★ “Back to the Basics” – God’s Mysterious Plan Revealed ★

Well 23 days have passed since we rung in 2017.  We have a new President of the United States and there has been a little over 3 weeks to work on our New Year’s Resolutions that we promised that we would do…so how are you doing with those resolutions?  Have you kicked the mistakes and habits of 2016 yet?  In the post114-daily-dependence-kicking-the-habits-of-2016-away ★ Thought for the Day – Unstoppable Determination for God’s Holiness ★, I shared that I don’t believe in resolutions because they are pretty much worthless and that I was challenged to think of them more as “Commitments” instead because you either change or you don’t.  We all have choices before us on whether we want to continue in the same old habits or not.  Today if you are reading this and you don’t know the plan of God for your life, I want you to encourage you to open your mind and heart to what He wants to do in your life as you read this post.

God said through the prophet Jeremiah: 114-daily-dependence-jeremiah-29-11

Jeremiah 29:11 is a famous Bible verse that you see all the time adorned on T-shirts and displayed on plaques and coffee mugs…(I even have one myself.)  It is a verse that I have been encouraged by and have shared with others to help comfort them in their time of need.  But have you even wondered what God’s plan is for you specifically?  The Apostle Paul said in Ephesians 3:6 (NLT)…

“And this is God’s plan: Both Gentiles and Jews who believe the Good News share equally in the riches inherited by God’s children.  Both are part of the same body, and both enjoy the promise of blessings because they belong to Christ Jesus.”

If the term Gentile is an unfamiliar to you, it simply means a person who is not Jewish.  When the Jews rejected Jesus, the door was opened for everyone who is not a direct descendant of Abraham, the father of the Jews.  John 1:10-12 (NLT) says:

“He [Jesus] came into the very world he created, but the world didn’t recognize Him. He came to his own people, and even they rejected him. But to all who believed him and accepted him, he gave the right to become children of God.” 

You can also read more about it in Jesus’ “Parable of the Evil Farmers.”  Until this point there was a huge chasm between the Gentiles and Jews.  Jesus paved the way to reconcile both Jew and Gentile to Himself.  Psalms 133:1 says:

“How Good and Pleasant it is when God's people live together in unity.”
“How Good and Pleasant it is when God’s people live together in unity.”

Regardless if you are a Jew or a Gentile, if you believe in Jesus, you are God’s people and He desires there to be unity in His Church.  Paul went on to say in Ephesians 3:10-11:

“God’s purpose in all this was to use the church to display His wisdom in its rich variety to all the unseen rulers and authorities in the heavenly places.  This was His eternal plan, which He carried out through Christ Jesus our Lord.”

People who are skeptical of church, or perhaps were hurt in the past by hypocrisy, or “holier than thou” attitudes question “why do I need to go to church?”  They justify it by saying “I can have a relationship with God on my own.”  Now while that is true that we can have a one on one with our Heavenly Father, the verse we just read is clear that the plan of God was “to use the church to display His wisdom.”  It is through gathering with other believers that our faith is strengthened and will grow exponentially faster than if we try to go it alone.  Charles Stanley said,

“No Christian has ever been called to ‘go it alone’ in his or her walk of faith.” 

And Hebrews 10:24-25 (NLT) furthers that point with this:

“Let us think of ways to motivate one another to acts of love and good works.  And let us not neglect our meeting together, as some people do, but encourage one another, especially now that the day of his return is drawing near.”

As the “church,” God wants us to leverage our relationship with those that are in our sphere of influence.  To encourage and build others up in the faith, which cannot be done in isolation.

Last weekend I was at my church’s retreat for the Junior High and High School students.  The keynote speaker was David Marvin from the “Porch” at Watermark Church who spoke on 2 Corinthians 5:14-21.  He made this statement that has resounded ever since in my spirit,

“Every person you have ever looked at will live somewhere for eternity…either with God or without God.”

If you are a Christian, that is a haunting reality that should motivate us to want to reach those who are lost and far away from God.  For those of you reading this today who do not call yourself a Christian or maybe a better way to say it, a “Christ Follower,” I want you to know that God loves you so much.

114-daily-dependence-ephesians-3-you-area-loved-by-jesusAnd when you place your faith in Jesus, you will experience freedom like you never dreamed possible.  The Apostle Paul continues in Ephesians 3:12 with this truth:

“Because of Christ and our faith in Him, we can now come boldly and confidently into God’s presence.  So please don’t lose heart because of my trials here.  I am suffering for you, so you should feel honored.

When you believe in Jesus, you have access to God like never before because until you accept Jesus as your Lord and Savior the SIN in your life will keep you away from Him.  You may say “I am a good person,” but that just is not enough.  We are all sinners and have fallen short of what God desires for our life (see Romans 3:23.)  And with that access comes the unfolding of His plan in your life!

