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Paths and Plans

For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope. ~ Jeremiah 29:11

I was reminded of this path today when I received a message from a confirmation student from the congregation I served in Victoria. This is a path at Ebert Ranch. A camp in the Southwestern Texas Synod of the ELCA. It is a beautiful place with horses and long horns, and a great place to get away and connect with God. This path I believe if memory serves me correctly led to a labyrinth. A place where one journeys inward to find the path or the plan that God is calling us to. Have you ever wondered if there was a plan or a path to life?

Like there seems to be a road map that your life is following only you have never seen it…

Jeremiah is an interesting book that starts with a calling to a boy who says he is too young and unable to speak, leading through to many conversations with him and many peoples for God. All of this leads to the verse above in chapter 29…

God knows the plans He has for each and everyone of us, plans for us to prosper and not fall, plans for a future and a hope. That hope is Jesus Christ! He is the future and the hope each of us can base our lives on, He is the map that will lead us to where we need to go.

Just as Jesus brought St. John’s and my family together, He is continuing to work in and through all of us to bring about His plan and mission here in this place.

So remember to notice where Jesus is working, to share that and invite others to come and see and to always keep Jesus in view, and be ready for the ride of your life as we continue to His wonderful mission here in this place!

Grace,

PJ

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Prayer for the Downfall of Israel’s Enemies

“Often have they attacked me from my youth”—let Israel now say—“often have they attacked me from my youth, yet they have not prevailed against me. The plowers plowed on my back; they made their furrows long.” The Lord is righteous; he has cut the cords of the wicked. May all who hate Zion be put to shame and turned backward. Let them be like the grass on the housetops that withers before it grows up, with which reapers do not fill their hands or binders of sheaves their arms, while those who pass by do not say, “The blessing of the Lord be upon you! We bless you in the name of the Lord!” (Psalm 129:1-8, NRSV)

When we trust in God and follow where He leads us, no foe will have any power over us.

They will seem to make headway and paths into our destruction but it will not actually be.

God has cut the cord of the wicked and made their harvests have withered before they were collected.

God will provide for those who love Him and follow Him.

 

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A Promise of Help and Healing

It shall be said, “Build up, build up, prepare the way, remove every obstruction from my people’s way.” For thus says the high and lofty one who inhabits eternity, whose name is Holy: I dwell in the high and holy place, and also with those who are contrite and humble in spirit, to revive the spirit of the humble, and to revive the heart of the contrite. For I will not continually accuse, nor will I always be angry; for then the spirits would grow faint before me, even the souls that I have made. Because of their wicked covetousness I was angry; I struck them, I hid and was angry; but they kept turning back to their own ways. I have seen their ways, but I will heal them; I will lead them and repay them with comfort, creating for their mourners the fruit of the lips. Peace, peace, to the far and the near, says the Lord; and I will heal them. But the wicked are like the tossing sea that cannot keep still; its waters toss up mire and mud. There is no peace, says my God, for the wicked. (Isaiah 57:14-21, NRSV)

There is no peace for the wicked… I did an internet search on the last sentence in the above reading and this quote came up, “My mother always used to say, ‘there is no path to peace. Peace is the path.'”

Wow. isn’t that really what the passage from Isaiah is saying?

If you are contrite and humble you will seek after God and God will open your heart and answer your prayers. God will show you love and give you love for others.

But if you are covetous and wicked and self-focused, God will hide His face from you.

If you are seeking after God, God will heal you and fill you. If you are seeking after your own desires there will be no peace.

Because there is no path to peace. Peace is the path.

Follow after God and walk the path of peace!

 

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Unfaithful Israel

If a man divorces his wife and she goes from him and becomes another man’s wife, will he return to her? Would not such a land be greatly polluted? You have played the whore with many lovers; and would you return to me? says the Lord. Look up to the bare heights, and see! Where have you not been lain with? By the waysides you have sat waiting for lovers, like a nomad in the wilderness. You have polluted the land with your whoring and wickedness. Therefore the showers have been withheld, and the spring rain has not come; yet you have the forehead of a whore, you refuse to be ashamed. Have you not just now called to me, “My Father, you are the friend of my youth— will he be angry forever, will he be indignant to the end?” This is how you have spoken, but you have done all the evil that you could. (Jeremiah 3:1-5, NRSV)

If a man divorces his wife and she goes away he will not return to her. Yet God returns to Israel and His people again and again when we walk away from Him.

But here is also the thing, God has never divorced us.

Even when we walk or run away after our own devices and do the things He doesn’t want us to do, He will always be there for our return and actively seeking after us every day.

So save God the effort and be faithful and follow the path He has set.

