God's Plan For You   No matter if you are an Apple or Android supporter, one thing is certain, there is an app for anything you need or anywhere you want to go. Planning our course or our next step is at our finger tips. In fact, with a few keystrokes, we can find numerous routes to get to the same destination. And many times, when we pull our route up on our phones, the first thing we do is hit “details,” because we want to know HOW we’re getting somewhere. Sometimes, we even choose another route because we think the appointed route might be too slow!  But if we are going to walk with Christ, and if we sincerely believe He has the best route for us, we must be content with the words He used when He recruited His disciples, Simon, Peter and Andrew in Matthew 4:18-22 and Matthew in Matthew 9:9…”Come, follow Me…”  Can you imagine the disciples looking at Jesus and saying something like, “Jesus, what do you mean, follow you? Where are we going? What are we doing? What bases should I cover before I go? What’s the five-year plan?”  In the study,  Experiencing God , the author points out that Jesus gave them very little detail. It was just a simple command: Follow me, and I will show you as we go. Talk about counter-cultural to 2017! But in most ways, it actually becomes easier when we don’t demand the specifics of the plan. Then our lives as Christ-followers become more about following Him according to His will and not our own. Following Him becomes more about what He wants to do through me than what I want to do for Him. The best question isn’t, “God, what is your will for me?” but “God, what is your will?” Period. That way, we can see where He is working, and simply say, “Ok, you lead, I’ll follow.”   Matthew 4:18-20 “One day as Jesus was walking along the shore of the Sea of Galilee, He saw two brothers – Simon, also called Peter, and Andrew – throwing a net into the water, for they fished for a living. Jesus called out to them, ‘Come, follow Me, and I will show you how to fish for people!’ And they left their nets at once and followed Him.”   Today, ask God to help you see His plan for your day.

No matter if you are an apple or android supporter, one thing is certain, there is an app for anything you need or anywhere you want to go. Planning our course or our next step is at our finger tips. In fact, with a few keystrokes, we can find numerous routes to get to the same destination...

      DeVeloping a Relationship with God  Every year about this time, we regroup, reassess and make goals for a better life, trying to figure out how to get where we want to go – how to get ahead in our job, how to have better relationships, how to look and feel better, and the list goes on.  Just like us, people all through the Bible kept trying to figure out how to get where they wanted to go, but the ones who experienced success were those who first failed, then realized that by staying close to God, He would show them the way. For example, Moses knew he wanted to help his people, the Israelites, but actually kept making it worse by trying to make things happen on his own. Thinking no one was looking, he even killed an Egyptian, who was abusing a Hebrew, only to be confronted the next day. The result? He had to run for his life.  Not until years later did God essentially say to Moses that he would deliver the Hebrews, but it wouldn’t be Moses’ plan, it would be God’s plan done His way. God’s way of communicating the truth to Moses, to lead an entire nation to a promised land, started with God and Moses having daily conversations – we call that prayer.  In the study,  Experiencing God , the author points out that like Moses, God wants a relationship with you – a real relationship that’s based on His love. He is pursuing you. He is simply trying to get you from where you are to where He is, so that He can reveal that He’s ready to use you for really big things, life-changing things that can change your world.   Exodus 3:10 – “Now go, for I am sending you to Pharaoh. You must lead my people Israel out of Egypt.”  (For more about the life of Moses, read  Exodus , chapters 2-4.)   Today, pray that God would help you develop a closer relationship with Him.

Every year about this time, we regroup, reassess and make goals for a better life,

trying to figure out how to get where we want to go – how to get ahead in our job,

how to have better relationships, how to look and feel better, and the list goes on...

      He Is the Potter  It can be a bit disconcerting when we see that God compares us to a lump of clay in Jeremiah 18:1-6, yet when you think about it, it’s actually comforting. Really, God simplified our existence by saying something like, “listen, I’m the potter, you’re the clay. Stay in the palm of my hand, let me mold you, and then I will use you for my Kingdom. Just be my servant.”  Most of us understand that we’re supposed to be His servants, left here on earth after our salvation to do His work. To think we’re His plan to share Jesus with the world could be overwhelming except for the fact the scriptures, especially ones like Jeremiah 18:1-6, totally take the pressure off! Our Father God is working in the world, and all we have to do is watch and see where’s He’s working, then adjust our lives to serve Him in the way He chooses for us.  When we’re in a personal relationship with Jesus, which implies a lot of trust like any relationship, then we’re ready to be molded and used according to His will. All we have to do is stay tuned and join Him in what He’s doing around us. When we start thinking we’re the potter, life can get messy. If you’ve been on this earth long enough, you know how bad something can get when we take matters into our own hands.  However, when we leave our life in His hands and focus on being obedient, then the clay of our life can turn into a beautiful piece of pottery by which others are inspired and moved to follow Christ too.   Jeremiah 18:1-6 “This is the word that came from Jeremiah from the Lord: ‘Go down to the potter’s house, and there I will give you my message.’ So I went down to the potter’s house, and I saw him working at the wheel. But the pot he was shaping from the clay was marred in his hands, so the potter formed it into another pot, shaping it as seemed best to him. Then the word of the Lord came to me: ‘O house of Israel, can I not do with you as this potter does?’ declares the Lord. ‘Like clay in the hand of the potter, so are you in my hand, O house of Israel.’ “    Today, pray that you can recognize God as the potter of your life.

