What’s Next?

Don’t give up today, in what could be the final hours of your struggles or stagnancy. The first day of your good future may be as near as tomorrow.

While we can be in difficult circumstances for a very long time, it can all change in a moment.

Hang in there. Don’t let go.

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Don’t stop paddling. Keep your eyes focussed forward with anticipation of rest and reward, and your arrival in the promised land of all things good.

Replace your inner dismal voice of, “I give up” with an inner hopeful voice, of “What’s next?”

If it’s God you are following; if it’s God you are waiting on, the culmination of his preparations and orchestration of plans for your life will still happen. Change will arrive. It will be infinitely more than you ask or imagine.

Just ahead are freedom from captivity, dry land and sun, purpose and fulfillment, blessings and justice, joy and righteousness. 

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Remember, when your sole trust is in our Father and singular focus is on him, this will always be true:

New International Version
For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.

So many translations of Jeremiah 29:11 … So much hope … 

New Living Translation
For I know the plans I have for you,” says the LORD. “They are plans for good and not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope.

English Standard Version
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.

Berean Study Bible
For I know the plans I have for you, declares the LORD, plans to prosper you and not to harm you, to give you a future and a hope.

New American Standard Bible 
‘For I know the plans that I have for you,’ declares the LORD, ‘plans for welfare and not for calamity to give you a future and a hope.

King James Bible
For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, saith the LORD, thoughts of peace, and not of evil, to give you an expected end.

Christian Standard Bible
For I know the plans I have for you”–this is the LORD’s declaration–“plans for your well-being, not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope.

Contemporary English Version
I will bless you with a future filled with hope–a future of success, not of suffering.

Good News Translation
I alone know the plans I have for you, plans to bring you prosperity and not disaster, plans to bring about the future you hope for.

Holman Christian Standard Bible
For I know the plans I have for you”–this is the LORD’s declaration–“plans for your welfare, not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope.

International Standard Version
For I know the plans that I have for you,’ declares the LORD, ‘plans for well-being, and not for calamity, in order to give you a future and a hope.

NET Bible
For I know what I have planned for you,’ says the LORD. ‘I have plans to prosper you, not to harm you. I have plans to give you a future filled with hope.

New Heart English Bible
For I know the plans that I have for you,’ says the LORD, ‘plans for your welfare, and not for calamity, to give you hope and a future.

GOD’S WORD® Translation
I know the plans that I have for you, declares the LORD. They are plans for peace and not disaster, plans to give you a future filled with hope.

JPS Tanakh 1917
For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, saith the LORD, thoughts of peace, and not of evil, to give you a future and a hope.

New American Standard 1977 
‘For I know the plans that I have for you,’ declares the LORD, ‘plans for welfare and not for calamity to give you a future and a hope.

Jubilee Bible 2000
For I know the thoughts that I think concerning you, said the LORD, thoughts of peace, and not of evil, to give you the end that you wait for.

King James 2000 Bible
For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, says the LORD, thoughts of peace, and not of evil, to give you an expected end.

American King James Version
For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, said the LORD, thoughts of peace, and not of evil, to give you an expected end.

American Standard Version
For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, saith Jehovah, thoughts of peace, and not of evil, to give you hope in your latter end.

Brenton Septuagint Translation
And I will devise for you a device of peace, and not evil, to bestow upon you these good things.

Douay-Rheims Bible
For I know the thoughts that I think towards you, saith the Lord, thoughts of peace, and not of affliction, to give you an end and patience.

Darby Bible Translation
For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, saith Jehovah, thoughts of peace, and not of evil, to give you in your latter end a hope.

English Revised Version
For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, saith the LORD, thoughts of peace, and not of evil, to give you hope in your latter end.

Webster’s Bible Translation
For I know the thoughts that I think towards you, saith the LORD, thoughts of peace, and not of evil, to give you an expected end.

World English Bible
For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, says Yahweh, thoughts of peace, and not of evil, to give you hope and a future.

Young’s Literal Translation
For I have known the thoughts that I am thinking towards you — an affirmation of Jehovah; thoughts of peace, and not of evil, to give to you posterity and hope.

