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November 18, 2020

November 18: Have you ever wondered what God has planned for you? Is it something big? And if you are following the right path? Or are we focused on our own path and not the path that God has for us? Who or what are we focused on? I do know that our focus has to change in our world today.
“A little over a month after leaving Rivendell, Bilbo once again walked through the Shire, the land he loved so well. He eagerly anticipated seeing his beloved hobbit hole again. But to his amazement, he discovered that because of his lengthy absence, he’d been presumed dead. He arrived home in the last throes of a public auction in which all his earthly possessions had already been sold. Worse yet, many of his neighbors refused to accept the fact that he was actually Bilbo Baggins returned, so in the end, he was forced to buy back most of his own belongings. And then he settled back into his comfortable hobbit hole. Sigh…
Seven years later, Bilbo’s friends Gandalf and Balin showed up at his door. They told him the news from the north, and Bilbo was happy to learn that prosperity had returned to Laketown. New songs were being sung, in fact, celebrating the fact that the rivers were now running with gold. When Bilbo expressed surprise that the prophecies had actually come true, Gandalf asked why it amazed him. Was it because he’d helped bring them about and couldn’t believe he’d been part of something so big? Or was he so focused on himself that he still hadn’t seen the larger picture?
The truth was, as Gandalf pointed out, there had been far more than some personal ‘good luck’ at work repeatedly saving Bilbo from danger and imprisonment – as if he were the only one who really mattered. There was far more at stake than just him; there was a larger power at work with a larger plan in mind. And so it is in real life: God is intensely interested in each one of us personally, and He manages the details so that His plan for our individual lives works out. But at the same time, He has the Big Picture in mind. God is just as concerned about others as well, and whatever He does in our lives isn’t for our benefit only.
None of us is an end in ourselves. We are social beings who dwell in communities, and one of the most persistent commandments in the Bible – particularly in the New Testament – is that we love our fellow man. God is deeply concerned that we care about others and do good to them and for them. Yes, it’s vitally important that we believe that God loves us personally. Jesus died on the cross to bring us back into relationship with His Father. Once we’ve accepted Christ as our Savior, God’s Spirit dwells in our hearts, giving each of us a personal relationship with Him. We should be deeply comforted in knowing that He listens to our prayers, and, above all, that He loves us. But our personal relationship with God cannot be an all-consuming end it itself. While it is important to know that God loves us and that He wants us to love Him in return, the Bible tells us that love for others is a natural outgrowth of that love relationship:
Beloved, let us love one another, for love is of God; and everyone who loves is born of God and knows God. He who does not love does not know God, for God is love. Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another…. If someone says, ‘I love God,’ and hates his brother, he is a liar; for he who does not love his brother whom he has seen, how can he love God whom he has not seen? And this commandment we have from Him: that he who loves God must love his brother also. (1 John 4:7-8, 11, 20-21)
Often, like Bilbo, we can become so focused on our own personal fortunes (or misfortunes) that they’re pretty much all that concerns us. Likewise, we can become so wrapped up in our own relationship with God that we fail to understand how we fit into His plans for others. We come to believe that we’re so special that, for all intents and purposes, we are God’s plan. Since God loves us so much, and since we’re His beloved children, we can sometimes think nothing is to good for us. In short, our outlook can become downright self-centered. While God wants us to enjoy ourselves and to delight in the ways He blesses us, He knows – and wants us to know – that our greatest joy is found in loving Him then serving Him and others. Only then will we truly live. (Ed Strauss, A Hobbit Devotional)
I believe we get comfortable in our own faith and forget that part of our faith is to love and help one another. To build up and not tear down. To lift up. This is where our world needs to change. Like Elizabeth Cooks says on Outlaw Country: “Be the change!”
“Let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds.” (Hebrews 10:24) God bless and God’s got this!

About Rev. Bud Budzinski

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