Divine Appointments

We live in a society of planners. Architects design and plan buildings. Engineers design and plan roads and parking lots. Fashion designers plan for the next season always thinking ahead to the next color palette or trend. Even those of us, who would not call ourselves true planners make dentist and doctor appointments, write up grocery lists and plan get togethers with friends. 

Pixabay - checklist

Jerry Jenkins, is the author of a myriad of books including the Left Behind Series and numerous biographies on people ranging from Hank Aaron, to Luis Pulau to Walter Payton. He even assisted Billy Graham with his autobiography, Just As I Am. Jerry also owns and runs The Jerry Jenkins Writer's Guild, of which I am in my second year of membership. I remember one of the first webinars I took from Jerry, where he talked about the difference between two types of writers; the panster and the outliner. Like Jerry himself and another big name author,  Stephen King, I am a panster.  I write my blog and my fiction by the seat of my pants. Where as an outliner has a plan or an outline they follow as they write. Neither one is better than the other, they are just different. There is also a hybrid of writers who combine the elements of both styles of writing. They come up with a loose outline, but fill in details by the seat of their pants. 

Pixabay - typewriter

When we talk about making plans versus living by the seat of our pants, we can see that there are good points and bad points to both ways of approaching life. Planners, usually, get more done, but they are often so rigid in their schedules that they have forgotten how to enjoy the moment. Those who live by the seat of their pants are usually more relaxed and easy going, but often have projects piling up, because they neglect to develop a plan on how to get them finished.

We as Christ followers can often be guilty of both, planning too much and not planning enough. When I was a young mom, trying to figure out marriage, family life and eventually home schooling, I was often impatient and frustrated because I looked at life as a list of things I had to accomplish. This mentality become more pronounced as I home schooled our daughters from kindergarten through high school. I became a list person, which is a planner, if you didn't know! I think it is amusing that I could be a panster as a writer but in every day life, I was a planner. I loved to get a new planner every year as I looked forward to a new year of home schooling. I still love planners, but I'm not quite as rigid in how I used them. 

Pixabay - planner

What does God say in His word about having plans? Let's take a look. 

Commit your works to the Lord And your plans will be established.
— Proverbs 16:3 (NASB)
The mind of man plans his way, But the Lord directs his steps.
— Proverbs 16:9 (NASB)
Many plans are in a man’s heart, But the counsel of the Lord will stand.
— Proverbs 19:21 (NASB)
The plans of the diligent lead surely to advantage, But everyone who is hasty comes surely to poverty.
— Proverbs 21:5 (NASB)

Obviously, God inspired King Solomon, the author of Proverbs to pen these many verses about planning. It is normal and it is good to have a plan, whether you are talking about retirement or about next week's meals, planning can be beneficial in saving us time, money and frustration. 

Unfortunately, many of us have made plans that didn't work out. We have been disappointed by failed relationships, ruined vacations and the chaos of life that constantly seems to want to get in the way of our well thought out plans. The beauty of being a panster, when it comes to real life is a drastic reduction in stress and pain brought about by waylaid plans. 

A mindset that has recently come about in my own life, is that of divine appointments.

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.
— Jeremiah 29:11 (NASB)

If I really believe that God is sovereign, and I really believe that He is good, then I must also believe that every bump in the road and every plan that doesn't come to fruition, He already knows about and has a purpose for. How often have you had a plan for your day off and the day draws to a close and you didn't accomplish anything that you had planned? I see those hands our there! In addition to that, how many of you got frustrated because what you had planned got sabotaged by life....a child stays home from school sick, your mother needed your help with the garden, your teenagers and your spouse call saying that won't be home to eat that delicious meal you slaved to prepare....this is the reality of life. The question then becomes, am I supposed to stop planning? Do I just let life fly and go with the flow, like some sort of 1960's flower child, content to sit in the sun and listen to the music?

Pixabay - hippie

Like so many things we talk about, I think the key here is, balance. I think it is important to have plans, but we also need to allow God to do that thing that He does best...orchestrate our lives. Recognize that those speed bumps that come into life are allowed by Him. Everything that comes your way, even the little annoyance and inconveniences, have passed through Him. This is even more pertinent when we are talking about divine appointments. These are those interruptions to our plans that revolve around people. 