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Travel Light

Imagine a TSA checkpoint at an airport. What if the qualification of passing from our current status to the one we are meant to be in is that we must shed some luggage? — only those who are traveling light can pass through. Would we do it, or would we stay behind, unwilling to comply? What if it was God who defined those terms, and the requirements were personalized? Image result for TSA, person with tons of luggage

I know most people from church culture would say, “Of course, to love God is to obey God, I always do.” But what people say and what people do are often very different. I have traveled many miles, so to speak, with people who claimed God as their priority, and commander and King, but witnessed them unwilling to leave behind their massive pile of luggage at the TSA checkpoint. Had they only left it, as asked and encouraged, they could have passed through to what God had planned for them (plans to prosper and not to harm, plans to give hope and a future).

But alas, their priority was there in their luggage.

Although they begged the TSA agents, and tried to claim, “I’m with him” or “I’m with her”, with intentions to sneak in with someone who willingly shed all that God asked, they were left behind.

Image result for person with tons of luggageWith their piles of luggage.

Believing they were treated unfairly. Resenting those who got through the checkpoint and quickly moved out of sight. Inventing something to condemn them, to justify discreditation or dismissal of the forward movers. All the while turning a blind eye to the clearly-stated signs at the airport, those personalized stipulations meant for them, too, but conveniently ignored, the posted requirements with which those who passed through did comply. Deciding themselves victims, not causes of their own circumstances.

Dejected and angry, they gather their piles of suitcases and drag them back home. There they unpack the bags to inspect item after item, relishing their worth, reinforcing their decision to hold tight to them. Arguing with God, but not calling it so: believing themselves “right” and the travelers “wrong”. Making themselves feel better by bashing the blameless. Redefining themselves as “the staid”, “the consistent”, “the pillars”, “the holy”, and by compare calling the innocents who traveled forward “rebels”, “flashes in the pan”, “backsliders”, “amoral”.

Which is understandable, perhaps, considering human nature, and maybe not the end of the story for the noncompliant. As long as they don’t settle in where they are and continue to lunge for the future. As long as they look for the Lord’s pillar of cloud by day to guide them on their way, and pillar of fire by night to give them light, as the Israelites wandering the desert did, they may yet come to the passage to their promised land.

But keep in mind, God doesn’t conform to people, people must conform to him. Don’t expect him to change his terms for each person; expect the requirements and enforcements to be unchanged. As long as each is intent on hearing directly from the Holy Spirit and no other voice (including their own), they may yet hear and obey and perhaps even catch up with those who traveled before them.

But why do it the difficult way when it can be done with ease? Why refuse to comply and play all those mind games to hide misplaced idolatry? (It’s not as hidden as you imagine, by the way.) Why forego the good things that would have come with simple obedience and singular godship?

If God asks us to see it his way, or do it his way, then do it. Do that over and over as often as he asks, and expect to ultimately arrive at portals and gates of things new, things wonderful, things grand, things possible only with God.

We can fake “the promised land”, “blessed”, and “favored” only until the real deal comes along, then the fake is overshadowed by the brilliant light of those who truly loved enough to obey, and who ultimately were planted by God as oaks of righteousness for the display of his splendor.

We can keep all those bags of preferred values, ideals, worldview, people, theologies, paradigms, prejudices, material things, party politics, pride, bitterness, self-pity, untruths, elitism, power — whatever it is we value more than him — and stay in the familiar world we like to control. Just don’t fool ourselves that we’ve arrived at the best stuff.

For those who have been trimmed and thrashed and forged and refined by fires, — for those who have loved and obeyed — through the TSA gate they go. They may have only wee little backpacks with next to nothing inside, but they have willingly thrown off everything that hinders. Their eyes are fixed on hope and a marvelous future. They know who God is. They let him be the commander or King or father or coach or any of his many roles in their lives. They are headed to all things good.

My friend, if God asks you to drop a suitcase or two or three or fifteen, don’t be oppositional. Do what he asks. Travel light. There is no other way to go through to the real deal. Image result for person with small backpack going through airport

Philippians 3:7.  I once thought these things were valuable, but now I consider them worthless because of what Christ has done.

Jeremiah 29:11 .  For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.

Exodus 13:21 .  By day the LORD went ahead of them in a pillar of cloud to guide them on their way and by night in a pillar of fire to give them light, so that they could travel by day or night.

Isaiah 61:3   and provide for those who grieve in Zion— to bestow on them a crown of beauty instead of ashes, the oil of joy instead of mourning, and a garment of praise instead of a spirit of despair. They will be called oaks of righteousness, a planting of the Lord for the display of his splendor.

Hebrews 12:1-2 . Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, 2 fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. 

