March 30, 2017

Thankful Thursday and Beyond

It is a blessed day in Phoenix. The sun is shining and the skies are clear. The air is warm, and there is a soft breeze that is lovely and refreshing.

In all, it is a beautiful warm spring day. I am sitting at home, resting from my week thus far, and I am contemplating how blessed I am as far as my life goes. The Lord has abundantly provided for my needs, and while I don’t have the perfect job — yet — I do have enough work to keep me set through the coming months. This is, of course, so long as nothing seems to fall off the radar (contracts, I mean). So long as I have work for the summer, my needs are covered. Right now, I have one contract thanks to Regent University. I am hoping I will have some other contracts through Grantham University (still waiting for approval). It would be good to have some income over the summer. I would rest a little easier.

Still, my faith rests in the Lord. I trust Him for my every need, and praise be to God, I know — no, I have confidence — that He is able to provide for me. He is able to create manna to rain down from heaven, for water to spring forth from the rock, and for the great seas to be parted if it is necessary to pass through them. I believe He is able to do all things, and especially, He is able to handle all my needs, my wants, and my desires. Selah!

Plans and More Plans

So today is a good day. I am making it a good day. 

Today is a good day for a number of reasons. First and most importantly, it is a good day because God created it. The Word says in Genesis 1:3, "Then God looked over all he had made, and he saw that it was very good! And evening passed and morning came, marking the sixth day.” God created the world, and He said it was good. Furthermore, in 1 Thessalonians 5:18, Paul says, “Be thankful in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you who belong to Christ Jesus.” Thus, it is good for us to be thankful, and to thank God for His good, good, creation.

The day is good, secondly, because of the grace that has been given to me. In Ephesian’s 2:8, Paul says, "God saved you by his grace when you believed. And you can’t take credit for this; it is a gift from God.” I am a child of grace, and as such, I am able to live freely under His banner and His love. I am free, praise be to God, to live, to work, and to do whatever the Lord asks of me, and what is more, I am free to experience His grace (His goodness) in multiple ways because of my position in Christ Jesus.

More so, this day is good because I believe the Lord has a good plan for it. In Jeremiah 29:11 we read, “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 a good plan for my life, and He is working steadily and without ceasing to bring His good plan to fruition. I can rest in His ability to plan, to purpose, and to provide for me. He has this “life” thing all in good hand. I can rest in Him for He is more than able to care for me.

Lastly, this day is a good day because God reigns in Heaven, and Jesus sits at His right hand. This means that I am safely secure in my Savior. And, God’s sovereignty is assured. He will not be moved. Psalm 47:8 says, “God reigns above the nations, sitting on his holy throne.” And in Malachi 3:6, we read these words: “For I am the Lord, I do not change; that is why you, O sons of Jacob, are not consumed.”

I am safe. I am sound. I am secure. My life has a plan. My Lord provides for me. My way prospers. 

In this regard, I am able to say that today is a good day. There is goodness all around me, and praise be to God, because of His nature, His character, and His being, I am rest, trust, and abide in Him.

Establishing or Planting

When I think about the plans the Lord has for my life, the first aspect that I think about is the fact that the Lord seems to be (appears to be) establishing me or planting me in this place. In Proverbs 16:9 we read, “In their hearts humans plan their course, but the LORD establishes their steps.” This is a scriptural precedent that the Lord establishes that which has been planned. Paul said it this way, “Now it is God who establishes both us and you in Christ. He anointed us, placed His seal on us, and put His Spirit in our hearts as a pledge of what is to come” (2 Corinthians 1:21-22). Likewise in Psalm 90:17 it says, "And may the Lord our God show us his approval and make our efforts successful. Yes, make our efforts successful!” And, finally in 1 Peter 5:10, Peter writes, “In his kindness God called you to share in his eternal glory by means of Christ Jesus. So after you have suffered a little while, he will restore, support, and strengthen you, and he will place you on a firm foundation.”

What does it mean to establish something? The dictionary defines the word “establish” as meaning to “set up (an organization, system, or set of rules) on a firm or permanent basis.” Merriam-Webster includes “to introduce and cause to grow and multiply” as part of the definition as well as “to gain full recognition or acceptance of,” which simply suggests that when God establishes us, He does so to cause us to grow, to multiply, and to gain a full acceptance (or status) in the place of His choosing. In short, according to Merriam-Webster, the following all suggest what it means to be “established”:
  • to cause (someone or something) to be widely known and accepted
  • to put (someone or something) in a position, role, etc., that will last for a long time
  • to begin or create (something that is meant to last for a long time)
The Bible often refers to God has the Vinedresser or Gardener, suggesting that God is the One who creates and maintains the wellness of the garden plants. In this way, God is the One who tends His garden carefully, moving plants for their protection as well as their prosperity. God sows, waters, tends, and reaps, and in a like manner, as His children, we are often planted in places where God intends for us to grow and produce good crops.

