Derailed and Redirected

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 ESV

We had plans.

After a 12:30 appointment with his surgeon, Steve and I were going to take the afternoon to explore San Francisco. We had one day before his knee surgery to get in a little sight seeing. It seemed silly to waste this trip across the country without getting in a little fun.

We parked outside the doctor’s office all smiles. Warm sun embraced us through blue skies. The Golden Gate Bridge loomed large in the distance just beyond a sign that read “scenic route.” It seemed a fitting direction to head once we finished with the surgeon.

Only our quick visit with the doctor turned into 4 ½ hours. We never made it to the Golden Gate.

Do you ever have days when frustration tries to rob your joy? Things just don’t happen the way you thought they would—or should—and the temptation to let irritation run free knocks hard at the door of your heart.

Thankfully our prayer cover equipped us to remain smiling. And then we discovered why God had allowed this doctor to thwart our plans.

Something about our conversation caused him to revisit the MRI. And he saw something he hadn’t seen. A tear had revealed itself in my husband’s meniscus on the inner part of his knee that hadn’t been scheduled for surgery.

So he called us over to show us the pictures and change his diagnosis. He wanted to add another surgery to address the damage on the other side that wouldn’t be reached with the original procedure.

The next morning my husband and I arrived at the surgical center at 6:30 am. Instead of the original 1½-hour surgery we’d planned, Steve was under anesthesia for four hours while they operated on the two parts of his knee.

When the doctor came to get me, he assured me the patient had done great. The surgeries had been successful. Both of them. He smiled confidently, happy with his decision and optimistic that catching that tear would leave my husband pain free once healed.

I’d say those few extra hours in the office were worth missing the scenic route.

What obstacle threatens to frustrate your plans, dear one? Perhaps the Lord has something beautiful to bring out of it. Something you’ve missed or haven’t thought of. Something meant to prosper you, even if momentarily it appears to harm you.

The heart of man plans his way, but the Lord establishes his steps. Proverbs 16:9

I’m thankful that God established ours. We had asked Him to reveal any hidden things, and He was faithful to do it.

Now I just need a little extra grace to help this teacher become a nurse.

Time to go. My patient needs me.

Blessed in the Beloved

For from his fullness we have all received, grace upon grace. John 1:16 ESV

“There is no one on this planet more blessed than you.”

Beth Moore spoke those words last year during a taping of “Wednesdays in the Word” for Life Today TV. At the time, I joked with a friend who attended with me. “I’ve been telling you this for months. Will you believe it now that you’ve heard it from Beth Moore?”

Somehow it seems impossible to believe, doesn’t it? Most days we don’t feel extravagantly blessed.

If that’s you, you’re not alone. I presented Beth’s statement to the ladies in my Sunday school class shortly afterward and asked if they believed it. You should’ve seen the eyes darting from my gaze, heads shaking in disagreement around the room.

I think we believe in a God of blessing. We just have trouble believing those blessings belong to us.

We easily assure others that God loves them desperately and has great things in store. But that same truth doesn’t seem to apply when we look in the mirror. We carefully guard our list of reasons that prove what our thoughts convey: most of God’s blessings aren’t meant for me.

The Apostle Paul begs to differ with you, dear one. So does the God who inspired his words.

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places. Ephesians 1:3

Whether or not you feel blessed at this particular moment, if you have put your faith in Jesus Christ as your Lord and Savior, God’s Word says that you are. According to Ephesians 1:3, you have already been blessed with every spiritual blessing available to you in Christ.

Think about that truth for a minute. The God who speaks things into being has spoken blessings over your life. Already. You’re not going to be blessed someday, dear one. You are already blessed.

I have to ask, beloved. Are you living out those blessings?

I think it’s safe to say that most of us live in a present reality that falls short of who we’ve become in Christ. We don’t walk as though we’re already blessed. We live still seeking the blessing.

Paul offers the key to unlocking God’s blessings over us in verse 6:

. . . his glorious grace, with which he has blessed us in the Beloved.