 

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A Rebellious People

Go now, write it before them on a tablet, and inscribe it in a book, so that it may be for the time to come as a witness forever. For they are a rebellious people, faithless children, children who will not hear the instruction of the Lord; who say to the seers, “Do not see”; and to the prophets, “Do not prophesy to us what is right; speak to us smooth things, prophesy illusions, leave the way, turn aside from the path, let us hear no more about the Holy One of Israel.” Therefore thus says the Holy One of Israel: Because you reject this word, and put your trust in oppression and deceit, and rely on them; therefore this iniquity shall become for you like a break in a high wall, bulging out, and about to collapse, whose crash comes suddenly, in an instant; its breaking is like that of a potter’s vessel that is smashed so ruthlessly that among its fragments not a sherd is found for taking fire from the hearth, or dipping water out of the cistern. For thus said the Lord God, the Holy One of Israel: In returning and rest you shall be saved; in quietness and in trust shall be your strength. But you refused and said, “No! We will flee upon horses”— therefore you shall flee! and, “We will ride upon swift steeds”— therefore your pursuers shall be swift! A thousand shall flee at the threat of one, at the threat of five you shall flee, until you are left like a flagstaff on the top of a mountain, like a signal on a hill. (Isaiah 30:8-17, NRSV)

They don’t want to hear what is right. They want to hear what makes them feel good.

Their sin shall overtake them and they shall be destroyed by it.

Sound familiar? I think we can point to any time in history and see a group that fits this mold.

In fact, all of us are really this way when push comes to shove. We don’t want to hear what we are doing is wrong or upsetting someone. We want to live in the fantasy that everything is great and we are ok.

But God is telling us to listen up and to follow after Him.

To not be rebellious and go our own way, but to follow His path.

Can we?

Will we?

 

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Good soil

That same day Jesus went out of the house and sat beside the sea. Such great crowds gathered around him that he got into a boat and sat there, while the whole crowd stood on the beach. And he told them many things in parables, saying: “Listen! A sower went out to sow. And as he sowed, some seeds fell on the path, and the birds came and ate them up. Other seeds fell on rocky ground, where they did not have much soil, and they sprang up quickly, since they had no depth of soil. But when the sun rose, they were scorched; and since they had no root, they withered away.Other seeds fell among thorns, and the thorns grew up and choked them.Other seeds fell on good soil and brought forth grain, some a hundredfold, some sixty, some thirty. Let anyone with ears listen!” “Hear then the parable of the sower. When anyone hears the word of the kingdom and does not understand it, the evil one comes and snatches away what is sown in the heart; this is what was sown on the path. As for what was sown on rocky ground, this is the one who hears the word and immediately receives it with joy; yet such a person has no root, but endures only for a while, and when trouble or persecution arises on account of the word, that person immediately falls away. As for what was sown among thorns, this is the one who hears the word, but the cares of the world and the lure of wealth choke the word, and it yields nothing.But as for what was sown on good soil, this is the one who hears the word and understands it, who indeed bears fruit and yields, in one case a hundredfold, in another sixty, and in another thirty.” (Matthew 13:1-9, 18-23, NRSV)

How do we know if our life is good soil?

I think at different points in our lives all of us are each of the spots that Jesus refers to here.

We are the path because we hear Jesus speaking and we don’t understand it and the evil one or the world takes that word away.

We are the rocky ground when we hear and follow but then our old friends ask why are we doing that.

We are among the thorns when we hear Jesus clearly but the worries and concerns of this life get int the way of Jesus getting full control.

We are the good soil when our lives hear the word of Jesus and we follow after knowing that this world might offer things that look better now, but following after Jesus is what we were truly made for.

How do we do this?

If it were easy Jesus would not have given this parable, but anything worth having is worth going after, and Jesus will be there to pick you up and dust you off and place you back out there, when you are snatched away, on rocky ground or surrounded by thorns. He will be there to guide you.

So follow after Jesus and let Him make you good soil.

 

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Build up

170210But you, beloved, are not in darkness, for that day to surprise you like a thief;  for you are all children of light and children of the day; we are not of the night or of darkness.  So then let us not fall asleep as others do, but let us keep awake and be sober; for those who sleep sleep at night, and those who are drunk get drunk at night. But since we belong to the day, let us be sober, and put on the breastplate of faith and love, and for a helmet the hope of salvation. For God has destined us not for wrath but for obtaining salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ, who died for us, so that whether we are awake or asleep we may live with him. Therefore encourage one another and build up each other, as indeed you are doing. (1 Thessalonians 5:4-11, NRSV)

Do not live in the darkness you once were in, but be a child of the light.

And we do this in many ways. Not being asleep as others are, but we wait for our Lord to return, and we stay sober and wear the breastplate of faith and love and the helmet of the hope of salvation. We trust in Jesus.

And we also are children of the light by building each other up. By encouraging one another to continue the path we have started and helping each other along the way.

Being a disciple of Jesus is not a lonely thing, it is a path walked with others. So encourage each other and lift up those around you.

 

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