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Checkpoint

2019 is hours away. Moving into it can be viewed as a portal or gate — imagine a TSA checkpoint at an airport. What if the qualification of passing from our current status to the one we are meant to be in is that we must shed some luggage? — only those who are traveling light can pass through. Would we do it, or would we stay behind, unwilling to comply? What if it was God who defined those terms, and the requirements were personalized? Image result for TSA, person with tons of luggage

I know most people from church culture would say, “Of course, to love God is to obey God, I always do.” But what people say and what people do are often very different. I have traveled many miles, so to speak, with people who claimed God as their priority, and commander and King, but witnessed them unwilling to leave behind their massive pile of luggage at the TSA checkpoint. Had they only left it, as asked and encouraged, they could have passed through to what God had planned for them (plans to prosper and not to harm, plans to give hope and a future). 

But alas, their priority was there in their luggage.

Although they begged the TSA agents, and tried to claim, “I’m with him” or “I’m with her”, with intentions to sneak in with someone who willingly shed all that God asked, they were left behind. 

Image result for person with tons of luggageWith their piles of luggage.

Believing they were treated unfairly.

Resenting those who got through the checkpoint and quickly moved out of sight. Inventing something to condemn them, to justify discreditation or dismissal of the forward movers. 

All the while turning a blind eye to the clearly-stated signs at the airport, those personalized stipulations meant for them, too, but conveniently ignored, the posted requirements that those who passed through did comply with.

Deciding themselves victims, not causes of their own circumstances. Dejected and angry, they gather their piles of suitcases and drag them back home. There they unpack the bags to inspect item after item, relishing their worth, reinforcing their decision to hold tight to them. Arguing with God, but not calling it so: believing themselves “right” and the travelers “wrong”. Making themselves feel better by bashing the blameless. Redefining themselves as “the staid”, “the consistent”, “the pillars”, “the holy”, and by compare calling the innocents who traveled forward “rebels”, “flashes in the pan”, “backsliders”, “amoral”.

Which is understandable, perhaps, considering human nature, and maybe not the end of the story for the noncompliant. As long as they don’t settle in where they are and continue to lunge for the future. As long as they look for the Lord’s pillar of cloud by day to guide them on their way, and pillar of fire by night to give them light, as the Israelites wandering the desert did, they may yet come to the passage to their promised land.

But keep in mind, God doesn’t conform to people, people must conform to him. Don’t expect him to change his terms for each person; expect the requirements and enforcements to be unchanged. As long as each is intent on hearing directly from the Holy Spirit and no other voice (including their own), they may yet hear and obey and perhaps even catch up with those who traveled before them.

But why do it the difficult way when it can be done with ease? Why refuse to comply and play all those mind games to hide misplaced idolatry? (It’s not as hidden as you imagine, by the way.) Why forego the good things that would have come with simple obedience and singular godship? 

If God asks us to see it his way, or do it his way, then do it. Do that over and over as often as he asks, and expect to ultimately arrive at portals and gates of things new, things wonderful, things grand, things possible only with God.

We can fake “the promised land”, “blessed”, and “favored” only until the real deal comes along, then the fake is overshadowed by the brilliant light of those who truly loved enough to obey, and who ultimately were planted by God as oaks of righteousness for the display of his splendor.

We can keep all those bags full of our preferred values, ideals, worldview, people, theologies, paradigms, prejudices, material things, and more — whatever it is we value more than him, and stay in the familiar world we like to control. But, don’t fool ourselves that we’ve arrived at the best stuff. 

For those who have been trimmed and thrashed and forged and refined by fires; for those who have loved and obeyed: through the TSA gate they go. They may only have wee little backpacks with next to nothing inside, but they have willingly thrown off everything that hinders. Their eyes are fixed on hope and a marvelous future. They know who God is; they let him be the commander or King or father or coach or any of his many roles in their lives, and they are headed to all things good. 

My friend, if God asks you to drop a suitcase or two or three or fifteen, don’t be a fool. Do what he asks. Travel light. There ain’t no other way to go through to the real deal. Image result for person with small backpack going through airport

Philippians 3:7.  I once thought these things were valuable, but now I consider them worthless because of what Christ has done.

Jeremiah 29:11 .  For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.

Exodus 13:21 .  By day the LORD went ahead of them in a pillar of cloud to guide them on their way and by night in a pillar of fire to give them light, so that they could travel by day or night.