Sunday, my Grandson came down with a nasty virus. I am the primary care person when he is out of school, as my daughter, a single mom, has to work a full time job. He comes to my house, when he is home from school. Sunday, I had plans for Monday. I was going to get ahead on my blog, do some writing and try to tackle the laundry. It wasn't going to happen. In fact, here it is Wednesday and the poor guy is still running a low grade temp, so once again, he is home from school. You know what? It's okay. Did my plans get ruined? Not ruined, just adjusted. When I look at life as a series of divine appointments, not only do I have an easier time adjusting to the bumps, but I also keep my focus on the author and finisher of my faith. 

Whether you are a planner or a panster, allowing God to direct your life, day in and day out, gives you the capacity to be less frustrated and more in tune with exactly what He wants you to do. Next time you have a plan and it gets interrupted, ask yourself, could this be one of His divine appointments, then let Him meet you right there. 

Walking with the Psalmist

Psalm 13 is a song of David, and a prayer for help in trouble. What I love about the psalms of David are the parallels to my own emotional ups and downs. Let's dive in.

1 How long, O Lord? Will You forget me forever?
How long will You hide Your face from me?
2 How long shall I take counsel in my soul,
Having sorrow in my heart all the day?
How long will my enemy be exalted over me?
— Psalm 13:1-2 (NASB)
 Pixabay

Pixabay

Do you ever feel like David? Do you ever wonder where God is? Does it seem as though He has forgotten you or is hiding His face from you? Have you ever felt like you are the only person you can trust? Do you ever have days where all you can feel is sorrow, or maybe you feel nothing at all, simply numb? Have you felt as though a very real, but unseen enemy is out to get you? Or maybe your enemy is something or someone real, like cancer, a hard nosed boss or a bully. 

I have felt this way. The truth is, I think most of us have felt pretty much alone at some point or other in our lives. Sometimes, we carry burdens that we cannot share, which make us feel very alone and like the psalmist we cry out to God, "Where are you?"

3 Consider and answer me, O Lord my God;
Enlighten my eyes, or I will sleep the sleep of death,
4 And my enemy will say, “I have overcome him,”
And my adversaries will rejoice when I am shaken.
— Psalm 13:3-4 (NASB)
 Pixabay

Pixabay

The psalmist asks God to consider his situation. David spent a good portion of his adult life running and hiding from his enemies. I'm pretty sure this song was born out of the frustration and exhaustion of not being able to live a normal life. 

You are probably familiar with the phrase, the new normal. Most often this phrase is used by someone who has encountered a major life change, either a job loss, loss of a loved one, physical limitation or other difficulty that makes life different than it used to be. I used to be able to eat whatever I wanted, whenever I wanted. I can't do that anymore. Now life is made up of looking at food labels, cutting my food in half so I don't eat too much and cutting out things I used to enjoy like donuts and ice cream. This is the new normal. 

I do not see anything wrong with asking God to consider us. We are His creation. Consider these verses:

Consider the ravens, for they neither sow nor reap; they have no storeroom nor barn, and yet God feeds them; how much more valuable you are than the birds!
— Luke 12:24 (NASB)
 Pixabay

Pixabay

Consider the lilies, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin; but I tell you, not even Solomon in all his glory clothed himself like one of these.
— Luke 12:27 (NASB)
 Photo credit  Rebecca Trumbull

Photo credit Rebecca Trumbull

The one who has every hair on our heads numbered can most certainly be bothered to consider us, when we cry out to Him. 

I think the psalmist was also praying for wisdom, or maybe he was just asking God to help him stay awake and keep vigilant watch for his enemies, lest they overcome him and he sleep the sleep of death. Either way we can ask God for help, whether it be for wisdom, or for physical strength. 