It can be a bit disconcerting when we see that God compares us to a lump of clay in Jeremiah 18:1-6, yet when you think about it, it’s actually comforting. Really, God simplified our existence by saying something like, “listen, I’m the potter, you’re the clay...

       HEARING   GOD   Do you ever ask yourself, “How do I actually hear God?” When you hear that we’re supposed to hear God and do His will, you’re not alone in wondering how it’s possible. Some Christ-followers never advance or mature in their relationship with God because the task of hearing Him seems too daunting. Yet one of the premises interwoven throughout the study,  Experiencing God , and even found on the inside back cover of the book, is that there are seven realities to hearing and responding to God’s initiative in your life. What was true for Moses, Joshua, Peter, Paul and others in the Bible is the same for you. In fact, just like those guys, we are here on earth as believers to bear fruit for the kingdom of God.  But if the truth were told, many of us would say we’re not even sure we’ve ever heard God speak. After all, how do we even hear a cosmic voice? If we go to the scriptures, we realize it is possible to understand how to hear Him. We then see all God has done in order to have a relationship with us, which includes hearing His voice!  In the Old Testament, God spoke through the prophets, visions, angels and other ways. In the Gospels, Matthew, Mark, Luke and John, God spoke through Jesus. After Jesus was crucified, He sent the Holy Spirit to dwell in every single believer. Jesus was very clear about the Holy Spirit’s role in each of our lives as Christ-followers.  The Holy Spirit lives in us, teaches us, reminds us of all God has taught us through His Word, gives us peace of mind and heart (John 14:16-17, 26-27), and even takes our prayers and makes them make sense to God (Romans 8:26)!  The bottom line is without a relationship with Jesus and being connected to Him, there is no supernatural power of God in our lives. The opposite is also true: if we are connected to Jesus then we can hear Him, do all He designed for us and that nothing is impossible with God!   John 15:5 “I am the vine; you are the branches. If a man remains in Me and I in him, he will bear much fruit; apart from Me you can do nothing.”   Today, pray that God makes His voice clear to you through the Holy Spirit. Pray that God reveals his supernatural plan in a way that changes how you listen to His promptings today.

Do you ever ask yourself, “How do I actually hear God?” When you hear that we’re supposed to hear God and do His will, you’re not alone in wondering how it’s possible...

      What can one ordinary person do?  Have you ever had this nagging thought that while you think it’s great God used people throughout the Bible, He could never use you in the same way? Do you ever doubt God could use you for something extraordinary? In the study,  Experiencing God , the author uses Moses as a focal point – not because Moses was extraordinary, but because he was extremely ordinary with many of the same doubts and insecurities we have. Yet God saved a whole nation through him.  When God told Moses to lead His people out of Egypt, Moses said things like:   Who am I to appear before Pharaoh? (Exodus 3:11)  Who am I to lead the people out of Egypt? (Exodus 3:11)  What if the people of Israel won’t believe me or listen to me? (Exodus 4:1)  What if they say You never appeared to me? (Exodus 4:1)  O Lord, I’m not very good with words. I never have been, and I’m not now. I get tongue-tied. (Exodus 4:10)  Lord, please send anyone else! (Exodus 4:13)   Sound familiar? Of course! Most of us don’t even feel adequate, much less extraordinary. But Moses did something God is asking each of us to do – to listen and to trust Him, then to make the necessary adjustments in our thinking so that we can show God we believe He is who He says He is. Even if we drag our feet like Moses did, God never gives up on us doing the very thing that only we can do.  When James talks about Elijah in James 5:17-18, he could have easily been talking about any of us:  “ Elijah was a man just like us . He prayed earnestly that it would not rain, and it did not rain on the land for three and a half years. Again he prayed, and the heavens gave rain, and the earth produced its crops.”   Elijah was an ordinary man with everyday weaknesses, but just like Moses and others in the Bible, their relationships with God made them extraordinary. And He offers the same thing to us – all it takes is having a relationship with Him and one step of obedience after another.  Ask God to help you believe that He can take your ordinary life and make it extraordinary.

