According to plan

When life goes according to plan, we feel happy and secure. But, when it doesn’t? We might become angry, frustrated, confused, lost, or any combination of these.

Why is this?

Because we like to sense we’re in control. It’s a human thing.

Life often doesn’t go according to plan. There are all kinds of reasons: sickness, financial issues, work problems, personality clashes, scheduling, and probably a thousand other causes common to man. We’re supposed to be flexible and go with the flow, but that is easier said than done.

What can a Christian do when his plans don’t work out?

Here’s a little bit of biblical advice.

Trust in the Lord, not our own understanding. Trust in the LORD with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding. In all thy ways acknowledge him, and he shall direct thy paths (Proverbs 3:5-6).

Read the Bible and know how it applies to your circumstance. Thy word is a lamp unto my feet, and a light unto my path (Psalm 119:105).

Jesus told His disciples Follow me. When we pause and ask the Lord what He wants us to do, He will guide us.

Seek wise counsel. Where no counsel is, the people fall: but in the multitude of counsellors there is safety (Proverbs 11:14).

Honest prayer, asking, and thanksgiving bring about peace. Be careful for nothing; but in every thing by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God. And the peace of God, which passeth all understanding, shall keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus (Philippians 4:6-7).

Recognize that God has a purpose in everything that happens to us, when we are living in His will. It will end up for our good. And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose (Romans 8:28).

The truth is that every person’s life is uncertain. No one’s goes according to plan.

It is important to put our trust in the One who knows exactly what will happen and who promises to guide us through each day. For this God is our God for ever and ever: he will be our guide even unto death (Psalm 48:14).

This year 2020 has not gone according to plan. Who would ever have thought that small boutiques would only admit six customers or that we would be wearing masks at fairs and stores? No one would have anticipated the changes in schooling, businesses, and even curfews in some places. Would we have thought that other catastrophes would have happened, as well? No.

Since we never know what a day, month, or year may hold, we need a guide. We need someone we can trust. That Someone is the Lord. He knows everything. We can follow Him.

May the Lord bless you today and guide you through this Christmas season and in the New Year.

Christmas whenever it happens

For a bit of background, we were officially missionaries from 1982-2020, when we retired. Over 36 years of that time, we lived in Spain. Our children were small in the eighties and nineties.

Those were times when packages usually came by boat, meaning that some came quite early—kudos to churches that did Missionary Christmas in July. Some came very late, like in the spring. Of course, being on the receiving end, we never knew if anyone had sent any surprises or not, so we never expected anything and were delighted if and when anything arrived.

Back in those days, import customs taxes were handled differently. I believe we only paid high taxes on one item, and I can’t remember what it was. Nowadays, however, it is better to send a gift card or money to missionaries in Spain, as it will cost them as much or more to receive the gift as it cost you to send it. Sad, indeed. (Note: Always ask your missionary what the situation is in his country before spending your time and hard-earned money to send them something he might have to sacrifice to receive.)

Oh, how we—especially our children—loved those boxes! It didn’t matter if they arrived in January or March. It was Christmas all over again. The delight on our children’s faces was worth every penny spent—and the long boatride across the ocean. Sometimes, people even included books, CDs, and post-its and other goodies for my husband and me. We felt loved.

Gifts are especially important for children. I was in dollar store the other day and spent a whopping two dollars on two gifts for our grandchildren. They will love them. And, they will feel the love. They won’t know where I bought them or that I spent only a dollar on each. It is the thought and the gift that count. Shh! Don’t tell. They will be delighted on Christmas Day.

I know that some Christians are against the commercialization of Christmas, and I totally understand. Some don’t exchange gifts at all. Other families draw names. People have the freedom to decide how they will or won’t celebrate Christmas.

For our family, especially when we were abroad and not with the children’s aunts, uncles, cousins, and grandparents, we felt we needed to have two especially festive holidays a year. What better than Christmas and Easter—celebrating Jesus’ coming and His resurrection?

We would go with our co-workers, dig up a tree—not allowed to cut trees, there—and string lights. I always put up at least one manger scene in our home. I even had a small one in the kitchen. We taught our children about Jesus and giving and the wise men. Our co-workers usually hosted a Christmas Eve or Christmas Day meal. It was a happy time.

As for gifts, we enjoyed another Christmas whenever they arrived.