Isaiah 61:3   and provide for those who grieve in Zion— to bestow on them a crown of beauty instead of ashes, the oil of joy instead of mourning, and a garment of praise instead of a spirit of despair. They will be called oaks of righteousness, a planting of the Lord for the display of his splendor.

Hebrews 12:1-2 . Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. 

No Darkness

Where do I go when darkness overwhelms? Where do I go when evil abounds and hopelessness prevails? Where do I go when I am powerless to right what is wrong?

To the only one who will accept my collapse for a time into total dependency.

To the one who sheds light on what is dark … little by little, or all at once … it isn’t up to me but up to him.

To the one who brings me into a partnership, not puppetry as I once imagined of him.

To the one who changes my expectations and beliefs  — about almost everything — who corrects wrong-teaching acquired from birth forward, the misinformation about people and God, earth and heaven, death and life, evil and good, darkness and light.

To the one who believes in me, and proves it by stepping back and expecting me to implement his private tutorials, making life a practice session, a lab class to follow the didactic portion of his lessons.

Even when I whine, “Me? I want you to do it! I know you can do anything! Why can’t I be a puppet instead?” and beg, “No, no, you do it for me; injustice and trouble and opposition scare me!”

To the one who doesn’t give in to my arguments, and responds with, “No, I know you can do it. That is my way, asking you to put my instructions into practice. Wanting you to take the mind of Christ forward, step by step, day by day. Helping you to walk out life overturning evil with my laws and precepts, my love, my justice, my mercy.

To the one who stands firm despite my fears, and helps me understand his will despite my finite mind.

To the one who explains when I don’t understand, “I don’t coerce, I ask to be in partnership; it’s always your choice to do so or not. What is a person if they are only puppets and pawns? I value you, each and every one of you, I welcome you to join me in partnership … by choice, never by force.”

To the one who declares, “For I know the plans I have for you, they are plans for good and not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope.”

To the one who makes is possible, to together …

Overturn evil with good.

Take back life from the clutch of death.

Release captives of the prince of darkness.

Turn mourning into gladness.

Demand justice where there was none.

Bring mercy, hope and love to deprived people.

Shed light on what is dark.

All of this and more … little by little, or all at once …  it’s not by our might or by power, but by his Spirit. For he is light, and in him there is no darkness at all.

 

DSCN0261.jpg God is light, for blog

Rescue Me

Depending on circumstances, different lyrics from this hymn assume prominence.

When I sense myself drifting, the following verse becomes my prayer:

Let that grace now like a fetter bind my wandering heart to thee: Prone to wander, Lord, I feel it, prone to leave the God I love. Here’s my heart, Lord, take and seal it …

When I find myself in times of trouble, a different line serves as a distress call:

He to rescue me from danger …

For the sixth straight week, I have distilled this song and “The Lord’s Prayer” to short, simple prayers:

Rescue us from danger. Deliver us from evil.

This is a time when less is more, because a loved one had one foot, no two … no ALL of him in the grave. Before his fate could be finalized there, he was rescued — ever-so-delicately, ever-so-protectively, ever-so-tenderly — by the hands of our Father. He is held close even now, at God’s breast, cradled with those hands.

I am grateful. I am in awe. And yet, I am dissatisfied …

While I see him in God’s embrace, I haven’t witnessed him set down again on ground far from that awful, rebuffed grave. The destination I believe for him is not here, so near the grave, but far from it — fully alive, healthy, safe, and journeying Earth with no end in sight; he’s too young for his to be ordained by God anytime soon.

I know that credible, responsible medical statistics say his odds are slim, and the path ahead includes any number of pits just like the one he narrowly escaped. It is our challenge to spot and avoid the unending pits, resist their convincing lure; either detour or leap over each; and sustain this forward “Effort For Life” without knowing when and where the next open grave will appear.

So, again today, I pray this particular line in “Come Thy Fount of Every Blessing”, because it is impossible for us to do this alone. The stakes are severe, the consequences of this ultra-marathon are life-and-death. We need our God, the creator of the universe, the giver of all good things, the protector of all … no, we REQUIRE …

He to rescue us from danger.


Update:  Two years later, I am no longer dissatisfied. He initially progressed slowly but surely and distanced himself from the awful, rebuffed grave. Since then he is traveling fast and far from it — fully alive, healthy, safe, and journeying Earth with no end in sight. He has a hope and a future.

Jeremiah 29:11 For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.


Artist:  Fernando Ortega singing “Come Thou Fount Of Every Blessing”, from his album, “Beginnings”.