Schematics

In general, I like to plan things.  I like to know what’s going to happen next.  Even when I was younger, I preferred to have some direction in my life as to where I was headed. When I didn’t have clear directions, I would become frustrated.  Even today, I would prefer it if Siri would tell me the next two steps instead of just one when using GPS.

This is not only true in driving.  It applies in every area of life.  If you have a goal, of any kind, it’s useless without a plan to get there.  If you have a direction, it should determine your days, how you spend your time.  That is the importance of setting goals. But goals come from a vision that God will give you.

For followers of Jesus, sometimes we make this much muddier than it needs to be.  We can fall into a trap of praying for God’s will to be revealed to us while twiddling our thumbs and never really doing anything.

In Proverbs, a really wise man wrote:

“People make plans in their hearts. But the Lord controls what they say. Everything a man does might seem right to him. But the Lord knows what that man is thinking. Commit to the Lord everything you do. Then your plans will succeed.”

Just a bit later, he adds another statement:

“In your heart you plan your life. But the Lord decides where your steps will take you.”

From these two statements I know a few things are true.

  1. Plans for life come from the heart.
  2. Plans only succeed if I commit them to God (a matter of my heart, that He will weigh out, because He knows my thoughts).
  3. God decides where my steps will take me while that plan is being worked out.

There seems to be the idea here that I’m not going to plan out every step, but if I’ve committed what the plan is to God, and allow Him to weigh my motives out to make sure my thoughts are more in line with His, then I can trust Him to take me where He wants me.  I may not know every detail along the way, every little turn, every person I may have to interact with, or task I’m going to be asked to accomplish, but I know that ultimately He will be guiding me.

While I was thinking about this, the word “schematic” popped into my head.  And, I wanted a better idea of just what a schematic is.  So, I did what any 21st century kid would do, hopped on my bike, went to the library, searched the card catalog…of course not.  I went to Wikipedia:

A schematic, or schematic diagram, is a representation of the elements of a system using abstract, graphic symbols rather than realistic pictures. A schematic usually omits all details that are not relevant to the information the schematic is intended to convey, and may add unrealistic elements that aid comprehension. For example, a subway map intended for riders may represent a subway station with a dot; the dot doesn’t resemble the actual station at all but gives the viewer information without unnecessary visual clutter.

And isn’t that the truth?

God gives us what we need “without unnecessary visual clutter”.  He allows us to stay focused on Him, to tune our hearts to His heart, and He takes us on a wild journey.  All we have to do is trust Him.  He guides our steps.  He reveals things to us as we need them.

So, what are your plans?  Do they reflect His heart?  Do you trust Him to guide your steps?

What I do see in all of this, that there should be movement in my life if I am a follower of Jesus.  Followers, after all, follow.

 

connected

The Dailies

Your daily walk with God is not only to build your relationship with Christ, but also to build your relationships with other believers and other people.  It enables you to have a connection with another person in a way all together unique to Christians.  There is an element of matching another person, understanding another follower, spiritually, to establish and maintain that connection.

Iron sharpens iron.  So, it’s true also that when followers of Jesus gather together, in group life, or on the weekend, or to simply eat together, it should not only be about doing what other social groups do but by doing what Christians are called to do with each other: build each other up and edify one another.

So, when we shrug off our time in God’s word and in prayer to Him, we in effect shrug off the influence of other believers in our lives.  We say we are better without them.  We say we don’t need this great body of Christ that God has built up.  We hinder ourselves in not realizing the full potential of Christ in us.

And it must be daily.  In Exodus, God teaches the Israelites in the wilderness about that very thing.  He makes specific rules regarding the manna (bread) He would send each morning.  Gather enough for that day only.  You can’t save it for the next day.  It will get worms.  You can’t take more than you need on any given day.  So, it’s true with reading our daily bread (God’s Word).  Each day, every day, has enough trouble.  So, stay close to God’s Word each day, every day.

Let’s cling to the word, hide it fast in our hearts, and be eager to speak it to one another.

Choose…

Every day, we encounter situations where we try to weigh out the best option.  I think I am most aware of it at the grocery store.  If an item is offered in three sizes, I’m the guy that will stand there with the calculator and try to figure out if it’s worth it for me to buy bigger, while factoring in other variables like 1) will it be used before it expires, 2) can I get this cheaper elsewhere, etc.

 

We all like to find the best option.

 

Sometimes, we are presented with two scenarios and neither looks very good.  For example, if you are sick and can’t go to work your option is to stay home, rest, and get behind on your work, or go to work and be miserable.  It may be more drastic than that.

 

It could be a choice between which bill can’t get paid this month.  It could be a choice between letting a damaging relationship go or holding on to it and enduring the pain.  Both hurt.

 

When the Israelites were being led out of slavery, their first hiccup came fairly early.  It was a question of which way to go.  They knew about the land God had promised them.  They had heard about it for 430 years.

 

In Exodus 13:17 we read that the closest way to go was to travel through a territory controlled by Philistines.  This would mean a war for the Israelites who were already feeling the pain of the long journey ahead. In fact, God said “The people might change their minds when they see war and return to Egypt.”

