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.” Jeremiah 29:11
Recently Judy and I went on a great adventure as we traveled down to Southwest Florida to the Fort Myers area. Because of the virus thing it was interesting on several levels. First, masks were required the entire time we were in the airport and on the plane. We were allowed to take them off while we were eating our snacks. When we arrived we were pleased to discover, that as we suspected, this area of Florida was not crowded at all. Yay.
More than a few stores were closed still and every restaurant we went to had plenty of room for customers. Whatever crowd limits were in place were not met…no lines. So it was just a great adventure and we love great adventures. I even managed to rent a Mustang convertible for the time we were there and that was well, beyond awesome. The rental agent tried to convinced me to rent a GT model for an extra twenty dollars a day. He obviously didn’t know me. Twenty dollars for the week maybe… but a day—the six cylinder was more than good. I have to admit I felt pretty cool. My cool sunglasses and my cool hat hiding my “not so cool” balding head completed the look.
One of the things we did, twice, was to go to beautiful Sanibel island. It was only about 12 miles from where we were staying and it was one of those places we had wanted to go for a long time. So one day we put the top down and off we went. We had music from the sixties and seventies playing on the radio and I felt pretty young. Maybe the sixties are the new forties. So as we neared the island there was a six dollar toll. “No deal” I said. I thought it interesting that there was no one to take the toll. There was simply a sign that said, “We will bill you.” I bet they will too.
So when we got on beautiful Sanibel Island one thing quickly became apparent. It was beautiful but it was a place of threats and rules. The biggest was the parking deal. Everywhere—and that is not an exaggeration, there were signs—big signs—threatening signs—warning you that if you parked without paying two things would happen. They would tow your car and charge you a fine. And the fine was not like $25 dollars. Oh no…it was like $250. And they meant it too. And the parking was, are you ready, $5.00 an hour. No breaks and no exceptions. But that wasn’t all.
There were signs warning you that if you were caught speeding, there was a fine and it was strictly enforced. If you turned where you shouldn’t turn, there was a fine and it was strictly enforced. If you were from Illinois, there was a fine and it was strictly enforced. Ok, I made that one up but you get the idea. It seemed everywhere you looked in what was supposed to be paradise, were more threats and rules and it kinda just took some of the fun out of it. I understand why they thought they had to do it but that didn’t make it any easier to swallow. I felt like they were just waiting for me to mess up so they could say, “gotcha.”
Well, so in a few days Judy and I will pack up and come back to Harrisburg and leave that part of the trip in the rearview mirror. We loved it but that part I can do without. And that is the point of this story. So often as Jesus followers we insist on seeing Kingdom life as a land of strict rules and we see God as the ultimate traffic cop. He writes these impossible rules and then waits for us to mess up so He can say, “gotcha” and zap us. I wonder where we got all of that? I mean God’s love and grace toward His children are plastered all through His Book. I understand the need, and benefits, of obedience but I disdain it when people try and make God to be a bad God. He is anything but bad. Yes, He is just. Yes, when we reject His gift of salvation we have to answer for our sin. But this God gave His Son to a Roman cross so that we could have forgiveness and call Him Father. That is amazing.
If you find yourself living in a world where your faith is confined to a world of rules and threats you’ve probably wandered off the right grid. Remember the wonderful words found in 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.” Yes, I know they were written to Israel but the principle is ours to claim. Our lives should be motivated by God’s love and grace and not the fear of Him zapping us. Never, never forget that as His child He loves you beyond what you can believe. He is working things for your good and His glory. It’s that plain and simple. Every no and yes in His Book is there for that reason. He is not a cosmic cop waiting to hurt you…He is a wonderful, loving Father who would die for you…and He did.
Starting today, why not change your view of God? If you’ve never asked Him for forgiveness and received His great gift of eternal life…start there. And if you’ve wandered off the grid into the land of rules and threats, come back home to grace and love. It’s where He wants you to live. It is where you will find rest. It is where you will discover that no matter what, He’s got this.