Have you ever had this nagging thought that while you think it’s great God used people throughout the Bible, He could never use you in the same way? Do you ever doubt God could use you for something extraordinary?

      Self-centered or God-centered Living  Have you ever felt slighted or a bit overlooked? Maybe you were passed over for a job promotion, not invited to a meeting, or left out of a get-together with friends? Since we live in a social media-blast culture of updates and people’s best-case scenarios, it’s easy to get caught up in what you’re NOT doing.   There’s a guarantee that you never have to feel that way again – it’s called God-centered living. In the study,  Experiencing God , the author points out the differences in self-centered living and God-centered living. When we live a self-centered life, we are totally about ourselves – we receive affirmation from self, depend on our own abilities, and look at our circumstances from a purely human perspective.   However, when our focus is on God, then our confidence, our circumstances and lifestyle reflect Him and His purpose for our lives. In fact, to live focused on self is a distortion to God’s plan, which is why the more self-centered we are, the more unsettling it feels.   It’s not about what we want to do; it’s about what God wants to do through us. If you look at people like Abraham and Noah, they lived God-centered lives. They didn’t tell God what they dreamed of doing for Him – they lived God-centered lives and then obeyed when God told them what He was about to do. After all, the book of Genesis is not a record about Abraham or Noah’s walk with God; it’s a record of God accomplishing His purposes through them.  The successful pattern shown through people’s lives in Scripture is to submit ourselves to God, center our lives around Him, and then wait for Him to show us what He’s about to do through us.    “The eyes of the Lord search the whole earth in order to strengthen those whose hearts are fully committed to Him.” 2 Chronicles 16:9   Today, pray that God will help you focus on God-centered living.

Have you ever felt slighted or a bit overlooked? Maybe you were passed over for a job promotion, not invited to a meeting, or left out of a get-together with friends? Since we live in a social media-blast culture of updates and people’s best-case scenarios, it’s easy to get caught up in what you’re NOT doing.

      Back in Bible times, nations went to war basing their ability to win on the number of chariots and horses they possessed. David and his little nation of Israel were usually outmanned and under-equipped so it was interesting that every time they were invaded by another nation, they usually won.   That fact was never lost on David, which is why he wrote in Psalm 20, verse 7,  “Some trust in chariots and some in horses. But we trust in the name of the Lord our God.”    Imagine one of our modern day political leaders saying, “Some trust in artillery and some in missiles, but we trust in the name of the Lord our God!”   In your daily world, your “chariots and horses” are those things in your life that are not powered by God. Maybe you want to accomplish something and have all the weapons - the best strategies, good connections and plenty of financial resources, yet you can’t figure out why “it’s” not working, and you surely don’t feel like you’re winning.  It is only living by God’s plans, not your own, that will guarantee the win for you. Maybe you’re not sure of God’s plans for you, whether it’s just for today or for the long term. Not to oversimplify, but what God wants for you as a Christ-follower is to put your confidence and trust in Him. Spend daily time in His Word and build your relationship, and then with spiritual eyes, you will be able to see God working all around you. Just as the study,  Experiencing God , says that being able to see Him working is much more important than telling God what you want to do for Him.  As you watch Him work and adjust your life to what He’s doing, your battles will be fought in the name of the Lord your God, and your wins will increase exponentially. And when that happens, you will see that God can do more through you in six months than you could have done on your own in sixty years!   “Some trust in chariots and some in horses, but we trust in the name of the Lord our God.” Psalm 20:7  (For more on the battle from which theologians think Psalm 20 was based, read 2 Samuel, chapter 10.)   Today, ask God to guide your plans according to what He’s doing around you. 

Back in Bible times, nations went to war basing their ability to win on the number of chariots and horses they possessed. David and his little nation of Israel were usually outmanned and under-equipped so it was interesting that every time they were invaded by another nation, they usually won...