 

So instead God led them to the other option.  The other option was to travel through the wilderness and come out at the shore of the Red Sea.  They would have to cross it. Without a bridge.

 

How does that seem like the better option?  I had to laugh a bit when I read it because think about it.  God looks at everything and says, “Hmm…they can go this way and fight or they can go this way and swim…”

 

But of course, His plan was bigger!  His plan meant He would do something they would never, ever forget.  He is a rescuer, and a redeemer, and a savior by nature.  So, He can do whatever He wants.

 

And when we are faced with an obstacle today, we probably can trust that God has spared something we couldn’t handle and given us something we can handle.  And we can only handle it by trusting He will show up in a BIG way.

 

So, when faced with an option of two choices, I highly recommend the one that puts you in a position to trust God more and allows you to see Him work in your life.

Fight for the Heart – Part Three

Proverbs 4:23 says to “Watch over your heart with all diligence, for from it flow the springs of life.”  The NLT says it this way, “Guard your heart above all else, for it determines the course of your life.”

If that’s true (and it is) then we have to also believe there are some things worth fighting for.  There are some things that are not worth fighting for. There are people I’m not going to fight against.  I’m not going to pick up arms against my own family, my spouse, my kids, my teacher, my supervisor, or the guy writing me a ticket.

Because ultimately, the goal is bigger.  There is more than just “behavior management” at stake.  There is more than a “quiet evening at home” at stake.  There’s more than “can’t we just get through one more day” at stake.

People’s eternal relationships are stake.  A life of knowing and following Jesus is at stake. A life of passionately becoming what God has called you to be is at stake.

More than anything, I have to fight for the heart.

Fight for the Heart – Part Two

When I look in the Bible, I see lots of fighting.  There’s all kinds of battles, wars and attacks in Scripture.  In the Old Testament, there’s battles against Israel.  The entire book of Judges seems to just be one great war story after another.

Even after Israel demands a king for itself as a nation, the wars continue.  Saul and David had their share of bloodshed.  Solomon alone reigned in peace.  And then the kingdom is split in two.  God’s people were on two different tracks despite God being faithful to every promise.

Then everything shifts.  Jesus comes to earth.  The Son of God comes to us and tells us to think differently about everything.  “You have heard an eye for an eye, but I’m telling you that when someone hits you, turn and let them hit you on the other side of your face too.”  Jesus was crazy.

Or was he?

I think he was trying to teach us that we are not going to accomplish much fighting against each other.  But if we stand for what we do believe, for the value of eternal life and one that is passionate about Jesus, those are things we can fight against together.

The apostle Paul said, “For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.”

We have an enemy. But our enemy is not in our own family.  Our enemy is something that lurks not inside of flesh and blood.  It’s a force that threatens to keep us from knowing Jesus.  It’s a force that wants to keep us  from loving God with all our heart, soul, mind and strength.  It’s a force that wants to bind our passion to love others more than ourselves.

(to be continued…)

Fight for the Heart – Part One

Last night I watched one of the great Disney classics – “Bambi.” It’s one of those movies that, as a kid, made you really hate hunting.

There is one part in particular that stood out to me this time. Bambi is a little more gown up and he’s hanging out with his girlfriend Faline. They have enjoyed a nice quiet evening together frolicking in the meadow while a chorus sings in the background. Then, out of nowhere, without any warning, comes along another young buck. And he tries to steal Faline from Bambi. And of course, Bambi with his new antlers goes charging in.

I think to myself – wow. That is our life, isn’t it? We have people in our lives, kids, parents, spouses, and we love them greatly. And then sometimes it seems that out of nowhere someone or something comes along to steal them away, to get them to turn down a path we know is dangerous or one that is not what God has set out for them.

The question is, really, will we fight for their heart? Is it worth it? Do we love our kids enough that we would fight against the influences in their world that are the opposite of God’s truth? Do we love our spouse enough that we would do whatever it takes to win his/her heart every day? Is it worth fighting for?

(to be continued…)

Connections

Last night at Journey we had a great evening connecting people with each other and beginning a new four months of connect groups, life groups, classes and triads. I love it when people spend some extra time being intentional about the connections they make.  What if we were intentional about our connections all the time?  What if we were intentional about making connections in our relationships with our spouse or with our kids?  What if we were more intentional about how we represented our faith in Christ with the cashier at the checkout line?  What would that look like?

It may look like:

  • Deciding that no matter the service or attitude, we leave a good tip on the table.
  • Opt out of the self-checkout line and actually put yourself in a position where you have an opportunity to show God’s love to a person (or people) in line.
  • Striking up a conversation at the vet’s office about church.  (That happened this weekend!)
  • Setting aside time each day or each week to read God’s word and pray together as a family.
  • Driving the extra 30 minutes across town to spend time with people God has kept in your life.
  • Writing a note of blessing to someone who needs it.
  • Picking up the phone instead of waiting for it to ring.

Being intentional doesn’t always require a big change of routine. It’s usually just a step here and a step there.

What other steps can we take?