Jesus is the Best Gift ever. We don’t know when He arrived. December 25 probably isn’t the actual day. The date is a tradition that began many years after His birth. But, the truth is, Jesus came to earth as a Baby. He was born to Mary. Shepherds worshipped Him that night, and Herod later sought to kill Him.

The Bible says, For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given: and the government shall be upon his shoulder: and his name shall be called Wonderful, Counsellor, The mighty God, The everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace (Isaiah 9:6).

Salvation is a gift from God. For the wages of sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord (Romans 6:23). For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: Not of works, lest any man should boast (Ephesians 2:8-9).

As with any gift offered, salvation through Jesus must be received. But as many as received him, to them gave he power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on his name (John 1:12).

Think about it. Have you received the Gift of Christmas: Jesus? Do you possess the gift of salvation from your sins?

Unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given.

Merry Christmas!

I thought “Jingle Bells” was a secular song

In my youth, we sang “Jingle Bells” along with such happy-mood Christmas songs as “Chestnuts Roasting on an Open Fire,” “Let It Snow,” and “Rudolph the Red-nosed Reindeer.”

In the 1980s, our family moved to Spain, and to our surprise, we opened our hymnals to find “Jingle Bells” ensconced in hymnology. The song title is “Navidad” (Christmas), and the Spanish version has the same tune as “Jingle Bells.” (I always want to shout “hey” at the end.)

It is about the story of Christmas: Jesus, the Baby of Bethlehem. The song speaks about salvation.

A rough translation of the main verse goes: The Baby of Bethlehem brings us salvation; / With boundless joy, we sing the song. / I love You, my Jesus, to You I will sing. / In this happy day, I will rejoice.

The Baby Jesus brings salvation.

God’s plan of redemption boggles the mind. The whole concept of God taking human form—along with everything that goes with it—and coming down to mankind in order to sacrifice Himself for humans is almost incredible. But it’s true. God chose to limit Himself to flesh, live a perfect life, and die a horrible death, then rise again in victory to save lousy, sinning people.

I love the way Philippians explains this: Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus: Who, being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God: But made himself of no reputation, and took upon him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men: And being found in fashion as a man, he humbled himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross (2:5-8).

We’re supposed to have that kind of servant mindfulness as Jesus. Do we?

God planned this before Creation. Forasmuch as ye know that ye were not redeemed with corruptible things, as silver and gold, from your vain conversation received by tradition from your fathers; But with the precious blood of Christ, as of a lamb without blemish and without spot: Who verily was foreordained before the foundation of the world, but was manifest in these last times for you, Who by him do believe in God, that raised him up from the dead, and gave him glory; that your faith and hope might be in God (1 Peter 1:18-21).

Jesus was conscious, even from a fairly early age, that He was here for a purpose. When He was only twelve, He said, Wist (know) ye not that I must be about my Father’s business? (from Luke 2:49) 

Before He died on the cross, Jesus clearly said exactly what would happen. The disciples didn’t seem to comprehend until afterwards. The Son of man must suffer many things, and be rejected of the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be slain, and be raised the third day (Luke 9:22).

Jesus knew the plan, announced it, and was willing to obey the Father and carry it through.

His motivation?

Love.

For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life. For God sent not his Son into the world to condemn the world; but that the world through him might be saved (John 3:16-17).

This Christmas can be your happiest. Look what Jesus did for you. Confess your sins to Him, ask His forgiveness, and thank Him for being your Savior.

Navidad, Navidad, Hoy es Navidad. Es un día de alegría y felicidad. Christmas, Christmas, Today is Christmas. It’s a day for joy and happiness.

(Hey!)

Are you immortal until it’s your time?

We’ve heard the sayings. “The safest place is in the will of God.” “You are immortal until it’s your appointed time.”

Are they true?

My husband and I served many years in a part of the world known for terrorism. Were we in the safest place? We knew we were in God’s will. Is the fact that our family was unharmed proof that this is true?

Are you immortal—until you die? I chuckle to myself about this saying. After all, the definition of immortal is “never dying” or “a being like a god or goddess.” Obviously, we don’t die until we die, but we all will die—or be raptured. No human being is a god, so that’s out, as well. Mortal speaks of the human condition, so we’re all mortals, not immortals.

As to “our time,” there seems to be a legitimate debate about it. The Bible does speak of our days being counted by an omniscient God. He sees the future as clearly as present and past, therefore, I’m not sure we can understand that some random date is the day we will pass away—and it can’t be changed.

