When it comes to reading the Bible, we can sometimes be so familiar with the words on the page that we read them, but we don’t really understand them. We see the words and hear the words, but we don’t make any sense out of them. Familiarity can breed laziness, and so many of our misunderstandings about the scriptures happen because we are too familiar with the passage to look at it with fresh eyes. If we would come to the Word of God with fresh eyes more often, we would realize that some of our most common interpretations of Scripture passed down to us don’t make much sense when viewed within the context of the passage. As Christians, we love God, we know that God loves us, & therefore we want to live lives that follow His will & ultimately honor & glorify Him. The question then becomes… how exactly do we do that?The answer is… we live life & God guides us as we live that life! So when the “rubber hits the road” & it comes time to make a major life decision, (college, career, spouse, retirement, etc.) most all of us experience a heightened interest in discovering God’s will, & we do it with intense fervor. We pray for it; We ask others to pray with us & for us,all in hopes that it will become clear what God wants us to do. So again we scour the pages of scripture looking for confirmation that God’s not only got everything under control, but that He also has everything planned out for us… that He has our back… then there it is, in black & white. Jeremiah 29:11 “For surely I know the plans I have for you, says the Lord, plans for your welfare & not for harm, to give you a future with hope.” People have taken this verse & a few others in scripture & drawn the conclusion that “God has a Blueprint for my life.” But does he really have a blueprint? Orisitmoreofagame-plan? BLUEPRINT VS. GAME PLANThe “blueprint” concept about God’s will is a pervasive idea in the church, it’s an idea that often (when things are going good) gives us comfort, but it’s also one that can have dangerous effects on our spiritual life.So the question again is…Does God have a “Blueprint” or “Game Plan?” You may ask, well aren’t they the same? They do sound similar, & they are similar, but yet they are distinctly different! Blueprint = a specific set of instructions that spell everything out in detail. They are so specific that anyone with the ability to read/follow them can build exactly what the architect had in mind– you don’t mess with blueprints, you follow them, in detail, without question. One deviation from the plan = a catastrophe! Game-Plan = a set of guiding principles with flexibility built in so adjustment can be made as life goes along, a plan that shapes us & molds us. This second one (the Game-Plan) is how God typically interacts with His children – that’s not to say that God doesn’t sometimes have a very detailed & specific plan. (i.e. Hosea & Gomer, or read about Israel’s camping instructions at Sinai). Now “Game-Plan” doesn’t equal “do-as-you-please, “all is ok” –let’s not throw the baby out with the bath water! We’re given much freedom of choice/desire in life, but let’s not abuse the privilege. Thus the problem…Besides being a faulty metaphor of how God works, the “blueprint” mentality also wreaks havoc on our spiritual life 1. It makes us question God’s character – His goodness, justice, love, mercy, etc. when “bad” things happen. 2. It paralyzes us with fear – we’re so afraid of making mistakes that we fear action. (The result is often an atrophied faith). 3. It skews our focus – it turns God into a consultant for finding things, rather than a God who guides & transforms. Our task isn’t so much to “find something” but to “become someone” a reflection of God’s image & character no matter when & where we find ourselves! Romans 12:2 – “Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your minds, so that you may discern what is the will of God—what is the good & acceptable & perfect will of God.” Or as the New Living Translation says it, “Don’t copy the behavior & customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think. Then you will learn to know God’s will for you, which is good & pleasing & perfect.” Now back to our key verse… JEREMIAH 29:11 (this time In Context) Actually, it’s not what we think it is, & it doesn’t say what we think it says…We must Stop taking Jeremiah 29:11 out of context! This is a statement that I want to shout from the rooftops!I love its message, most of us do, but we really do some terrible things with this verse by taking it out of context. I’ve done it & so have you! First this verse is not a promise of a blueprint, but rather the promise of a plan, a LONG plan. Look at verse 10 – “For thus says the Lord: Only when Babylon’s seventy years are completed will I visit you, & I will fulfill to you my promise & bring you back to this place.” Then comes Verse 11 – “For surely I know the plans I have for you, says the Lord, plans for your welfare & not for harm, to give you a future with hope.” This verse, quoted to countless individuals who are struggling with discerning God’s will, is not written to individuals at all, the “you” in the text is plural – specifically the nation of Israel. This is unquestionably a far cry from our expectation of this verse, God did have a future & a hope for them, but it would look far different than the Israelites ever expected. FREE WILL VS SOVEREIGNTY Also at play here (& often adding to the “blueprint/game-plan” confusion) is a theological issue concerning the extent of God’s guidance/direction (sovereignty) in our lives. On one hand is the idea that God not only has a plan for us, but that the plan is absolute, down to every action & word, in every situation, is pre-determined by Him. (this is also very Presbyterian in thought & doctrine). Yet, on the other hand is the idea that we as children of God have the freedom, & in some situations (especially regarding salvation) responsibilities to make our own choices. So what is the answer, sovereignty or free will?– Both positions are based on scripture, & yet appear to conflict with one another. So how do we find the answer? It’s a case where proper hermeneutical interpretation & proper exegesis are required – scripture by its very nature is complementary! For example, God has a complete plan for the universe, & nothing happens outside the will & plan of God, & part of that plan is each human’s personal responsibility = Free Will & the Sovereignty of God. God in His sovereign right can give (& has given) us freedom of choice. To say that it has to be one or the other in itself questions the sovereignty of God. One of my New Testament professors used to say “God predestines the plan, not the person” KNOWING GOD’S WILL So if God’s will isn’t so much about “finding something,” but “becoming someone” – how exactly do we do that?Here are basics; Biblical Guidance – Scripture is God’s revelation to us, it must be our first stop on the journey! God will never ask us to do something contrary to His Word, but He demands obedience in the clearly revealed things The Counsel of Others – Especially older, wiser spiritually mature leaders who know us well, these mothers & fathers in the faith who have the life experience & biblical wisdom to see things we may not. Gifts & Abilities – do you have the talents & knowledge necessary to accomplish what’s needed Desire – Is there a burning passion inside of you regarding this task or situation? Opportunity – are there doors being opened (or perhaps closed) that are moving you in a specific direction? We are called to live by God’s “game-plan” …to live by His will;it’s not elusive, though it may take some time & specific circumstances for us to see it clearly. Ephesians 5:17 says: “So do not be foolish, but understand what the will of the Lord is.” God’s game-plan for your life has a three-fold nature: 1. It will bring honor & Glory to God, 2. It will bring transformation to your life, & 3. that transformation will be used to change other lives, & transform entire communities on His behalf! God has a game-plan for your life, one that He is unfolding before you, & nobody else can play it out or live it for you.Trust God to meet your needs,trust the Holy Spirit to lead & empower you, & live the abundant life God has had in mind for you since the beginning of creation!