecting His good work in us. This is where we place our faith. This is where we should find our strength. When we do, we’ll also find our joy.

Righteousness pt 11

It might seem odd to say this, but most of us don’t give much thought to our thoughts. I know we can have thoughts that don’t have any real significance: like what we’re going to have for lunch. However, I want to talk about the deep thoughts of our hearts. These are the thoughts that will influence the direction of our lives.

We might not think that our lives are the result of our thoughts, but Proverbs 23:7a says “For as he (a person) thinks within himself (his heart), so he is.” Our thoughts determine who we are. So, we can say with certainty that the current state of our lives is a direct reflection of what we think about ourselves and others.

Now that we know this, we should think about the direction our lives will go if the majority of our thoughts are negative, especially our thoughts about ourselves. Not all of us talk to ourselves out loud, but we do in our own minds.

What are we saying about us to us? Do our inner voices sound something like this: “This is as good as it’s ever going to get.” “Nothing ever goes my way.”?

Or is it more serious than that? There are stories about people who deal with depression and anxiety whose constant thoughts are, “I am nothing and will always be nothing.” “I’ve messed my whole life up beyond repair.” These thoughts play like a song on repeat in their heads all day, every day.

There are some of us who live with thoughts like this, and it shapes our whole lives. We never rise above them. It’s like living under a dark cloud where it seems no light can penetrate.

The grace of God can break through that darkness. We are saved and made righteous by grace, and by now we know that righteousness is right-standing with God. It means we are accepted and loved by God.

While the world and the negative people in it have probably treated us like a throwaway and told us that we’re insignificant, God steps in and calls us accepted and precious in His sight. If we have the Creator of the Universe saying that we are important, it probably means that we’re important, right?

This should drastically change the way we think about ourselves. Believing in and meditating on our righteousness in Christ is adopting God’s thoughts about us.

Isaiah 55:8-9 says “‘For My thoughts are not your thoughts, nor are your ways My ways,’ declares the Lord. ‘For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are My ways higher than your ways, and My thoughts than your thoughts.’”

We will begin to experience the higher life God has for us when we start to think the higher thoughts He thinks about us.

It’s as simple as this: when we have negative thoughts about ourselves we should say, “I am the righteousness of God in Christ. I am accepted and loved by God.” Say it out loud. When we do this, we are lining up our opinion about ourselves with God’s opinion about us. Try it. I promise it will change your life.

Righteousness Pt 10

How do we avoid the trap of self-righteousness and condemnation? We maintain a consciousness of our righteousness in Christ. When we are mindful of our right-standing with our heavenly Father we can sidestep the deceptions the devil will throw at us.

However, this kind of thinking doesn’t happen by accident. It has to be maintained. It has to be kept. The great thing about God is that He doesn’t make it complicated. He doesn’t save us and make us righteous to abandon us. Jude 1:24 says “Now all glory to God, who is able to keep you from falling away and will bring you with great joy into his glorious presence without a single fault.”

Notice that it’s not our power that keeps us from falling away. It’s the power and ability of God. It is our choice whether or not we stay close to Him. That’s how we maintain a righteousness consciousness; by staying close to God.

We let His words become uppermost in our hearts and minds. We’ll never be able to keep a consciousness of our right-standing in Christ if we are constantly feeding on the negative words of this world and our flesh.

Romans 8:6 tells us “For the mind set on the flesh is death, but the mind set on the Spirit is life and peace.” Setting our minds on selfish, fleshly desires brings about disastrous results.

Colossians 3:16 instructs us how to live our lives. It says, “Let the message about Christ, in all its richness, fill your lives. Teach and counsel each other with all the wisdom He gives. Sing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs to God with thankful hearts.”

We have to allow His word to fill our lives. We can’t be full of the world and full of God. It is one or the other, and only one will keep us from falling away.

Let’s make a commitment to empty ourselves of our flesh and the world by letting the word of Christ live in us richly. When we do this we’ll stand strong in our righteousness and easily avoid the pitfalls of self-righteousness and condemnation.

Righteousness pt 9

In my previous posts I’ve written about self-righteousness and condemnation, and how they severely hinder our relationship with Jesus. What we also need to know about these two hindrances is that they can form a cycle in our lives, a cycle that can be difficult to break.

It goes like this: Self-righteousness puts us under the law. The law gives us knowledge of our sin, then that knowledge causes us to condemn ourselves and that condemnation leads to us distancing from our Heavenly Father due to the shame we feel.

If we let the mindset of condemnation take root in our lives we can eventually become prideful in our own shame. We think we have arrived at some great revelation in the discovery of our own unworthiness. We consider ourselves the second class citizens of God’s kingdom, the step-children of His family. We think that we are walking on thin ice with God, one step away from being cast out and getting “what we deserve.”

The next step is judging those who don’t do the same. We think to ourselves “Who do all these people think they are? Walking around like they aren’t one mistake away from God’s wrath and vengeance.” We think that everyone needs to have a low opinion of themselves the way we do.

This is not a revelation from the Holy Spirit. You cannot find this standard of living in the Word of God. This is a lie from the devil to keep us ashamed, separated and afraid of our Heavenly Father.

In and of ourselves we absolutely deserve God’s punishment, and the pain of a Christless eternity, but we are no longer in ourselves. Colossians 2:10 says “and in Him you have been made complete.” We are now in Christ, and Romans 8:1 tells us “There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ.”

So, living our lives being afraid of God and judging others for not doing the same is not true Christianity. It is false religion created by the devil and perpetuated by bad doctrine.

John 3:17 says “For God did not send the Son into the world to judge the world, but that the world might be saved through Him.”

Now we can see that we are no longer living in fear of getting “what we deserve” from God. If God were interested in giving us what we deserve, He never would’ve sent His son Jesus Christ to save us.

God’s judgment and wrath was spilled out on His only begotten Son when Jesus suffered and died on the Cross. He did it so we could be saved by grace.

And what is grace? A basic definition tells us that “it’s getting what we don’t deserve.”

We don’t deserve the righteousness we have in Christ, but we receive it by grace. So, let’s stop living under condemnation. Let’s stop putting ourselves back under the law. Let’s allow God, Who began a good work in us, to bring it to completion.