Just so we’re clear, Jesus is the Beloved. And what has He blessed us with? Grace. Glorious grace.

That word grace in the original Greek means, “the state of kindness and favor toward someone, often with a focus on benefit given to the object; by extension: gift, benefit . . . blessing.” (Strong’s Concordance, Greek #5485, p.1653)

You, dear one, are blessed with the favor of God—favor that gives benefit. Favor you can’t earn. Favor you already have.

Do you believe God favors you, dear one? Do you know what His favor offers you? Perhaps you should read 2 Corinthians 9:8.

And God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that having all sufficiency in all things at all times, you may abound in every good work.

Grace provides whatever we need at whatever time to succeed. And we’re swimming in it.

For from his fullness we have all received, grace upon grace. John 1:16

I’ll be honest with you. I have always struggled a bit with the concept of grace. This logical mind has difficulty grasping the idea that God’s love and favor doesn’t have to be earned. In fact, it can’t be. But that thought doesn’t sit quite right under the umbrella of reason.

And yet, that’s what scripture claims. For God so loves, that He gave (John 3:16). Freely. He poured out grace that provides all sufficiency in all things at all times. And if you are His, nobody has more blessing and favor from God than you.

Whether you believe it yet or not, Christ has lavished the riches of His grace upon you “in all wisdom and insight” (Ephesians 1:7-8). That means He didn’t make a mistake speaking it over you. He thought it through. He had insight into who you are, and He chose to favor you anyway.

So how do we learn to live in that favor? How do those blessings spoken over us in the heavenly places become our new reality on this earth?

The answer actually isn’t complicated, although we do our best to make it so. You and I need to return to where we began in Christ at the moment of our salvation.

We believe.

You see, one thing ushers us into the flow of grace poured out on us. Faith.

Through him [Jesus] we have also obtained access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and we rejoice in hope of the glory of God. Romans 5:2

Dear one, you are loved and lavished in grace. One thing alone can stop the realization of God’s favor in your life. Unbelief.

 Will you see yourself as you really are and believe God for your blessing?

Greener Grass and Muddy Waters

Now Naaman was commander of the army of the king of Aram. He was a great man in the sight of his master and highly regarded, because through him the Lord had given victory to Aram. 2 Kings 5:1a NIV

Have you ever looked at someone’s life and felt that twinge of envy because they appeared to have everything you desire?

If you lived in Naaman’s day, you might have felt that way about him. Scripture labels him a great man, the highly regarded commander of the King’s army. He had everything. In fact, he had more than he wanted.

 He was a valiant soldier, but he had leprosy. 2 Kings 5:1b

The grass isn’t always as green as it appears in someone else’s yard.

I imagine the acclaim Naaman earned paled in comparison to his problem. I mean, that’s our nature, isn’t it? One struggle has the power to overshadow ten wonderful blessings. And Naaman’s problem was huge; it would literally destroy him.

Thank goodness there’s always hope in the God of Israel.

Now bands of raiders from Aram had gone out and had taken captive a young girl from Israel, and she served Naaman’s wife. She said to her mistress, “If only my master would see the prophet who is in Samaria! He would cure him of his leprosy.” 2 Kings 5:2-3

A young slave girl planted a seed of hope in the heart of a pagan army commander, and desperation led him to believe.

That’s often how it works, isn’t it? Eventually we’ll turn to God for help, but only when we’ve exhausted all other options. Naaman had nowhere else to turn, so he turned to the God of Israel.

So Naaman went with his horses and chariots and stopped at the door of Elisha’s house. Elisha sent a messenger to say to him, “Go, wash yourself seven times in the Jordan, and your flesh will be restored and you will be cleansed.”

But Naaman went away angry. (Verses 9-11)

What just happened? Apparently Naaman didn’t care for the kind of help he received.

But what aroused the anger in Naaman’s heart? Let’s take a moment to slip our feet into his army boots. I’ll warn you, you may discover they fit a little too well.

