A Different Plan

by Shadia Hrichi

There is perhaps no mom more famous than Mary, the mother of Jesus. Though Jesus’s conception was unlike any other, like all moms, Mary most certainly had hopes and dreams for her child. What he would be like; how he would make a difference in the world.

But God’s plans likely were very different that Jesus’ mother.

God also had plans for Mary’s child. A plan that was in place from eternity past. Her child would suffer and die for the sins of the world.

Just as Jesus had a purpose that only He could fulfill, so did Mary … and so do you. In fact, God has a plan for every child He creates, and many times those plans look different than what we expected.

The reality is that even before a child is conceived in her mother’s womb, she is first conceived in the very heart of God.

When the call of God came to the prophet Jeremiah, the first words God spoke to him were a reminder that God was His Creator. “Before I formed you in the womb, I knew you.” (Jeremiah 1:5) What an amazing truth! God knows each of us before we are even conceived. Every heartbeat is a testimony to God’s love.

However, for some, the news of a pregnancy is not always welcome. Rather than experiencing joy and celebration, some may find themselves full of fear and questions.

When I discovered I was pregnant at the age of 15, fear led me to make a tragic choice. For years, I suffered the fallout: more poor choices, suicidal thoughts, drug and alcohol abuse, and so much more. But then one day God opened my eyes to His great love and forgiveness.

God knows every soul suffering under the weight of tragic choices, yet His grace to forgive is greater still. “. . .though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they are red like crimson, they shall become like wool.” (Isaiah 1:18 ESV)

In fact, this is why Jesus came. Leaving His heavenly home to enter our world, Jesus didn’t take any shortcuts. He didn’t arrive as a grown man, but was conceived in a virgin’s womb, experiencing all the wonders of life as you and I know it. Roughly thirty years later, He fulfilled the mission planned before the beginning of time: to give His life as a ransom for our sins (Matthew 20:28).

And in doing so, He opened up the way for each of us to become all that God intended us to be! What a gift!

“Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! According to his great mercy, he has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead . . .” (1 Peter 1:3 ESV)

“For we are God’s masterpiece. He has created us anew in Christ Jesus, so we can do the good things he planned for us long ago.” (Ephesians 2:10 NLT)

If you or someone you know has lost a child to abortion, there is hope. My Bible study, Worthy of Love: A Journey of Hope and Healing After Abortion, has ministered to countless women (and tugged on the hearts of quite a few men as well). We all know someone who needs hope.

This article is brought to you by the Advanced Writers and Speakers Association (AWSA).

About the author: Shadia Hrichi is a passionate Bible Teacher who loves seeing lives transformed by the power of God’s Word. In addition to numerous articles, Shadia is the author of various Bible studies, including her latest study, TAMAR: Rediscovering the God Who Redeems Me, as well as LEGION: Rediscovering the God Who Rescues MeHAGAR: Rediscovering the God Who Sees Meand Worthy of Love: A Journey of Hope and Healing After Abortion. Shadia holds an MA in Biblical and Theological Studies, as well as an MA in Criminal Justice. Currently residing in northern California, Shadia regularly speaks at churches and women’s events and loves to visit the ocean each week for ”a date with Jesus.” Visit www.shadiahrichi.com

Join the conversation: How were God’s plans different than what you dreamed of for yourself?

Created for a Purpose

by Shadia Hrichi

Happy Mother’s Day! There is perhaps no mom more famous than Mary, the mother of Jesus. Though Jesus’s conception was unlike any other, like all moms, Mary had hopes and dreams for her child. What he would be like; how he would make a difference in the world.

But what happens when God has a different plan?

God also had a dream for Mary’s child. A dream that was planned from eternity past. That her child would be the promised Savior who would take away the sins of the world. And just as Jesus had a purpose that only He could fulfill, so did Mary. In fact, God has a dream for every child He creates, and sometimes that dream looks different than what we expected.

The reality is that even before a child is conceived in her mother’s womb, she is first conceived in the very heart of God.

When the call of God came to the prophet Jeremiah, the first words God spoke to him were a reminder that God is His Creator. “Before I formed you in the womb I knew you” (Jeremiah 1:5 ESV). What an amazing truth! God knows each of us, before we are even conceived. Every heartbeat is a testimony to God’s love.

However, for some, the news of a pregnancy is not always welcome. Rather than experiencing joy and celebration, some may find themselves full of fear and questions. When I discovered I was pregnant at the age of 15, fear led me to make a tragic choice. For years, I suffered the fallout: more poor choices, suicidal thoughts, drug and alcohol abuse, and so much more. But then one day God opened my eyes to His great love and forgiveness.

God knows every soul suffering under the weight of tragic choices, yet His grace to forgive is greater still. “. . .though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they are red like crimson, they shall become like wool” (Isaiah 1:18 ESV).

In fact, this is why Jesus came. Leaving His heavenly home to enter our world, Jesus didn’t take any shortcuts. He didn’t arrive as a grown man, but was conceived in a virgin’s womb, experiencing all the wonders of life as you and I know it. Roughly thirty years later, He fulfilled the mission planned before the beginning of time: to give His life as a ransom for our sins (Matthew 20:28).

