Change of Plans

Today’s Scripture is from Proverbs 16:2-3,

 “All a person’s ways seem pure to them, but motives are weighed by the Lord.

Commit to the Lord whatever you do, and he will establish your plans.”

 Today’s Blog Post is by Olivia Reynolds, Summer Ministry Intern… 

What’s the most embarrassing fashion trend you participated in? Bell-bottom jeans? Velour tracksuits? The mullet? You don’t have to confess, but the truth is, we can all remember something we wore (or said, or did) in the past that would be pretty mortifying to us now. At the time, it must have seemed like a good idea. But we’re easily led astray by what’s flashy and popular, and following trends can produce regret (not to mention embarrassing photos) for our future selves to deal with.

So what’s the solution for bad fashion trends, spiritually speaking? We need to entrust our lives to the one whose standards are eternal and true. Today’s passage says, “commit to the Lord whatever you do, and he will establish your plans.” Proverbs 3:6 says something similar—“in all your ways acknowledge him, and he shall direct your paths.”

That doesn’t mean that everything in life instantly becomes easy. We still live with sin, pain, and limitations. But drawing near to God transforms our perspective and our desires, so that we can find him in all things. When I trust God with my hopes and plans, I find that discerning my next step becomes simpler. Instead of obsessively weighing each small choice to find the pros and cons, I can ask a different set of questions. What choices can I make to serve others? What option will help my self-discipline grow? How can I glorify God with each decision?

Our world will always need helpers, advocates, and peacemakers—those good works are never going out of style! So today, I’ll pray that we commit our plans to the Lord, and see how beautiful and life-changing they become.

In Limbo and Exile

Today’s Scripture is from Jeremiah 29:11-13,

“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 to me, I will hear you. When you search for me, you will find me; if you seek me with all your heart . . .”

Today’s blog post is by Will Newton, Director of Contemporary Worship…

In campus ministry, I had plenty of students who realized they had made a mistake.  Maybe they chose the wrong major, or they wound up at the wrong school (though FSU is never the WRONG school), or maybe they didn’t want a college education at all. Driven by a quick shove, and a society swarming around them to be “productive” and “make a career”, they found themselves paying tens of thousands of dollars for something they realized they didn’t want.

And the fall out was catastrophic – at least in their minds.  They wound up in my office, teary-eyed and worried. Had they just chained their life to this future? To this career?

Now, to us on the other side of college (or technical school), this reaction seems over-the top. Of course you can change your path after school. But what gripped these students wasn’t the need for change; rather it was the mounting insecurity and vagueness as to what that change was. They were in limbo, in a competitive professional setting that demanded them to be ever growing, training, and producing. There was no space, or time, for vagueness and doubt. Professional limbo was as good as dead, or at least frozen, in their minds.

When we read Jeremiah, we have to realize that Israel was in a twisted space of limbo.  Jeremiah is speaking to an Israeli community that was displaced in Babylon. A community whose faith was centralized to Jerusalem –  which had been sacked – leaving their Temple (the sole place to commune with God) in ruins. They had lost their home, their bridge to God, and their security – their future was vague (if not dour.) And so you can imagine the fear of this limbo came crashing upon this community.

I am going to be bold and say that we too often take these verses out of context and make this section of Jeremiah to mean one thing, when it can mean another. We want this to be deliverance, and assurance. We want escapism with God. I would encourage you to read the whole chapter, instead of settling for this cliche reassurance. Because what is truly happening, in my belief, is more powerful and difficult, than a simple escape or vacation from trouble.

Don’t get me wrong. Clearly God’s proclamation in this section is one of hope. Later in  Jeremiah, he will discuss Israel’s return from Babylon. When we read this chapter though, God begins his work of deliverance in Babylon, not in Jerusalem. His hope springs forth in the midst of the trouble, not after Israel has escaped it.

This promise of a future is stated after an important commandment for the Israeli’s  continue to build homes, raise families, and to “seek the welfare of the city” (verses 5-7.)  In fact, God says that the welfare of Babylon will be the welfare of Israel. God desires for his people to seek growth in the very nation that was their destruction. Even in the country of their exile, banished from their home and Temple, there is a purpose, there is growth, and God is present.

So back to college students. Caught half way through a degree, smack dab in the middle of a semester they can’t escape – the answer I gave was often not to drop out and escape their fear. Rather, I would encourage my students to seek God, to seek growth, in this new limbo they’ve found themselves in. Maybe the answer to their limbo wasn’t to run away, but to seek the welfare of the place they were in.