I love what Sandi Krakowski once said:

“God has an amazing plan for your life but it won’t automatically happen without your cooperation.  Partner with Him and create a great life!”
“God has an amazing plan for your life but it won’t automatically happen without your cooperation.  Partner with Him and create a great life!”

God is just waiting for you to take a step in His direction.  The invitation is open to you but you need to make the choice to follow Jesus.  If you want to start your relationship with Him today just go to this post, ★ Thought for the Day – I Hate Religion and I’m a Christian… ★ and can read more about what this means and as well as a simple prayer that you can say to God that can start you down the path.  Just like a loving father, God is willing, ready and able to help us out whatever mess we have made of our lives.  (If you want to read more on the Father Heart of God just check out the “Parable of the Prodigal (or lost) Son” from Luke 15:11-32.)

Maybe you have made the commitment to Christ and have started on the journey to develop your relationship; I wanted to remind you of the truth of what Tim Keller said that:

“God invites us to come as we are, not to stay as we are.”

The amazing thing about God is that He will take us back regardless of the filth that we find ourselves in but the expectation is that once we have made the choice, we must continue to grow in our faith so that we can enjoy that new life!  Colossians 1:23 (NLT) says:

“But you must continue to believe this truth and stand firmly in it.  Don’t drift away from the assurance you received when you heard the Good News.  The Good News has been preached all over the world, and I, Paul, have been appointed as God’s servant to proclaim it.”

The Good News is this…God sent Jesus to be the perfect sacrifice and payment for our sins.  Through Jesus’s death on the cross and resurrection, a bridge has been created to restore the relationship with God WHEN we believe in Jesus.  (See also 1 Peter 3:18 and Romans 6:6-7)  And so like Paul, we need to be standing firmly in our faith and actively pressing on to learn and grow.  If we are not advancing in our walk with God, we are regressing or drifting away…One of my favorite John Wooden quotes which I will close this Thought for Today is….

114-daily-dependence-john-wooden-choices“There is a choice that you have to make, in everything you do. So keep in mind that in the end, the choice you make, makes you.” 

So the choice is yours today…Do you start a relationship with Jesus and be a part of God’s Mysterious Plan that will forever change your legacy and family tree?  Or if you are a believer already will you start today to pursue your relationship more fervently?  I want to challenge you to throw out the useless “resolutions” and “choose to commit” to a new trajectory so that you’re not repeating the same old habits from 2016 and regretting 12 months from now that your life is different from it was today!  Because “in the end, the choice you make, makes you!”

If you are interested in learning more on the Grace of God, check out:

★ Thought for the Day – Is There Such a Thing As a Free Lunch? ★

★ Thought for the Day – Accidental Existence? ★

 

Or if you want to deepen your relationship check out:

★ Thought for the Day – Community That Matters ★

★ “Back to the Basics” – Pursuit #1 – Opening the Pipeline ★

★ Thought for the Day – Unfathomable Payoff of Faith ★

 

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★ Day 09 – Reason for the Season – Who Do You Belong To? ★

#Daily Dependence - Reason for the Season - 25 Days of Thankfulness 1
When you read this title what was the first thing that came to mind?  Depending on your age, your answer may be different.  We all start off being known as the daughter/son of Mr. and Mrs. _(fill in blank)_, then you may become the wife/husband of _______, and finally you could be the mother/father of _______.  My wife and I have this running joke that once we had children we stopped being called by our name to our daughter’s school population…we are now refereed to all the time as ______’s mother/father.  But there is another person we belong to which we will delve into in today’s Reason for the Season.  But first, let’s look at, Zechariah’s Prophecy – Luke 1:67-80 (NLT)

09 - Daily Dependnece - Zechariah’s Prophecy over JohnThen his father, Zechariah, was filled with the Holy Spirit and gave this prophecy:

“Praise the Lord, the God of Israel,
    because he has visited and redeemed his people.
He has sent us a mighty Savior
    from the royal line of his servant David,
just as he promised
    through his holy prophets long ago.
Now we will be saved from our enemies
    and from all who hate us.
He has been merciful to our ancestors
    by remembering his sacred covenant—
the covenant he swore with an oath
    to our ancestor Abraham.
We have been rescued from our enemies
    so we can serve God without fear,
in holiness and righteousness
    for as long as we live.
“And you, my little son,
    will be called the prophet of the Most High,
    because you will prepare the way for the Lord.
You will tell his people how to find salvation
    through forgiveness of their sins.
Because of God’s tender mercy,
    the morning light from heaven is about to break upon us,
to give light to those who sit in darkness and in the shadow of death,
    and to guide us to the path of peace.”

John grew up and became strong in spirit.  And he lived in the wilderness until he began his public ministry to Israel.”

I love this picture of a Father speaking over their child and prophesying of a rich future for his son.  John Piper made this powerful point about Zechariah’s Prophecy in his “Good News of Great Joy | Daily Readings for Advent Devotional,”

“Notice two remarkable things from these words of Zechariah in Luke 1.  First, nine months earlier, Zechariah could not believe his wife would have a child.  Now, filled with the Holy Spirit, he is so confident of God’s redeeming work in the coming Messiah that he puts it in the past tense.  For the mind of faith, a promised act of God is as good as done.  Zechariah has learned to take God at his word and so has a remarkable assurance: “God has visited and redeemed!”

