Thursday, December 19, 2019

Dealing with change - Part 3 - Implementing the Plan

In previous posts we looked at the need to find direction in our life, then in the last post we discussed making a plan to achieve that goal.

We discussed prayerfully brainstorming the different ways God has used you in the past, and then find threads indicating the gifting and preparation he has given you

This exploration will now indicate the direction God is leading you.

Exploring the subject is not enough however.  We can have a head full of ideas.  We can even have planned a set of goals, long-term and short-term, but if our feet do not walk it out, nothing will be accomplished.  And if nothing is accomplished, we have not been obedient to following the direction God has given us (1).  God expects us to implement the guidance he has given us.

Part 3 - Implement the Plan!

So in today's post we will look at some aspects of actually implementing the plan.

1.  Break it down in detail

The first step to implementing your plan, is to break the plan down into its basic tasks.

For example, if our plan is to build a house, different basic tasks could be identified.  Preparing the blueprints, digging out the building site, pouring concrete for the foundations, building the framework, adding a roof, painting the walls ... you get the idea.

If you feel God is calling you to help people overcome addiction, the basic tasks may include preparing yourself by getting the appropriate education and qualifications, then working alongside an experienced and qualified counselor to acquire sufficient practical experience, then perhaps acquiring the needed credentials.

What other tasks can you think of?  Counting the cost of a project is a biblical principle (2).

2.  Organize these tasks on paper

List these tasks on paper, in the order in which they need to be accomplished.  Add three columns - one to indicate how long each task will take to complete, one column to note the date you plan to start this task, and finally one column to set the expected completion date.

You now have a detailed plan of how to achieve each goal in your plan.

3.  Start acting on your plan, passionately

If God has called you to this, there will be a passion for accomplishing this plan.  This passion is what will motivate you to continue.  There will be times when you do not feel like it, times when there may be opposition.  Your passion will help you to continue despite difficulties.

That passion is translated into action.  You take the first task on the list, and actually do it!  It feels good, it seems like this is what you are meant to be doing!  When that task is complete you place a check mark beside it.  Congratulations!  You have taken the first step.  Then you work through the list, step by step.  Some tasks will be easy to complete, others may take years.  But you are on your way!  Your passion will keep you motivated.

Remember that you asked God for direction.  Trust that the goals you have set, are from him.  As you progress, keep on asking him to direct you (4).  Sometimes there will be alterations in direction.  God is the one who guides us.  Ask for his help as you follow this journey.

Then one day you will look back and recognize you actually accomplished that goal you were passionately working towards (3).  You ran the race and reached the finish line.  You accomplished the goal.  Maybe it is now time to seek further direction, for the next stage of your journey.

Life as a Christian is exciting.  Jesus promised to walk through this with us (5).  He leads us in our journey.  We are never finished until the day we see Jesus face to face and he tells us, "Well done!" (6).

Keep up the good work!

Pastors Gerry and Dianne ><>

1.  John 15:1-8
2.  Luke 14:25-32
3.  2 Timothy 4:7-8
4.  Psalm 37:23
5.  Hebrews 13:5
6.  Matthew 25:23

Saturday, November 9, 2019

Dealing with change - Part 2 - Making a Plan

In our previous post, we looked at the need to involve God in our direction-seeking.  We want to be in sync with God's purposes, not doing our own thing. So the next step is:

Key 2: Make a Plan

So how can we do that?  Here is one suggestion.  Take a sheet of paper and a pencil.

First of all, look at all the ways God has used you in the past.  The gifts and calling of God are without repentance (1).  If God has called you with a gift of compassion for the homeless, this will have been evident in ways you have related to this segment of our community.  Note this down. What other ways has God used you?  Perhaps you have led small groups in church.  Maybe you have a gift for prayer.  Write it down.  Maybe you are an encourager, like Barnabas (2).  Perhaps you are a writer. Add this to your list.  You may enjoy organizing events. Write it down.  There are all kinds of ways God uses us, on a daily basis.  Don't just look for the big things, God appears in our life in the seemingly small things too (3).

