God's Plan - Who Chooses? (Part 1 of 3)
I, like every other faithful person, have struggled to find God’s plan for my life. I, and countless others, look to the 29th Chapter of Jeremiah for assurance. I love verses 10-13. “For surely I know the plans I have for you, says the Lord, plans for your welfare and not for harm, to give you a future with hope. Then when you call upon me and come and pray for to me, I will hear you. When you search for me, you will find me; if you seek me with all your heart.” And I have a big problem with verse 14. “I will let you find me, says the Lord, and I will restore your fortunes. . .” I’m pretty sure Jesus never made any promises about me finding fortune. In fact, I’m pretty sure Jesus is all about me using whatever fortune I have and give to others.
According to Jeremiah, God has plans for my life. What are they? Does God have a plan unique to me? How specific is God’s plan? Is it a big picture thing or every detail and choice I make? How do I discern it?
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Many years ago, we considered a move from Texas to Georgia. It would mean great changes for our then teenage children. The invitation to consider a new and challenging ministerial opportunity would also mean transferring from one denomination to another. We were completely happy in Texas, but we tried to remain open to a new direction in a different church in an unknown city. My wife, Lynda, and I sat in an Atlanta hotel room after interviews to consider the future. We were nervous, anxious, and excited.
Lynda looked to me and suggested that we pray together. Normally, you would think that is an appropriate suggestion for a minister and his wife; still it caught me off guard and I responded sarcastically, “I don’t think so.”
Lynda looked at me with bewildered eyes. Sensing her disappointment, I tried to explain, “Lynda, I am conflicted about how to pray. It’s hard to put into words, but I think I know what you are praying for. I bet you are praying for the same thing I used to pray for. You are asking God for a sign, something to interpret so that we can discern God’s will for our lives. You assume God has an opinion on this matter and you want to hear from God before we make this huge decision. Right?”
“Ok, right. Then, what are you praying for?” she questioned.
“Lynda, I just don’t think God cares about this kind of decision!”
I could see the look in her eyes and feel the fire in her soul. I think she expected something possessed to jump out of my body.
“Lynda, if you and I move to Georgia, I swear to you, in one year we will sit across our kitchen table, hold hands, and give thanks for the way God brought us to Georgia, changed our lives and blessed our family. And I swear to you, if we stay in Texas, one year from now, we will sit across our kitchen table, hold hands, and give thanks for the way God blessed us in new creative ways in the church we already know and love. I believe God’s will does not include a geographic location. As long as we love God, love our congregation, and love ourselves; God will bless us overwhelmingly. The street address is irrelevant. We do not increase God’s blessings by choosing one church over the other. And, we do not exempt ourselves from God’s blessing by guessing incorrectly and choosing the other. I believe God’s will is based on our capacity to love and has nothing to do with location.”
My sweet wife was trying her best to follow my thinking, “Then, is it God’s will that you have been serving in Texas?”
“Well, I used to think so, but now. . .I guess I don’t! Lynda, I think God’s will is for me to maximize loving while serving in Texas. And God has blessed that, incredibly.”
“Then is it God’s will that you are a music minister?”
“Am I? Am I a musician? A youth pastor? An educator? A fundraiser? An administrator? A preacher? A counselor? My loving is not dependent on a job description. I don’t think God has a big regard of what is on my résumé or my business card. I think God is concerned with my passion for loving in whatever context or job description I choose. I don’t think God called me to any specific task. God simply called me to love in whatever way manifested itself for requiring love.”
Lynda, trying to understand, questioned further. “Then, is it God’s will that you are in the ministry at all?”
“Oh Lynda, I’m so worried what you think about my perspective right now. But this is such an important moment in our lives; I just have to come clean with my perspective. You asked if it is God’s will that I’m in ministry, well, I believe I could be a high school teacher in Missouri complete with a small church job on the side and find myself loving God’s children to the utmost of my ability. That would still be God’s will for my life and I believe we would experience abundant blessings from God.”
Seeing bewilderment on her face, and at the risk of sending her over the top, I continued. “I simply believe that we find comfort in believing that God has a plan inclusive of every decision we make. But that does not feel like free will to me as designed in Genesis. I think we reduce our relationship with God to a cryptic game of human interpretation of divine will and miss the fact that God’s will for our lives is clear, direct, and spelled out: Love God, love neighbor, love self. That’s it. No more. But certainly, nothing less.”
“Lynda, this does not mean that God is detached and uninvolved in our lives. On the contrary, God is working full time and inspiring us, motivating us, and challenging us to be consumed by and not distracted from, love. God still cares about us. I just don’t think God is consumed with the things which preoccupy us, like job descriptions and street addresses.”
She looked at me, wanting to unite instead of divide while we stood on the threshold of a big decision and asked, “Then what will you pray for tonight?”