1 I will lift up my eyes to the mountains;
From where shall my help come?
2 My help comes from the Lord,
Who made heaven and earth.
— Psalm 121:1-2 (NASB)
I can do all things through Him who strengthens me.
— Philippians 4:13 (NASB)
But if any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all generously and without reproach, and it will be given to him
— James 1:5 (NASB)

The last section of Psalm 13 is the upward swing.

5 But I have trusted in Your lovingkindness;
My heart shall rejoice in Your salvation.
6 I will sing to the Lord,
Because He has dealt bountifully with me.
— Psalm 13:5-6
 Pixabay

Pixabay

There are four actions the psalmist does at the end of this song.

1. He remembers. He is speaking in the past tense, remembering other times the Lord has been faithful.

2. He trusts. He trusted in the Lord's lovingkindness in the past, and no doubt, will do so again. 

3. He rejoices. His heart rejoices in the Lord's salvation. We can derive from this statement, the psalmist has seen the Lord's salvation before. 

4. He sings. What a beautiful ending to a song that starts out at a rather low point. He can sing, because the Lord has dealt bountifully with him. 

What does this mean for you and I? First, I believe it is okay to ask God the tough questions. Where are you, God? How long will you keep quiet and not answer me? How long am I going to have to suffer? When will your deliverance come? God knows our frame. He also knows we don't see the whole picture, so I truly believe He understands and has compassion when we come to Him with our ceaseless questioning. Think about the many times your children or grandchildren come to you asking, why or when? Do you yell at them and tell them to be quiet? (Well, maybe once in a while, ha, ha). More often we answer with kindness and love. 

Secondly, I believe it is also alright to let God know we are at the end of ourselves. Consider and answer me, Lord, is a cry for help and reassurance, not a fist raised in defiance. God knows we hurt, sometimes in the deepest places of our being. There are people who suffer physically with pain we can't even imagine. There are people who hurt mentally or emotionally because of what others have done to them or to their family members. God knows our innermost hurts and struggles. 

Finally, I think the key is to follow the psalmist's example and not stay in that mindset of discouragement. Like him we need to choose to remember what God has done for us. We need to trust in the God whose lovingkindness is everlasting. We can rejoice in His salvation. Not only has He saved us from sin through His son Jesus Christ, but He has saved us from difficulties we cannot begin to imagine. Lastly, sing! Sing like no one is listening. Sing to bring the house down. If it is an age old hymn sing it with gusto. If it is singing along to your favorite Christian band, turn up the volume. 

Following David in his pattern of questioning, admitting and rejoicing we will be able to overcome. 

The Real Romance

My regular devotional book is My Utmost for His Highest, by Oswald Chambers. If you have never heard of him, he is one of those men of the past that, like David, seemed to be a man after God's own heart. The wisdom he had as a young man and his passion for Christ drove him to eventually start the Bible Training College in London. I have used this devotional book for years and it never grows old. 

Oswald Chambers devotional book

Over the years, I started writing in the margin at the top of the page what various events had occurred on that particular date. It has become a way to keep track of life. I always write the year and the event that took place. For instance on September 15, 2010 it says, "Quintin Arthur Vern Christensen born." That is my grandson. On May 31st 2014 it says, "Rebecca Christensen marries Daniel Trumbull." That is when I gained a son-in-law. There are pages filled with vacation travels, birthdays and family gatherings. It is also filled with broken engagements, hospital stays, unwed pregnancies and deaths. 

Oswald Chambers - devotional

It seems apropos that a devotional book that reminds us over and over to draw closer to Christ, hold a record of the very events that have caused that closeness to take place. The good events caused me to pour out my heart in thanksgiving and praise for blessing. The bad events caused me to pour out my heart in despair and grief. This correlation brings me to today's reading from the devotional and one quote in particular. 

Without the sovereign hand of God Himself, nothing touches our lives. Do we discern His hand at work, or do we see things as mere occurrences? Get into the habit of saying, ‘Speak, Lord,’ and life will become a romance.
— Oswald Chambers - My Utmost for His Highest - January 30th

There are several truths we can pull from this quote.