Now, consider which of these things bore fruit.  We are not necessarily looking for huge numbers, but think back to events and people and note where God blessed and made an impact.  There is a story about the person who led Billy Graham to Christ.  The story goes that Billy Graham was the only person he ever witnessed to.  If he could only have seen the hundreds of thousands of people who are now part of the Kingdom, through his courage to witness to that one person.  God blessed that interaction.  And he has done so in your life too.  One day we will be astounded at the impact God has had through each of our lives.  So, where has there been lasting fruit (4)

Next, think about in what ways has God prepared you for his purpose?  God's way is to prepare you before he sends you out on your calling.  Like the 12 disciples, Jesus teaches us (5).  We too are disciples, or students.  The Holy Spirit is our teacher (6).  So, in what ways has God been teaching you?  The Holy Spirit leads us in a particular direction (7).  The Spirit gives us a nudge, an interest in finding out more about something.  He places people on our path who encourage our development.  He prepares us.  In which ways do you recognise God preparing you?

All this thought will give you a picture of how God is working in your life.  The gifts and preparation he has given you do not suddenly stop when you complete a particular assignment (1).  Each experience we have grows us and prepares us for the next.  He who is faithful in a little will be faithful in much (8).  God does not waste willing servants. The harvest is plenteous but the  laborers are few (9).

Having looked at all this, then, now you can make a plan.

1. Ask God to direct your heart and thoughts.

Let him direct your planning (10).  We ask this in faith believing for his direction.  Start writing down the thoughts that come to mind. It doesn't matter how sensible or crazy the thought seems to be at this stage, just get it all down on paper.

2.  Find the pattern

Now see how these thoughts tie in with what God has done in your life previously.  Some things seem way out there, and dont seem to connect or grow from past experiences.  Write them on a separate sheet of paper.

The ones that do resonate with past experience may be a further development of what God has gifted you in, and may give you further direction for your future.  You can safely make some plans in implementing these ideas.

The items you wrote on a separate sheet of paper, however, could be new things God wants to do in your life.  Ask God to confirm this for you.  Perhaps he will do this through comments people make to you, perhaps he will offer opportunities for you, perhaps he will speak to you in some other way.  Ask God to make it plain.

3.  Make the plan

Now it will become evident what God is wanting you to do.  This is your big goal. Let's say in 5 years time you want to have accomplished a particular goal.   Think about what would be needed to reach that goal.  This may require intermediate targets.  You could have a target for in 5 years time, 3 years time, 1 years time.  Now break the one year goal down into what you would need to accomplish each quarter or three months.  Then break each quarter down into monthly targets, and then into weekly targets.  This now gives you targets for each week.

What will be needed to reach this week's target?  What resources will be needed? Whom do you need to talk to?  Think it through!  Plan it out!  Get the plan down on paper.  Make a checklist of steps you need to take.

Hopefully this will help you plan to reach a longer term goal. Shorter term goals can be planned for the same way. The important thing is to make the steps as concrete as possible.

Next time we will talk about implementing the plan.

Till next time, be blessed!

Pastors Gerry and Dianne ><>

1.  Romans 11:29
2.  Acts 4:36
3.  Zechariah 4:10, 1 Kings 19:12
4.  John 15:16
5.  Mark 9:31, Luke 11:1
6.  John 14:26
7.  John 16:13
8.  Luke 19:17, 26
9.  Luke 10:2
10.  Jeremiah10:23, Proverbs 16:9

Friday, September 6, 2019

Dealing with Change - Part 1 - Finding Direction

Mid July I retired from a California state prison, where I served as chaplain.  The five years I spent there were transformational for me. Learning to work with inmates was quite different from pastoring a local church.  I poured my heart into it, and loved the contribution I was privileged to make, both for inmates and the institution as a whole.

Two weeks later we had moved out of our house, two more weeks we worked on preparing our fifth wheel, and finally we were more or less ready to hit the road!  So the big adventure finally started, August 17, 2019! (For those who do not know, our plan is to travel North America in our fifth wheel, initially for 12-18 months).