“I am going to pray for clarity. I want to pray for the ability to muddle through the complications of a major move and make a decision based on our capacity to love. I want to do what is best in loving our children and loving you. And I know, that God knows, that wherever that is, we will work hard at loving. And I know we will be blessed.”
Lynda paused, assured me with her supportive eyes and then grabbed my hands. She lowered her head and began to pray.
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God’s articulated plan for all of humanity is consistent throughout the Bible: Love. Love God. Love neighbor. Love self.
Let’s not belittle God’s plan to a human decision such as a location or an out-of-state occupation. God’s plan is much bigger, much more demanding, and much more intense. Consider that God’s plan for our lives can be found in our plan and call to love. We just have to decide on the details of how to respond to God’s plan. This can happen in any location and in any task description. But, be challenged; loving is difficult, easily neglected, ignored, and procrastinated. When God’s plan to love is fulfilled, blessings will overwhelm us. Love is just that profound.
Even knowing this, we often complicate God’s plan with our own human expectation. Yet, we can be reassured of the summation of God’s plan for each of us: God’s plan for humanity is synonymous with who God is, who God calls us to be, and what God calls us to do—love.
With panicked prayers, many faithful find themselves on their knees desperately desiring an answer from God, “What is Your plan for my life? What is Your plan that I may follow it and become it? What are You calling me to do for Your kingdom?” I, too, have prayed desperately for God to reveal a plan for me that I can simply follow. However, I have come to a place that I feel God has already and will always answer those prayers without predestinated specifics.
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When I speak with young people about their calling, I have noticed that each one desires an experience with God that makes God’s call on their life clear and unmistakable. Each one expects that calling to be specific and explicit. However, God’s calling is simple. Love- nothing more and certainly nothing less. We, as described in the book of Genesis, are given free will to interpret love, choose love, and decide love along with the specific manifestations of love. Believing that God has planned out our lives denies God’s gift of free will. Believing that God has chosen our careers and destinations denies the concept of free will. Believing that God has prepared a perfect course for our lives and that our task is to comprehend and follow God’s course, is not consistent with free will. Just as faith is ours to choose, the pathway of loving is ours to choose.
God takes opportunities to be a part of our lives, answers our prayers, and sets things in motion to increase our capacity to love and experience love. God’s active role in humanity is motivated by love to return us to the loving image of God in which we were created.
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It is easy to understand the human desire for divine specifics on how we live our lives. When we feel God has called us to something specific, it gives us a sense of certainty and confidence that moves us forward with conviction to become something specific. This security gives us strength. We look at those around us that have become something specific for God and we long for that assurance. Many wait for that kind of call and never receive it. Waiting and trusting in the kind of call that dictates location and job description may not exist, and thinking God relates to humanity in such a way distorts God’s relationship with us.
I, when discerning my career, experienced a vision of being in ministry. God blessed that sacred imagining and I jumped in with both feet. It was not a road map cast before me that I was to follow. I know this because my life and my ministry look nothing like that vision. It was a time in life when I recognized the significance of God’s role in my life and I felt compelled to play a significant role in God’s kingdom. God blessed that moment. I heard the call and I answered in a way unique to me. Over time, different needs for ministry have presented themselves and God has equipped me and supported me and challenged me to love in ways for which I never dreamed or imagined or prepared. I know I did not always live up to love’s demands. Regardless, in the years to come, I pray my eyes will be open to the places where loving is lacking and that I will have the strength and courage to adjust my life to meet those needs. Along that journey, I know I will not be alone. I believe that whatever risks I take to be a manifestation of love I will experience blessings beyond my current imagination.
*If you are interested, especially if you are considering a life of ministry, consider continuing with “God’s Call.”*I, like every other faithful person, have struggled to find God’s plan for my life. I, and countless others, look to the 29th Chapter of Jeremiah for assurance.I, like every other faithful person, have struggled to find God’s plan for my life. I, and countless others, look to the 29th Chapter of Jeremiah for assurance.
In the opening welcome and introduction to this website, I shared the Scripture that inspired this online adventure, I Tim 6:20. This text is also the origination of the name; “Sacred Chatter.” However, my intent is not to be a singular voice. I invite your voice to be a part of the “chat” and I base this on another of my favorite Scriptures: Hebrews 10:24. “And let us consider how to provoke one another to love and good deeds.” I am considering how I can provoke love and good deeds in places beyond where I live. This is my attempt to enter into a Hebrews 10 conversation with you over social media.digitally. Now, I am interested in your feedback. Consider what provoking you can provide with your own Sacred Chatter.
What’s important to you? What really matters?
Add your voice in Sacred Chatter.
Love is ours to provoke. Good deeds are ours to sew.
That the wisdom of Hebrews 10 may flourish and grow.
Email, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, they’re potential mediums for the Hebrews 10 plan.
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