Imagine you’re Naaman, commander of the king’s army, pulling up to Elisha’s house with your entourage. You leave the glistening horses and chariots and walk to the door, expecting to delight your host by the honor of your visit.

Only your host doesn’t even bother to come to the door. Instead he sends a messenger with some ridiculous instructions to bathe repeatedly in the muddy Jordan River.

Can you see why Naaman was so upset, dear one? I hope so, because right here is where you and I tend to look most like him.

Unmet expectations can send us reeling, causing us to reject God’s instructions and miss His blessing. Naaman believed he deserved better from Elisha. He thought he should’ve shown him more respect. What’s more, he believed he deserved better than the Jordan from God.

 “I thought that he would surely come out to me and stand and call on the name of the Lord his God, wave his hand over the spot and cure me of my leprosy. Are not Abana and Pharpar, the rivers of Damascus, better than all the waters of Israel? Couldn’t I wash in them and be cleansed?” So he turned and went off in a rage. (verses 11-12)

Notice the two parts of Naaman’s complaint. First, he didn’t like the manner in which God chose to offer healing. He wanted the grand miracle, a powerful spectacle befitting his position. He didn’t want to have to do anything; He just wanted a few magic words and a wave of the hand to provide a miracle cure.

If we’re going to be honest, we want the immediate miracle too, don’t we? When difficulty comes, we want God to wave His magic wand and fix everything as we bask in the glow of glory. And when God doesn’t choose to do it our way, we stomp away in a rage just like Naaman. But when we do that, dear one, we may just be leaving our miracle on the table.

You see, God calls us to trust Him. And very often that means giving us instruction and watching to see whether we’ll exercise the faith to obey. If we allow our disappointment over the means to override our faith, we’ll miss seeing Him work altogether.

That brings us to Naaman’s second complaint. If God was going to make him bathe in a river, couldn’t He have chosen a cleaner one? Obeying this command would mean lowering his standards. Not only did God opt not to give him the grand gesture, he was going to have to get his hands dirty.

His response? No thanks. He’d rather deal with the leprosy.

Seriously? Pride can cause us to make some pretty foolish choices. Wasn’t ridding himself of his flesh eating disease worth a few dips in muddy water?

Dear one, what is God asking you to do that pride says is beneath you? Will you take a chance on trusting Him so you can see Him display His power?

Naaman finally came around and received his healing from the Lord. Thankfully, his servants showed him his folly and convinced him he had nothing to lose.

“My father, if the prophet had told you to do some great thing, would you not have done it? How much more, then, when he tells you, ‘Wash and be cleansed’!” So he went down and dipped himself in the Jordan seven times, as the man of God had told him, and his flesh was restored and became clean like that of a young boy. (verses 13-14)

Eventually Naaman chose the road of humility and finally got his miracle. Can you imagine the joy that overtook him as he stood in those muddy waters and watched his decayed flesh restore itself to skin like a young boy’s?

Obedience is always worth it, dear one.

What miracle awaits its revelation in your life? Perhaps it’s time to trust God and follow His instructions. Sure, you might get your feet a little muddy, but when you see His arm of power move, I really don’t think you’ll care.

The Power of Hidden Things

“Would that you, even you, had known on this day the things that make for peace! But now they are hidden from your eyes.” Luke 19:42 ESV

Our enemy loves hidden things.

His realm is darkness, and he loves to cloud our vision with deceptive veils. He knows that while we remain in darkness, he controls us. We find our power when we walk in the light.

And that’s why Peter heard Jesus speak some disconcerting words to him before His arrest.

“Simon, Simon, behold, Satan demanded to have you, that he might sift you like wheat, but I have prayed for you that your faith may not fail. And when you have turned again, strengthen your brothers.” Luke 22:31-32

It might interest you to know that the you in Jesus’ opening sentence is plural. Jesus said, “Simon, Satan has asked to sift all of you as wheat”. But then Jesus addresses only Peter with a singular you.

But I have prayed for you, Simon, that your faith may not fail.”

I have wept over those words, dear one. You see, like Peter, I’ve had a sifting.