Our mobile home - a 5th wheel!
Our mobile home - a 5th wheel!

This has been quite a transition for both Dianne and myself.  It was like running at 60 mph and then coming to an abrupt stop!  Suddenly, a lot of the structure of life was removed. We miss our ministry at the prison, the busyness of life, we miss having a stationary house with room to put things (!), and the backyard we loved.  We miss the routines we had become settled into, our friends living close by, and the familiarity of our little town, Susanville CA. This does not mean we regret our decision to follow this road, we are excited about our future.  The point is, there has been a lot of change.

But we are not alone.  I think all of us experience change in life.  There are the normal changes that happen, like finishing school, leaving home, getting married, going to college, and so many other things.  Some changes are voluntary, some are involuntary. We may choose to find a better job, with improved prospects or a higher salary. Or we may be downsized, and found ourselves searching for a new position out of necessity.

Change is awkward, and can be difficult to negotiate.  In this series, we are going to look at some keys to dealing with change.  The first and most important key is from where we seek direction.

Key 1:  Find direction

Proverbs tells us: "Without vision the people perish" (1).  We seem to have an inner need for wanting to know where we are going.  But did you know that the word translated vision in this verse, actually has to do with prophetic revelation from God, rather than traditional vision-casting and goal-setting?  We need God to define the direction of our life, not just us making our own plans. Another verse that speaks to this tells us "The steps of a righteous man are ordered by the Lord" (2).  Also, "In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will direct your paths" (3).

So how can we make this practical?  

The initial thing to remember is that wherever we are in our walk with God, when we turn to him, he listens and responds.  

Maybe we have not yet experienced the excitement of seeing God's direct involvement in our activities, and don’t really expect God to listen to us. In these verses God invites us to turn to him, acknowledge him in the things we do, recognize him as who he is, and that we ask him to direct our paths.  

What will this look like?  Whereas before we may have not been all that interested in God, we may now feel a new interest in knowing him better.  We may look back on our life and decide we want our future to be different, more purposeful, honorable, straight. Acknowledging God as being bigger than us, and able to change the direction of our lives, is a starting point.  

On the other hand, maybe we have known God for a while, but are at a loss for which direction to choose, when we face a crossroads.  We want our life direction to be in sync with God's purposes. The starting point in finding out what God's plan is for our life, is to ask him to direct our path.

I used to wonder, how do I know if I am going the direction God has planned for me, or if I am doing things according to my own human wisdom.  A pastor friend gave me some good advice regarding this. If I ask God to direct my paths, then I can trust him that he will do so. So I make decisions as to the direction I need to go, on the basis of trusting that God is directing me.  I also consider what biblical principles are involved, and live a life that is obedient to God. Then I can trust and believe that the Lord is guiding me. There are more things to consider, which we will examine in this short series of posts, but the starting point is to acknowledge God and seek his direction.

The next post is going to be about Making a Plan!  Watch this space!  

On the journey with you,

Pastors Gerry and Dianne ><>

P.S.  If you recognize you need to turn the direction of your life over to God, why don't you pray this simple prayer.  Pray with sincerity and the Lord will listen and respond:

"Dear Father in heaven, thank you for sending your Son Jesus to die on the cross in my place, so that my sins can be forgiven.  I ask you to cleanse me, and wash away my sins.  I surrender my life to you, asking you to direct my steps.  Please send your Holy Spirit to empower me to live the life you have called me to.  I pray this in the name of Jesus.  Amen".

1.  Proverbs 29:18  
2.  Psalm 37:23   3.  Proverbs 3:6

Friday, March 29, 2019

Someone close passed away ...

During the past two weeks, two people very dear to me passed away.  I grieve with their close family, particularly.  It is so painful when a person we love, with whom we have spent countless hours, is suddenly gone out of our life.  The hurt and loneliness is intense.