In ★ Day 06 – Reason for the Season – Christmas Should Change Us ★ we looked at how our faith in God’s plan will change us, and clearly today we can see that is the case for Zachariah!  That quote from John Piper hit me hard.  I have read this passage so many times but never caught that Zachariah used the past tense that…“the God of Israel, visited and redeemed his people.”  Indeed that is what Jesus has done for us but for Zechariah to prophesy that it was in the past is a picture of incredible faith!  I believe that was a result because Zechariah understood fully “who he belonged to”…God the Father in heaven who showed great love and faithfulness in giving him and Elizabeth a much longed for son!  In that culture, if you did not have a child it was considered a curse, which people believed you had sin in your life and as a result, barrenness was a punishment.  Luke 1:24-25 (NASB) tells us that when Elizabeth’s barrenness ended it brought her great joy,

“After these days Elizabeth his wife became pregnant, and she kept herself in seclusion for five months, saying, ‘This is the way the Lord has dealt with me in the days when He looked with favor upon me, to take away my disgrace among men.’”

So I think it is safe to say that John the Baptist was loved greatly and probably felt like he belonged.  Going back to today’s passage, that last verse, “John grew up and became strong in spirit” I believe is indicative of the strength of his home life and his father’s influence of helping his son bring to fruition this prophesy.  There are many studies that show what a stabilizing impact a father who is present in the home can have; and conversely the negative vacuum that is created when there is not one.  If I may, I would like to speak to the Husbands and Fathers for a moment and share with you this powerful statement from Sandi Krakowski that we must do…09 - Daily Dependence - Thermostat or Thermometer

“Be a THERMOSTAT, not a thermometer, change the atmosphere around you with your attitude rather than just reflecting circumstances.”

Ask yourself, are you predominately a thermostat or a thermometer…the answer is critical.  God has called men to be leaders in our homes, and leaders set the climate in their home.  We all have our bad days but I underlined “predominately” in the hopes that you would do so soul searching over the course of time versus just having a bad day here or there.

Okay back to everyone…If you grew up having a father in your home, consider yourself blessed and take a moment today to reach out to him and say thank you for everything he’s done for you.  For me that was not the case.  In the ★ Thought for the Day – Never Fatherless ★ I shared how I grew up without a father in the house from the age of 5, and that my mother and I moved to another state at the age of 12 so I never had a father in my life to speak over me like Zechariah did.  I can testify to the fact that not having a father around left a hole in my heart that rippled into all sorts of self-destructive behaviors from excessive partying, alcohol abuse and addiction to drugs.  I carried that Father Wound for years until I accepted Jesus as my Savior and learned all about God the Father who was just waiting for me to turn away from my sinful life and trust Him for my needs.  I now have something far greater than belonging to an earthly father, I belong to my Heavenly Father and He has healed me completely!  He loves me and you so much that he gave up His one only Son to save us from the penalty of our sinful decisions.  (See John 3:16-17 or ★ Day 02 – Reason for the Season – Why I Say Merry Christmas ★, where we looked at that verse.)  1 Peter 3:18 (HCSB) says that,

“For Christ also suffered for sins once for all, the righteous for the unrighteous, that He might bring you to God, after being put to death in the fleshly realm but made alive in the spiritual realm.”

Believing in Jesus suffering for our sins is the way to eternal life…to bring us to God the Father!  C.S. Lewis once said,

“The Son of God became a man to enable men to become sons of God.”
“The Son of God became a man to enable men to become sons of God.”

I love that way he put it, “to enable” us to become sons and daughter of God.  John 6:40 (NIV1984) furthers that point by showing the God the Father’s heart,

“For my Father’s will is that everyone who looks to the Son and believes in Him shall have eternal life, and I will raise Him up at the last day.”

We have a future in making that decision to believe in Jesus and finally in John 10:10 (NASB), Jesus said,

“The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly.”

There is no better decision that you could make.  If this Christmas season you find yourself alone and hopeless, feeling as if you do not belong, KNOW THIS…Jesus came to give us not only life, but Life in ABUNDANCE…trust Him today!

As an additional supplement to today’s “Reason for the Season”…I highly recommend you listen to “The Twelve Voices of Christmas” audio dramatization from Back to the Bible of “Zachariah – The Voice of Disclosure.”  This dramatization is designed to help the listener experience the story of Christ’s coming in a fresh way from the Zachariah’s perspective.

If you would like to see the next installment of our “25 Days of Thankfulness” series go here…★ Day 10 – Reason for the Season – What is the Spirit of Christmas? ★

Or you can start from the beginning by ★ Clicking Here ★

#Daily Dependence - Reason for the Season - 25 Days of Thankfulness

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