      If you’ve ever had a teenager, you know what it’s like when you tell them the right way to do something, only to realize later they obviously disagreed with your wise counsel and did it another way. For example, you tell your kid over and over they better study for a test, but based on the low grade you find out about later, they clearly did not listen to your advice.   Wonder if that’s how God ever feels about us? He tells us the way to go about something, but based on our actions, we have told Him we disagree because we want to do it our way. In the study,  Experiencing God , that’s called “God’s plans versus our plans.” That is the human condition – doing it our way instead of God’s way.  Think, for instance, about the people of Israel as Moses was leading them into the Promised Land. Moses so badly wanted to get them there, but that three-month journey turned into forty years because they didn’t want to make the trip God’s way.   First, God gave them His choice for their leader, Moses, but they complained about him, then they continued to grumble about everything else – the journey, the food, the water, other leadership, and their fellow travelers. Collectively, they even told Moses and God that they didn’t believe God could help them conquer those already living in the land of Canaan – this from people who had seen God part the Red Sea!  Sadly, we are the same much of the time.  For example, He tells us over and over in the Scriptures to read His Word and pray regularly in order to get to know Him in a personal way so that He can use us in mighty ways. Yet, we find it difficult to fit that in – maybe because a project at work demands you get to the office early, maybe because the kids have too many activities that day, maybe because you’re not a morning person, you’re not a night person, maybe because your friend wants to meet for coffee, maybe you’re too tired – regardless of the excuses, we are telling God that His plan for us to spend daily time with Him is not the best way to have a real relationship with Him.  Our days would be better and our life journey so much easier if we could just live our lives according to God’s plan.    “Study this Book of Instruction continually. Meditate on it day and night so you will be sure to obey everything written in it. Only then will you prosper and succeed in all you do.” Joshua 1:8   Today, ask God to help you be obedient to Him.

If you’ve ever had a teenager, you know what it’s like when you tell them the right way to do something, only to realize later they obviously disagreed with your wise counsel and did it another way...

      The "L" Word  There’s an old song sung by Rod Stewart called, “Have I Told You Lately that I Love You.” Of course, it’s talking about love in a romantic sense, but it also rings true for our relationship with God.  In the study, Experiencing God, the author points out what he calls the “Seven Realities of Experiencing God.” The first reality is that God is always at work around us. Many people don’t recognize that He is working - doing a million things at once, but He is.   The second reality of experiencing God is that He pursues a continuing love relationship with you that is real and personal. Think about that. The God of the universe loves you and wants you to love Him back! But love is a funny word in our culture. We love a sports team, we love a food, and we love Netflix. But when it comes to God, we are much more reserved about that using the “L” word.   And while we know He loves us, after all, most of us can recite John 3:16, “For God so loved the world…” But it seems difficult to say that to Him. Sure, there are worship songs in which we declare we love Him, but to just say, “God, I love you,” seems a little awkward.   In fact, if someone asked you to describe your relationship to God, would you say, “I just love Him!”  Yet Jesus said that’s the greatest commandment – to love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul and with all your mind. For some of us, the best thing we could do is to look up toward the heavens and say out loud, “I love you, Father God.” That’s a pretty great way to start the day.   “Jesus replied: ‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the first and greatest commandment.”  Matthew 22:37-38   Pray and tell God you love Him.

There’s an old song sung by Kenny Rogers (remember him?) called, “Have I Told You Lately that I Love You.” Of course, it’s talking about love in a romantic sense, but it also rings true for our relationship with God...

      Living Out Our Faith  We like the idea that accepting Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior is simple. Knowing that your eternity was secured when Jesus died on the cross and paid the ultimate sacrifice for us is a feeling like no other.  Then as we grow in our relationship with God, we realize He wants to use us every day to show Him to others who don’t know Him yet.   That’s called the process of living out our faith, and we do that by being tuned in to what He’s doing around you – listening when He gives you an assignment and then obeying.  It seems like a pretty easy process, and it is… if you agree that your plans might be interrupted. In fact, when you accepted Jesus as Lord, you gave Him the right to interrupt your life any time He wants. Henry Blackaby in the study,  Experiencing God , says when you accepted Jesus Christ you “gave Him the right to help Himself to your life.”  That sounds extreme. And it is. But there is no more important work than God’s work, and when you take the step of listening and obeying, there is nothing more exciting.   Maybe you’ve been at The Springs when we dispatched people to grocery stores to buy food for those who can’t afford it. Maybe you took a couple backpacks for the kids in Haiti so that for the first time they could experience Christmas as we do. Maybe you’re a leader in  Springsville , our children’s ministry, or  Encounter , our student ministry. Maybe you have ministered to the sick or those in crisis.   And because you gave God the right to interrupt your life and your schedule, you have gotten a ringside seat to see the life-change only He can bring. You have actually brought the message of Christ to the world.    “Work hard to show the results of your salvation, obeying God with deep reverence and fear. For God is working in you, giving you the desire and the power to do what pleases Him.” Philippians 2:12-13   Pray you will be ready when God interrupts your life with opportunities.

We like the idea that accepting Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior is simple. Knowing that your eternity was secured when Jesus died on the cross and paid the ultimate sacrifice for us is a feeling like no other...