Though I was not direct family, it hit me more deeply than I expected.  First of all, Dianne's cousin died, suddenly.  I had not had a lot of contact with her and her husband, but the moments we did connect were special.  When he and I met and talked at the funeral last Thursday, the closeness was right back there again.  I grieve and pray with him as he navigates this journey.  Friday evening and Saturday I was rather depressed myself, a natural part of grieving, questioning a lot of things.

Then, a few days later I heard that my former employer had passed away on Sunday, after his second open heart surgery.  It shocked me to my core.  I was not aware of his medical condition.  I had not spoken to him in some time. And yet, it hit me hard. He had been more to me than a boss.  I had always seen him as a brother, both of us being pastors. After I heard of his passing, the words of David after Jonathan his friend had been killed, echoed round and round my head.  "How are the mighty fallen ... I grieve over you, my brother" [1].

During the last couple of days, the new reality has been settling in.  Life is different without these people there.  I am so sorry for those dear ones who are missing Darla and Rick.  I pray for your comfort.

Navigating this week personally, leads me to share with you some Bible scriptures about this subject - what happens when a loved one dies?

First of all, the Bible teaches us that we as human beings consist of spirit, soul and body [2]. The Bible describes our physical body as a tent, a temporary dwelling in which we live [3].  Another way of looking at this is that we are spirit, temporarily housed in a physical body.  When we die, this spirit goes to be with God who gave it [4]. 

The book of Revelation gives us a tiny insight into what our spirit will be like in heaven.  Our spirit will be in God's presence, able to communicate, is given a white robe to wear, will sing praise to God, is waiting for the resurrection [5].

When Jesus returns to this earth [6], the dead in Christ will be raised first, with a new glorious spiritual body [7], we who are alive will be changed, and together we will meet Jesus as he descends to this earth [8].  This is when we will be reunited with our loved ones.

There will be no more tears, pain and hurt.  The old things will have passed away [9].

Our loved ones have not departed for ever, rather we will be reunited with them and then spend eternity together, serving our Lord and King who loved us with such an amazing grace!

I pray that these words will bring you comfort as they do me, as we navigate our personal journeys of grief.

1.  2 Samuel 1:17-27
2.  1 Thessalonians 5:23
3.  2 Corinthians 5:1-4
4.  Ecclesiastes 12:7
5.  Revelation 6:9-117.  Revelation 7:9-17
6.  Zechariah 14:3-4, Acts 1:9-11
7.  1 Corinthians 15:51-53, 40-44
8.  1 Thessalonians 4:13-18
9.  Revelation 21:1-5, 22:1-5

Tuesday, January 15, 2019

Getting to Know God

Good morning!  I want to share about something that has been on my heart for a while.  Actually, for a very long time.

When I was a 12-year-old whippersnapper, I read through the story of Abraham as described in Genesis.  I was captivated by the fact that not only did Abraham talk to God, but God actually spoke back to him!  This communication was so clear that Abram (his birthname) was prepared to leave his urban house in Ur (with hot and cold water and indoor plumbing), to go live in a tent on a one-way trek through the desert.  Without asking for confirmations (like Gideon), or dillydallying along the way.  He just did it!

God's communication must have been crystal clear.

This birthed in my heart a hunger to have this same kind of communication with God.  For a long time, this was swept under the rug, I was not in an environment where you did this.  Age 45, however, there was a huge change in my spiritual walk.  God broke through with truth, and a lot of the cobwebs were swept aside.  I learned that there were actually a lot of people who heard from God.  I started to read books about the subject, and learned to quieten myself down and be open and listening actively for God's communication.

This then started a search for God, wanting to know Him deeper and deeper.  Believe me, there have been many ups and downs along this journey, I do not consider myself particularly special, with the exception that I have a unique set of fingerprints!  However the Holy Spirit continued to carry me on, along this quest to know God. I am still on this quest.  I pray that maybe you will be inspired by my experiences, and have an amazing testimony of your own, getting to know our heavenly Father in a whole new way!

Have a blessed day!