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Monday, September 2, 2013

A life all planned out

Got any plans for your day?  As you read this blog today, I am on vacation, enjoying another week of respite from the daily grind and constant demands of the "busy-ness" of life.  One nice thing about vacation - the lack of plans! We find ourselves very spontaneous, making plans only if it involves being at an established location at a certain time (such as to catch a bus for a tour). Other than that, we kind of just like to take it one day at a time!  Not a bad way to live, but how many of us can actually live like this?  Unless we are retired, it is not likely!  I love the Proverbs because they are kind of like "mini truths" just rolled up for our enjoyment.  You don't have to read an entire story, but get the nougat of truth which you can sink your teeth into.  Then when you read on a little more, the other nougats add to the first.  Here's the starting point for our study today:

We plan the way we want to live, but only God makes us able to live it.   (Proverbs 16:9)

We plan the way we WANT to live - but only God makes us ABLE to live it. Plans and ability are two separate things, are they not?  We make a lot of plans which we never seem able to fulfill, right?  They just don't come together as they should, or never really get finished because other demands seem to creep up which require our attention.  Let's be honest - we all have plans we sometimes have no ability to fulfill - we just hope we might make some progress toward them sometime down the road.  If we read our passage correctly, it is God's business to give us the ability to live out the plans, but I think he scrutinizes the plans we make to see that they line up with his "master plan" for our lives.

When God lays out our path and we determine to walk within that pathway, we are led away from evil and toward the place of safety in our lives.  The road of right living bypasses evil; watch your step and save your life. (vs. 17 MSG)  I cannot help but examine some of the paths I have taken in my life because I wanted to go down those roads.  As I look back, there are some pretty deep pot-holes, rocky courses, and the like which I had to navigate through in order to come out on the other side.  There are even some I actually abandoned instead of seeing them through to the end.  Why?  They weren't the right paths!  They weren't honoring God and they weren't fulfilling me.  So, in the end, I wasted a lot of time discovering this, but somehow when I did, God was right there ready to get me back on course again.  What he was doing in the time it took me to figure out I was pursuing a wrong course was getting me good and ready to pursue the right one!  So, not even a wrong course is wasted in the hands of God.

Failure is certain when pride becomes our mode of operation in life.  First pride, then the crash—the bigger the ego, the harder the fall. (vs. 18 MSG)  Something proud people don't do is listen to instruction.  In fact, it is their pride which actually closes off their "hearing"!  According to our writer, to prosper, we need to listen to instruction and trust in God.  "Prosper" is a word of action.  It means to thrive.  If you have ever experienced being in a desolate, dry place in your life, you probably have known the opposite of prospering - nothing thrives in dryness but pretty prickly stuff like cacti and tumbleweed!  Does it surprise you that the dry places seem a little barren?  It shouldn't because any time we choose our own way over God's, we choose the rocky and prickly path! 

A wise man is known for their understanding.  It pays to take life seriously; things work out when you trust in God.  A wise person gets known for insight; gracious words add to one’s reputation.  (vs. 20-21 MSG)  The words of the wise are persuasive, are they not.  The words of the fool might be able to dupe us into believing them, but the words of the wise carry an authority unlike any other.  We don't gain wisdom in isolation.  Wisdom is learned while being "on the journey".  Wisdom is then an action word, as well. Learning is a lifestyle - not a pursuit.  Learning is made up of disciplined steps.  A foolish man will take steps without much thinking, but it is those steps which determine his destiny.  Disciplined steps are discretionary steps. There is some matter of choice made by the one taking the steps, but these choices are based on what has become evident as prudent or sensible. Prudent or sensible steps become evident because you get to know the one who gives good judgment - God himself.

Although there are many reasons for planning, not is more motivating that some element of hunger.  Appetite is an incentive to work; hunger makes you work all the harder.  (vs. 26 MSG)  There is much to be said about having the right "hunger".  In fact, the desires of our heart are often the determining factor in our pursuit of one path over another.  "Appetite" is really a drive to satisfy a need - it could be physical, spiritual, or emotional.  What we determine to be our "needs" is important to consider in light of how those "needs" will be met as we pursue the path of getting met.  For example, we may see a "need" for a mate - someone to share our future with.  If we see our mate as someone who will fulfill us, we likely will pursue the wrong choice for a mate!  If we see a mate as someone who may actually make us more like Jesus, we might just pursue a different man or woman!  Appetite for spiritual graces draws us closer to Jesus and makes us pursue him harder.  We would do well to consider our appetites when we are planning our course.  

So, just some nougats of truth from the Proverbs today.  Hope it fills you with some seed thoughts to ponder as you consider your course today.  Plan on, but don't forget who makes you able to fulfill the plans!  Just sayin!