I believe there is always hope, I believe there is always deliverance. But maybe
deliverance to God is not escape, but rather a divine purpose within our places of limbo and exile.

Straight Roads Ahead

Today’s Scripture is Proverbs 3:5-6 (NIV),

Trust in the Lord with all your heart
    and lean not on your own understanding;
in all your ways submit to him,
    and he will make your paths straight.

Today’s blog post is by Lisa Gonzales, Director of Children’s Ministry…

From as far back as I can remember, I went to church.  I was born and raised in a Methodist home and, not only did we go to church on Sundays, but we often went on Wednesday nights and Saturday nights too.  All my best friends went to church.  Youth Group was my social life.  I was a part of the Wesley foundation at UCF.  I attended and worked at the Warren Willis United Methodist Church Camp for many, many years.  I got married in the Methodist Church I grew up in (by a Catholic priest, but that’s for a whole other blog.)  Plus, all 3 of my kids were baptized in a Methodist Church (here!), by the time they were all 6 months old. Not to mention –  the cherry on the top – I now WORK at a Methodist Church.

Now, you would think I could quote more than one Bible verse (John 3:16). You would think I get up promptly at 5:30am every morning to do my daily devotion, journaling, and prayer time.  You would think I say nothing but kind and loving words to my children.  You would think I would be searching for ways to help others, serve others, share God’s love with others on a daily basis.  You’d think a person like me must have it all together because for years and years and years she has heard about this wonderful person named Jesus and has surrounded herself with the church.

But I don’t.

I have a long way to go.  My road is a bumpy one. I still have a lot to learn about trusting the Lord and submitting my whole self to Him.  It’s hard.  I imagine it might be even harder for someone who, maybe, has not been wrapped in the comfort of church and a loving family.  But we all try.  We all commit ourselves to coming back to church every Sunday.  We buy new devotional books and pretty journals in the hopes of starting fresh.  We try new Bible studies and take notes during Pastor Vance’s sermons.  We listen to Way FM in our cars and pray for our friends and family who are struggling.

All I can say, is keep doing all those things, friends.  I’m proud of you.   You made a decision today to read this blog.  You opened the link in hopes of once again hearing how wonderful our God is and how He can help us. By doing these things, you are trusting in the Lord – He is making your path straight – even if you think you’re just plugging along a very bumpy road.  So, blow the dust off your Bible (again), pick up that pretty journal, open one of your many daily devotionals to today’s date and read it, and keep trying.

Straight roads ahead!

 

God’s Purposes

Today’s Scripture is Proverbs 19:21 (NIV),

Many are the plans in a person’s heart, but it is the LORD’S purpose that prevails.

Today’s blog post is by Steve Rivera…

How many times have we seen our plans “go up in smoke” during our lives?  It is nothing new.  It happens throughout the Bible.  How many of God’s prophets did not want to do what they were commanded to do –  i.e. Moses, Jonah?  Even our Lord had second thoughts in the Garden.  Yet, did not the outcome revert to what the Lord wanted in order to fulfill the Scriptures and His will?  How many times have you wanted to do something, were set on it, and yet God in His Wisdom changed your path, made you go in the opposite direction, and made you a better person for it.

Yet we always try to get our way.  I used to work in the World Trade Center in New York.  I was given a job offer that brought me to South Florida in 1984 – a few years before 9/11.  It was not on my radar.  I did not want to leave family and friends and start life all over again not knowing anyone.  Yet, the Lord said go, and so I did.  Would I have still been there if I had not listened?  Would I be here telling you about it today?  The Lord works in mysterious ways.

I have always had a desire to go to Alaska.  In 2001 I was scheduled to go with my Boy Scout Troop.  I had just met my future wife.  Something told me do not to go, for she would need me during that time.   I did not go and she had a crisis in her family that I was able to be there for.  The time was not right to go.

Again, in 2010 I was scheduled to go.  God’s plan was a no.  I lost my job and could not afford to do it.  It was a hard way to learn that when it is God’s will, it will be done.  Now in 2017 that desire was realized.  God put me in a position to go to Alaska but also to assist someone who had the desire longer than I and would need my help to realize their dream.

We must always just take the time to be still and listen.  In that way we can learn God’s purpose.  During this stretch time it is my desire that you all let God’s purpose prevail in your hearts.

Blessings