Plans For Me

Jeremiah 29:11  “For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.”

god has big plans for youOn this the last day of 2017, my thoughts have turned to the New Year, 2018. The news channels exhort us to set “New Year Resolutions”, usually to eat and drink less and exercise more. The column writers and so called experts try and predict the future and tell us what will happen in 2018, both good and bad things, but mostly bad. So if I want encouragement for next year, I won’t find it in the papers! Far better for me to read the “Good News” contained in God’s Holy Book.

But in the well-worn and popular  text above  God made a breath-taking statement – He knows all about my future, and it is Good News! He is going to see me prosper. I have a hope and a future. And that applies also to my fellow brothers and sisters in Christ. Far better to end this year on that note, than dwelling on gloomy predictions of Brexit, squabbling politicians, global insecurities, and so on.

But what about “New Year Resolutions”? If there is Someone who has set out plans for me, I need to take notice. Who is this Person? I probably know more about Him, than know Him personally. So that’s my goal for 2018 – as the first line from the song “Simple Gospel” says’ “I want to know You, Lord, like I know a friend.” How will I do that? By spending more time with Him – not rocket science is it?

The Child in a Manger

The Child in a manger. Sentimental Christmas cards and nativity scenes showing a sanitised environment. No poo in sight. Just a manger with some straw, a Child much older than new born, with a strange golden glow around His head, His father holding a crooked staff, and His mother kneeling at the side of the crib. There might be a cow or two and perhaps a sheep or a donkey in the shadows at the back. And above the stable is a bright star. A well-worn picture in our minds.

But whatever the reality of  Jesus’s birth, I have been challenged afresh about Who that Child in the manger really is. God incarnate. GOD INCARNATE!  Jesus could have come in many different ways and forms. But why a human baby?  So that right from the point of conception He could share our humanity, grow up like we did, facing the same issues that we do, showing us the way to eternal life. “For God so loved the world that he gave…”. No other entrance into our fallen world would have worked in God’s wonderful plan.

But what do we do about the Child in the manger? This divine Baby? We can’t just leave Him there, perhaps in a cupboard waiting for next year. Or in the recycling bin. We have to take Him out of the manger and place Him in our lives, our hearts, our families, our churches. And let Him grow within us, so that we get to know Him in a truly personal way. In the coming year, in the words of the 13th Century prayer, I want to “…see Christ more clearly, love him more dearly, and follow him more nearly”. Day by day.


Romans 12:15 (AMP). Rejoice with those who rejoice [sharing others’ joy], and weep with those who weep [sharing others’ grief].

A dear couple I know are grieving because of the loss of their daughter.  But sitting here this morning, I have this feeling of compassionate helplessness, feeling a little of the pain they must be experiencing, remembering our own daughter’s illness.  In those dark days twenty nine years ago, when the prognosis had no hope, when daily crises sapped our strength, we grieved. Grieving because there was no hope in the prognosis. Mentally preparing ourselves as we were locked into the slow downward progression of our daughter’s disease. And at my desk at work I tried to put the gravity of the situation to one side but it was never far away. The pain was always close by. I used to try and find a quiet place, where I could cry out quietly in my spirit to God. For comfort. For strength. For healing for my daughter. I rattled the gates of heaven in my desperation. No, she wasn’t instantly healed – that came much later. But His grace and love flowed without limit. He came through for me. Oh, how He came through for me! No – He didn’t take away the pain, but He gave me the resources I needed for the moment. And a peace for my soul.
I will keep praying for my friends, that His grace and love will be there for them as well. No, the pain won’t leave them, but the Holy Spirit will be there, whispering in their ears, “I’m here for you and I love you.”

He called my name

Luke 11:43. When he had said this, Jesus called in a loud voice, “Lazarus, come out!”