God allowed the enemy access to me so I could acknowledge some hidden things in my heart I couldn’t see. And afterward, when I had overcome, Jesus led me to those verses and whispered them into my heart. “I have prayed for you, Kelley, that your faith would not fail. Now that you have come back, strengthen your brothers and sisters.”

I don’t know what those words mean to you, beloved, but they brought me to my knees. An image of my Savior kneeling before the Father on my behalf overwhelmed me.

And I realized how I had overcome. Not by anything I had done, but because the Father had answered the prayers of His Son who loved me, who fought for me when I didn’t have anything left in me to fight with. I overcame by the blood of the Lamb and the word of my testimony, simply because in my darkest hour I never lost sight of my Savior.

That’s what opened Peter to his victory too, dear one. He stayed close to Jesus, even while he battled through his hidden sin.

Look at Peter’s response to Jesus’ words.

Peter said to him, “Lord, I am ready to go with you both to prison and to death.” Luke 22:33

Peter truly believed he would follow Jesus anywhere. His deceitful heart had convinced him of his own infallibility. Matthew 26:33 records his passionate words, “Though they all fall away because of you, I will never fall away.”

So Jesus told Peter the truth.

Jesus said, “I tell you, Peter, the rooster will not crow this day, until you deny three times that you know me.” Luke 22:34

And Peter didn’t believe Him.

Take a moment to let that settle on you. Peter stood face to face with Truth—the One who declared, “I am the truth” (John 14:6)—and couldn’t agree with Him. He didn’t believe what He spoke because he couldn’t see the sin veiled within his own heart.

Yet Jesus loved Peter. So He gave Satan permission to sift him and bring what was hidden to the surface. He wanted Peter to discover the truth about himself so He could release him from the power it held over him. Jesus offered Peter the promise of John 8:32.

“… and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.”

Peter discovered his truth shortly after Jesus’ arrest. When the soldiers seized Jesus and led Him away, Luke 22:54 reveals,

Peter was following at a distance.

This, dear one, offers the key to Peter’s successful outcome. Even when darkness cast doubt on Peter and brought distance between him and Jesus, he kept following. That close proximity to his Lord enabled the defining moment in Peter’s story.

You see, fear led Peter to deny he knew Jesus three times, just as Jesus had said. And at the precise moment of his third denial,

… immediately, while he was still speaking, the rooster crowed. (verse 60)

 But Peter’s freedom came because of verse 61.

“And the Lord turned and looked at Peter.”

Can you imagine how he felt? The Lord’s gaze penetrated his hard heart, and immediately he remembered what Jesus had said. “Before the rooter crows today, you will deny me three times.” Again Peter faced Truth, but this time he couldn’t deny it.

The fact that we don’t acknowledge iniquity in our hearts doesn’t mean it isn’t there, beloved. Jesus wants to remove it all, the things we see, and especially the things we don’t. It’s often what we can’t acknowledge that carries the most power to hurt us.

Peter might have allowed his iniquity to overtake him and miss his calling as an Apostle of Christ if not for this single choice. Even when the uncertainty of his circumstances brought fear and doubt, he kept following Jesus. He stayed close. Close enough to look upon His face.

“And the Lord turned and looked at Peter.”

Sometimes the only place we’ll recognize the light of truth is in the middle of a dark moment.

Sometimes we’ll only recognize the light of truth in the middle of a dark moment. Click To Tweet

Beloved, hearing the truth from Jesus’ lips didn’t cause Peter to believe it. Jesus had to allow Peter to stumble into that sin in order to expose the darkness in his heart he couldn’t see.

That’s the purpose of a sifting, dear one. When we remain close to Jesus through it, His light exposes the truth about us. And when we finally agree with Jesus over our sin and repent of it, He sets us free.

Look at Peter’s response in verse 62. “And he went out and wept bitterly.”

Beloved, Jesus never exposes our sin to condemn us. He reveals it to free us from its power over us. If we want to experience that freedom, beloved, we must do what Peter did.

Never lose sight of Jesus.