How about accidents? Work accidents, traffic accidents, etc. happen all the time. A storm might cause a tree to fall on someone, or a wall may crumble.

What about sickness, causing a young person to die? Was it their appointed time?

I recently saw a post about a man who had been shot in multiple places. He will survive, Lord permitting. But, is that because it’s not yet “his time”? Was he in the “safest place” because he is a Christian? It seems not.

Many missionaries have been killed by the people they wanted to reach. Were they outside the will of God?

Of course not.

The truth is:

  • God knows our days. The LORD knoweth the days of the upright: and their inheritance shall be for ever (Psalm 37:18).
  • The Lord has a purpose for every life. For ye are bought with a price: therefore glorify God in your body, and in your spirit, which are God’s (1 Corinthians 6:20).
  • We are safe in Him. I will both lay me down in peace, and sleep: for thou, LORD, only makest me dwell in safety (Psalm 4:8).
  • He is our Refuge. God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble (Psalm 46:1).
  • Bad things happen to good people—even death. Hebrews 11 is full of examples.
  • A Christian’s death is a new beginning: absent from the body, and to be present with the Lord (from 2 Corinthians 5:8).

The truth is:

  • If someone steps out in front of a truck, he might be killed.
  • When a teen eats a Tide pod or planks on a balcony, he might die.
  • Reckless driving kills.
  • If a person is “in the wrong place at the wrong time,” he might be the victim of a fatal accident.
  • Natural disasters and diseases kill.

Christians are not immune to diseases or accidents. They are not immortal. Christians do not have a “get out of jail free” ticket for their lives. Christians suffer, just as other people do.

Faithful Christians will suffer persecution for their faith. Yea, and all that will live godly in Christ Jesus shall suffer persecution (2 Timothy 3:12).

But, Christians have a Savior. They have a Refuge. And, they are secure.

Do you know Jesus?

Are you secure?

You might enjoy reading this post about the gospel.

Missing people: not this year

Label me sentimental if you like. This year is the first Thanksgiving in many that we were with my family for Thanksgiving Day. It’s the first one where we were in the table pictures—the ones that try to squeeze in all the family around a long table.

Living over 4,000 miles away, it was impossible for us to be included.

Most Thanksgivings, even with the empty nest, we spent with at least one other person, but there have been a few Thanksgivings when my husband and I celebrated all by ourselves, just the two of us. We made special foods and enjoyed being together, but Thanksgiving is simply not the same without family.

I grew up going every Thanksgiving to my grandfather’s home in the middle of nowhere. It’s a two-story farmhouse surrounded by porches, on a two-hundred-acre spread. My aunts and mother would take enough food for several armies, and they would labor over the gas stove to bring us the most amazing Thanksgiving fare, beyond most people’s wildest dreams. Over the weekend, we would eat and talk and eat and talk. Insert a lot of laughter, and you can imagine.

We children would play outside and read inside. Field & Stream and old Reader’s Digests abounded. I always took several books of my own.

Thanksgivings meant playing football in the cow pasture and Hide and Seek with our cousins. My great aunt made homemade bread and butter, sausage gravy over homemade biscuits and much, much more. Pies, cakes, frog-eye salad, real mincemeat (venison)….

The men went hunting, and the rest of us just enjoyed the company. Sometimes, neighbors would stop in for visits, and usually we’d attend the little country church where my parents were married “up the road.”

We gave thanks for Thanksgiving down deep in our souls. It was family time and free time—to do whatever we wanted, roam wherever we wanted. Thanksgivings were wonderful.

In 1984, our little family of three moved to Spain. Our co-workers celebrated Thanksgivings with us, many times inviting friends. One memorable Thanksgiving, we invited American basketball players to join us. Two of them were 6’11” tall, and one of the ladies was well over 6 feet. I will never forget them, as they became good friends.

But, the Thanksgiving weekends of my youth were gone. You simply cannot experience a weekend like that in an apartment in Spain.

Years passed, and we did our best to always enjoy Thanksgivings with our children. I am not sure they liked the pumpkin pies, but we made them.

After the children left home, we received photos of parents, siblings, their children and grandchildren around the table. The only ones missing were us—always us. I confess I shed a few tears every year. How I wanted to be in those photos, with those people.

This year, we weren’t missing.

We were with our family, enjoying the traditional foods of the season–and, there was an extra Thanksgiving vibe in our hearts.