The story of Lazarus, his demise, and resurrection, is recorded in the Gospels. Lazarus was the brother of Mary and Martha, a family living in Bethany near Jerusalem. They were friends of Jesus and He seemed to spend time there to “chill out”. So when Lazarus took sick, naturally his sisters called to Jesus for help. But He didn’t rush back to Bethany and instead carried on ministering where He was, for a further two days. But in the end, Jesus returned and was overcome with the sorrow and grief of the occasion, to the point that He wept (Luke 11:35).  Jesus asked to visit the grave, and at the tomb where Lazarus had been placed four days earlier, He commanded that the stone sealing the tomb was removed. There was a crowd of Jews there – the family was obviously well regarded in the local community – who were comforting the family in their grief. You can only speculate about what they were thinking, because it was unheard of to remove a gravestone in that climate so soon after a burial. Martha, the practical sister, explained, “By this time there is a bad odour.”  But they removed the stone anyway, and Jesus then commanded Lazarus to vacate the tomb – but you know the rest of the story.

But a bit of speculation – please indulge me. There was this man, Lazarus, taken ill with a disease or some other condition that led to his death quite quickly. Just imagine the sequence of events. Perhaps a fever incapacitated him, and he took to his bed. You can imagine his sisters sitting at his bed side, telling him of their love, communicating their concerns, holding his hand, but becoming more and more worried. And Lazarus, weakly battling the ravages of infection, would be lapsing into incoherency, his thoughts all a-jumble, in and out of lucidity, until he falls asleep for the last time. He would have had no idea of the outpouring of grief, the funeral arrangements, the burial. His body dead, but his spirit alive as it transitioned to a resurrected eternity. But then he heard Jesus calling his name! He would have remembered the illness, the lapsing into blackness, as a new life burst into his being, commanded by his Friend and Master. I wonder what he was thinking as he hobbled towards the tomb entrance wrapped up in a mixture of grave clothes and spices!

And now a bit of spiritual extrapolation. I don’t believe Lazarus was singled out by God for special treatment just for Jesus to make a miraculous point to confound the Jewish leaders present there, though I’m sure that was in the plan somewhere. I choose to believe that when I cross the “great divide” my next conscious thought will be Jesus calling my name. “Adrian!” How amazing is that! So if you haven’t yet put your trust in Jesus, don’t leave it too late. One day He can call your name as well.

The Hand of God

b16571.jpgOur world is scattered with lists of names. On Cenotaphs, war memorials, gravestones, church plaques, memorials, and so on. But such references apply to the dead, to men and women (and sadly some children) who have crossed over the divide between this world and the next. Some in a worthy way, having given their lives for their countries or other good causes. Some through acute sickness or old age. Some heading for Heaven; others … And occasionally the name of a worthy person, such as a sportsperson, celebrity or such will appear in public print. They had a moment of earthly glory, winning a race or competition, acting in a film or play, with their name appearing on a cup, plaque, notice board or plaudits in a film or newspaper. But such a moment fades into the past, and future generations wonder who it was that the name represented, if they can be bothered at all.

But I have been intrigued during my Christian life, of the Scripture in Isaiah 49:16, “See, I have engraved you on the palms of my hands…”. I know that in context this is referring to Jerusalem, but as a member of God’s Church, it applies today. To me, as a child of God. Me! So my name is indelibly tattooed on the palms of God’s hands, along with countless numbers of my brothers and sisters in Christ. But why His palms? Why not somewhere else, perhaps His forehead, or sleeve? To me my palm is something used for touching, encouraging, communicating love and caring, perhaps direction. So there’s something significant about where our names are written. Over the years I have been greatly blessed and encouraged by the application of God’s hands. By His touch.

The second thought that struck me is that all earthly recording of names refers, sooner or later, to the dead. But I believe my name, engraved on God’s hand, is there forever. God is the God of the living not the dead! So when I cross over the great divide, my name will still be written on His hand, not as a memorial to a past life, but as a member and active participant in His kingdom. Is that stretching faith too far? I don’t think so. After all, as a child of God, He’s not going to abandon me. It’s against His nature. But face to face with Him in heaven? I don’t think reading my name on His palm will be necessary!