I believe that I am in the planting stage of my life. I have spent the past 50 years learning how to obey the Lord, to trust the Lord, and to rely on the Lord. I know, I know; I am a slow learner, but the lesson of obedience doesn’t come easily. Remember what happened to the children of Israel, especially during their time of wandering in the desert. For many Christ followers, we experience similar wanderings whereby we learn the hard lesson of obedience. Once that lesson is learned, however, we come to this place of rest. This place of rest is when we enter into His garden of grace and begin to see our role and responsibilities in light of His Role and His Responsibilities. In short, we recognize who we are (created beings) and that we live and we die at the hand of our Creator. In this special garden place, we also come to learn what it means to be part of the Vine (Jesus) and we learn where our strength, our vitality, and all of our nutrition comes. We realize that we are connected to Him, and in this way, everything we need to live, to sustain our life, is found in Christ alone.

Grow and Multiply

As I have come to learn how to live connected to Jesus, the Vine, I have also come to see the futility of my own strength, my own wisdom, and my own efforts. Granted, I am a capable individual, but the work that God asks me to do is impossible for me to do. I must only do it with His help, and therefore, I must rest completely in Him and in His abilities. My role in this garden and my responsibility in this garden is two-fold. I must allow the Lord to plant me, to establish me, and in doing so, I will be well-tended and cared for so I can thrive. Then I must take from Him the vital nutrients He provides to me so that I can grow strong. I can become a mighty tree in His blessed garden. More so, I will multiply — send out shoots — and in this way, I will enlarge my territory so that I am reproducing. By reproducing, I simply mean that I am making disciples — converts — and I am reproducing the love, the grace, and the mercy given to me by God in Christ Jesus.

For now, I am still feeling as if the Lord is moving me to this place where I will be well-grounded. I will begin to be established, and I will be able to know that I am to remain where I am for a long period of time. One of the roles the Lord has given to me is that of a teacher. I have been working my way up the “teacher ladder” and as of today, I am still considered “adjunct.” However, very soon, He will promote me to faculty, and with that change, I will receive a title change as well. I will be an Assistant Professor at some school, and then I will be positioned for the duration of my career. Until then, I have to wait for His open door. I have to wait for His movement that will enable me to be given this sort of role and responsibility at a major school.

Acceptance and Recognition

The last aspect of this whole process is acceptance and recognition. I have yet to be put into a place where I am recognized for my abilities or achievement, but I believe that in time, this will come to pass. Perhaps not for many years, but at some point, I will be known by name and I will bear His acceptance and recognition. With my status change from adjunct to professor, I believe I will begin to produce scholarship, articles and such, by which I will begin to be recognized for my achievements. I will also present at conferences, and in this way, my name will become known in my field. I am not seeking this fame directly, rather, I simply know that it is part-and-parcel to the job. It is expected of me, and while I do like to be recognized this way, I know that in order for me to be successful, I have to allow the Lord to do this work through me. He will do it. He will receive the credit. I will simply bear the stamp of His approval. I will be recognized for my work, but I will know that I am not worthy to receive such recognition — only He is worthy of all praise.

This process of maturation, from tiny seedling to mighty tree takes many, many years. The Lord has worked with me for a long time now, specifically over the last 14 years of my life. I have turned 180 degrees from where I once was, walking in my own way, seeking my own selfish desires to where I am today, fully and wholly devoted to Him and to His work. I am a fully committed, fully surrendered follower of Jesus Christ, and as such, I no longer seek my own way, my own desires, or even my own wishes. I go now where my Lord leads me. I am established/planted where He has prepared a place for me. He knows where I will develop strong roots. He knows what conditions are best for me to grow in, and with this knowledge, I believe that today, the Lord has moved me into the garden spot of His choosing. He has planted me. He has tended to my needs, and now He is ready to begin pruning me for best performance. He is beginning to shape me into a tree that will produce much shade, and that will send out long runners where by other trees will be established as a result. I am to grow. I am to be all about the business of growing. He will supply my needs, and He will tend to my maturation through His plans and purposes. I am fully embraced and empowered to do this good, good work! Selah!

In Closing

I am in this awkward and difficult “wait” phase right now. The Lord has told me to wait, to be patient, and to rest. I have been resting in my work for a while now, but today, I feel as if He is telling me to stand down, to stand aside, and to be settled as if everything was already in place. Of course, I don’t see what He sees, but I know that His vision is far clearer and more perfect than mine is, so therefore, I will do as He says. I will stand down, and I will wait for His clearance before I go. He is good to me, so very good to me. Selah!

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