And in doing so, He opened up the way for each of us to become all that God intended us to be! What a gift!

“Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! According to his great mercy, he has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead . . .” (1 Peter 1:3 ESV)

“For we are God’s masterpiece. He has created us anew in Christ Jesus, so we can do the good things he planned for us long ago.” (Ephesians 2:10 NLT)

If you or someone you know has lost a child to abortion, there is hope. My Bible study, Worthy of Love: A Journey of Hope and Healing After Abortion, has ministered to countless women (and tugged on the hearts of quite a few men as well). We all know someone who needs hope.

This article is brought to you by the Advanced Writers and Speakers Association (AWSA).

About the author: Shadia Hrichi is a passionate Bible Teacher who loves seeing lives transformed by the power of God’s Word. In addition to numerous articles, Shadia is the author of various Bible studies, including her latest study, TAMAR: Rediscovering the God Who Redeems Me, as well as LEGION: Rediscovering the God Who Rescues MeHAGAR: Rediscovering the God Who Sees Meand Worthy of Love: A Journey of Hope and Healing After Abortion. Shadia holds an MA in Biblical and Theological Studies, as well as an MA in Criminal Justice. Currently residing in northern California, Shadia regularly speaks at churches and women’s events and loves to visit the ocean each week for ”a date with Jesus.” Visit www.shadiahrichi.com

Join the conversation: Do you have a vision of God’s purpose for you?

Living as a Genuine Article or Cheap Knock-Off

by Deb DeArmond @DebDeArmond

I’ve just returned from a fabulous conference. It was a week filled with new ideas, new resources, great speakers, and a fresh infusion of “I can do this!” I brought home a long list of goals requiring my immediate attention.

That’s a lot of pressure. I do believe career boosting greatness and incredible results are possible—if I can just find the time and energy.

“Someone busier than you is making it happen!” This quote is a frantic reminder I’m falling behind on my to-do list; someone is beating me to it! As though it (whatever it may be) is in limited supply and only the first 25 on-the-ball doers can snatch the prize. But that’s just not true.

That pressure is magnified by Facebook. You’ve seen the posts: “I signed up for three online courses guaranteed to advance my career. That promotion is locked in!” Or “I did XXX at the gym today. Totally pumped!” I’m so far out of the gym loop, I don’t even know what the XXX would be.

Please don’t misunderstand. I believe progress toward goals is worth the time, and when you move forward, you deserve to celebrate. I’m a to-do list girl. I love checking off the boxes. But are they the right boxes?

Interestingly, I discovered earlier this year there’s “National Be on Purpose Month.” I don’t think there’s a parade or a pageant, but it’s a thing. Please note the wording in the official title: “be” not “do.”

Why is that significant? Because as His children, who God called us to be is more important than anything we could ever do without clarity on that single point.

Who has He called you to be? It’s about identity. We hear a lot about it these days, but what is it? A definition from Merriam Webster is helpful: “The qualities, beliefs, etc., that make a particular person or group differ from others.”

Identity theft is common these days, and I’m not talking about someone hijacking your debit card PIN. The Fallen One is all about stealing what the Lord has given us. (John 10:10) If he can talk us out of who God designed us to be, we may adopt an identity and work to reinvent ourselves. And often, we do it in imitation of someone we admire. So instead of living as the genuine article— the one and only you—we become a cheap knock off of someone else.

Author Ken Boa is on target: “Scripture clearly teaches that we were never meant to be autonomous individuals who make our own way in this world apart from God. We cannot even know ourselves without knowing the One through whom and for whom we were created.”

God’s imprint for us is unique. He knew us before He formed us in our mother’s womb and set us apart (Jeremiah 1:5). And trying to reinvent ourselves outside of what He has designed us to be can be markedly dissatisfying. Even when we have achieved the success and accolades we’ve worked so hard for, we’re often left feeling surprised at the emptiness we experience at the finish line. Authentic identity is powerful, releasing freedom that can’t be duplicated.

We need to protect ourselves against identity theft. God created, designed, and fashioned each of us, calling us on purpose for a (particular) purpose. I struggle less with this now than ever before, but it’s still a daily vigil. And Holy Spirit is invited to tap on my heart when I stray. I keep Him busy some days.

Are you becoming His genuine article? Or are you busy doing good things?

“For we are God’s [own] handiwork (His workmanship), created in Christ Jesus, [born anew] that we may do those good works which God predestined (planned beforehand) for us [taking paths which He prepared ahead of time], that we should walk in them [living the good life which He prearranged and made ready for us to live].” Ephesians 2:10 (AMP)

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DeArmond-29 copyAbout the authorDeb DeArmond is an expert in the fields of communication, relationship, and conflict resolution. A writer and professional speaker, Deb addresses topics related to the family and women. Her books include: Related by Chance, Family by ChoiceI Choose You Today: 31 Choices to Make Love Last and Don’t Go to Bed Angry. Stay Up and Fight! Deb’s books help readers, whether engaged, newlywed, or long-time married, create the life God meant marriage and family to be. You can read more from Deb at Family Matters/Deb.

Join the conversation: Have you strayed from the you God created you to be?