1. God is Sovereign.

The Lord has established His throne in the heavens, And His sovereignty rules over all.
— Psalm 103:19 (NASB)

God is all. ALL powerful. ALL present. ALL good. ALL loving. ALL knowing. How can a being like that not be sovereign. The word itself means, one who holds supreme power. I have a feeling that this word that was first noted to be used in the 13th century, does not begin to describe the sovereignty of God. 

2. Nothing touches our lives that doesn't pass through Him. 

Now there was a day when the sons of God came to present themselves before the Lord, and Satan also came among them.
The Lord said to Satan, ‘From where do you come?’
Then Satan answered the Lord and said, ‘From roaming about on the earth and walking around on it.’
The Lord said to Satan, ‘Have you considered My servant Job? For there is no one like him on the earth, a blameless and upright man, fearing God and turning away from evil.’
Then Satan answered the Lord, ‘Does Job fear God for nothing? Have You not made a hedge about him and his house and all that he has, on every side? You have blessed the work of his hands, and his possessions have increased in the land. But put forth Your hand now and touch all that he has; he will surely curse You to Your face.’
Then the Lord said to Satan, ‘Behold, all that he has is in your power, only do not put forth your hand on him.’
So Satan departed from the presence of the Lord.
— Job 1:6-12 (NASB)

This passage from Job is the perfect example of God's sovereignty and how He filters the events that touch our lives. 

What exactly does that mean? It means that no matter what is going on in your life, He is aware of it and He allowed it. That may seem a bit overwhelming and bring questions to your mind like, "If He's all good and all loving, why are all these bad things happening?" Quite simply, God knows you and your circumstances even better than you do. He knows what will push you towards Him or away from Him. 

If we allow ourselves the freedom of trusting Him, then we know that He's got us, no matter what is happening. If we bend to His will and sovereignty in our lives we will enter into an amazing relationship with Him. More on that in a minute. 

3. We have choices. 

If it is disagreeable in your sight to serve the Lord, choose for yourselves today whom you will serve: whether the gods which your fathers served which were beyond the River, or the gods of the Amorites in whose land you are living; but as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.”
— Joshua 24:15 (NASB)

I've said this before and I will say it again. We have choices. We can decide to trust His sovereignty or not. We can accept His truth or reject it. Each of those choices we make will have an affect on how we think and how we maneuver through life. 

If you read the Old Testament at all you know that the Israelites were constantly changing their choices. One day they chose God, the next day they chose idols. On and on, over and over. When they chose God, they prospered. When they chose idols, they floundered. Our choice to believe God's sovereignty will make life more stable and peaceful. It doesn't mean life will be smooth sailing, but it does mean we will always have someone to rely on and who will give us supernatural means to deal with the hard things in life. 

If we look back at Joshua, who lead the children of Israel into the promised land, we know he had to conquer cities, and battle for every inch of land, but God was with Him and as long as they put God first and worshipped and trusted Him they were victorious. That didn't mean people didn't die, or get sick or have marital conflict or....fill in the blank. But God was there through it all. In all honesty, if I have the choice to have an all loving and all powerful being, walking with me through those dark and treacherous valleys, I'll take it. 

4. Life with Him can be a romance.

that the Lord called Samuel; and he said, “Here I am.
— I Samuel 3:4 (NASB)

Who doesn't love romance? Even the most jaded person, if they do a little soul searching will admit, they want to be pursued and loved. Romance has to be nurtured. When you are in a romantic relationship it isn't about getting what you want, it is a beautiful dance of giving, receiving, listening and talking. We can have that with our Lord. Isn't that amazing? The all powerful, supreme being who created the universe from nothing wants to woo us and have a romance with us. 

With February starting tomorrow and Valentine's Day right around the corner, wouldn't this be a good time to reevaluate our romance with Jesus? Are we spending time with Him? Are we pursuing Him, just as He daily pursues us? Are we taking the time to converse with Him and quietly listening for His sweet whispers to our souls? Are we looking for Him in the simple and mundane things of life as well as the big and beautiful things? 

O taste and see that the Lord is good; How blessed is the man who takes refuge in Him!
— Psalm 34:8 (NASB)