Friday, May 21, 2021

Fixing What's Wrong

 I'll just put this out there--sometimes the sovereignty of God stinks. Sometimes what happens--what is out of my control, what others plan, purpose or manipulate--is wrong. It ruins everything I've tried to accomplish, months or years of effort, praying and dreaming. I see the wrong behind it and want to change it. "Surely this isn't God's plan!"

Living by faith, however, sits back, reflects, and moves with it. How do I know?

Here is Scripture to help--because I doubt I'm the only one who struggles when this happens.

I know that everything God does will remain forever; there is nothing to add to it and there is nothing to take from it. And God has so worked, that people will fear Him. That which is, is what has already been, and that which will be has already been; and God seeks what has passed by. (Ecclesiastes 3:14-15)

What is crooked cannot be straightened, and what is lacking cannot be counted. (Ecclesiastes 1:15)

Really? Ok. Yes, what God does or doesn't do, but what about what people do? What about their wickedness or wrong choices? I'm just supposed to roll with it?

Look at what happened to Isaac at the end of his life. He was miraculously born to senior citizens. The promised son. The wonder baby. He grew up in a godly family--both of his parents are listed in the hall of faith. Not just one, both. God supernaturally provided a beautiful wife from the home country even though he lived off in the desert. They raised 2 sons and, were, by all accounts, well off.

Then, in the end, one brother betrayed the other. The younger disguised himself, took advantage of his father's frailty and blindness, and received the blessing. How did Isaac respond? Here's the story again:

So he came close and kissed him; and when he smelled the smell of his garments, he blessed him and said,

“See, the smell of my son Is like the smell of a field which the Lord has blessed; Now may God give you of the dew of heaven, And of the fatness of the earth, And an abundance of grain and new wine; May peoples serve you, And nations bow down to you; Be master of your brothers, And may your mother’s sons bow down to you. Cursed be those who curse you, And blessed be those who bless you.”

Now it came about, as soon as Isaac had finished blessing Jacob, and Jacob had hardly gone out from the presence of his father Isaac, that his brother Esau came in from his hunting. Then he also made a delicious meal, and brought it to his father; and he said to his father, “Let my father arise and eat of his son’s game, that you may bless me.” His father Isaac said to him, “Who are you?” And he said, “I am your son, your firstborn, Esau.” Then Isaac trembled violently, and said, “Who then was he who hunted game and brought it to me, so that I ate from all of it before you came, and blessed him? Yes, and he shall be blessed.” When Esau heard the words of his father, he cried out with an exceedingly great and bitter cry, and said to his father, “Bless me, me as well, my father!” And he said, “Your brother came deceitfully and has taken away your blessing.” Then Esau said, “Is he not rightly named Jacob, for he has betrayed me these two times? He took away my birthright, and behold, now he has taken away my blessing.” And he said, “Have you not reserved a blessing for me?” But Isaac replied to Esau, “Behold, I have made him your master, and I have given to him all his relatives as servants; and with grain and new wine I have sustained him. What then can I do for you, my son?” Esau said to his father, “Do you have only one blessing, my father? Bless me, me as well, my father.” So Esau raised his voice and wept.

Then his father Isaac answered and said to him, “Behold, away from the fertility of the earth shall be your dwelling, And away from the dew of heaven from above. And by your sword you shall live, And you shall serve your brother; But it shall come about when you become restless, That you will break his yoke from your neck.” (Genesis 27:27-40)

What a heart-wrenching end to Isaac's life! What a stink! Crook! Deceiver! It doesn't make sense to us. It doesn't seem right. But how does God interpret the situation? This is what the writer of Hebrews pens in relation to Isaac and his faith:

By faith Isaac blessed Jacob and Esau, even regarding things to come. (Hebrews 11:20)

It doesn't say what happened was fair, right or just. The Bible doesn't say that Isaac liked it or agreed. It doesn't share the agony of his soul in blessing the wrong son and giving left-overs to his favorite (and isn't there a lot that can be said to parents--that will remain unsaid for now).

Why and how was this an act of faith? 

All these died in faith, without receiving the promises, but having seen and welcomed them from a distance, and having confessed that they were strangers and exiles on the earth. For those who say such things make it clear that they are seeking a country of their own. And indeed if they had been thinking of that country which they left, they would have had opportunity to return. But as it is, they desire a better country, that is, a heavenly one. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God; for He has prepared a city for them. (Hebrews 11:13-16)

Because it isn't about here and now. Life isn't going to be fair. I'm not going to understand it. I cannot change what God has done, but I can respond in faith, moving forward from here. I can live for that eternal kingdom instead of this earthly one. I can set my heart and mind on what is coming. I don't have to fix what's wrong. I don't have to cover, change or make it right. I simply roll with it and keep my eyes on what is greater, better, higher--Jesus Christ.

Therefore, if you have been raised with Christ, keep seeking the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on the things that are above, not on the things that are on earth. For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. When Christ, who is our life, is revealed, then you also will be revealed with Him in glory. (Colossians 3:1-3)

And, as the writer of Hebrews will conclude:

Therefore, since we also have such a great cloud of witnesses surrounding us, let’s rid ourselves of every obstacle and the sin which so easily entangles us, and let’s run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking only at Jesus, the originator and perfecter of the faith, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.

For consider Him who has endured such hostility by sinners against Himself, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart. (Hebrews 12:1-4)

Wednesday, April 28, 2021

Life Goes On

So life goes on. Our best life today includes spring planting, caring for baby chickens, helping children plan the end of the college year and summer. With or without us, life goes on.

In my chronological read through the Bible (which started in January of 2017), I'm finishing the book of Acts. Honestly, I have so many thoughts and questions--and have stopped to take a closer look at this and that that it's taken a bit longer than anticipated.

As I read back and forth between the book of Acts and the Pauline Epistles, I began wondering who this "we" is that popped up regularly. Of course Luke is referring to himself as he travels with Paul, but there are others as well--people I'd never taken the time to notice. So I backed up the bus and, beginning in Acts 13, created my own catalogue of Paul and company on their missionary travels. I'm wrapping up chapter 28 and have been encouraged by a number of truths:

- Ministry, even individual ministry, includes an ebb and flow of others. It is not wrong or bad for people to come and go, but it is natural. I am only responsible for where I am and who I am with now, today.

- Ministry is a group project. Whether people are praying, giving financially, spreading the Word, coming for healing and grace, or working alongside one another making tents or teaching, we're in it together. God is using each and every individual, sanctifying them in and through their part.

- I can trust God with the unknowns of life. Sometimes Paul was in a place for a short period of time, at other times he was there for months or years. Paul made decisions based on circumstances, what he thought was best, God's intervention, communication from others, the needs of others. He was flexible and willing to do whatever, whenever. One thing that did not motivate Paul's plans was fear. Safety. Yes. Fear? No.

- When God wants you to go somewhere or do something (like Rome), nothing can interfere--not a 2 week storm on the sea, or other's intentions to kill you, or shipwreck, or a poisonous snake bite. Even if it's a hard, life-threatening situation, God's provision in and through the difficulties is encouragement to persevere. So I can look for His guidance in the hard times--and not be discouraged. 

Those are just a few takeaways before I head up to sort and clean my mother-in-law's empty apartment. I'm so thankful for the richness and truth in God's Word. Perhaps you, too, will be encouraged as you run the race God has put before you.

Friday, February 26, 2021

Live Your Best Life

We have a saying at our house--"Live your best life." Maybe you say it, too.

My mother-in-law, who has lived with us a number of years, was recently admitted to hospice. Struggles in the last couple of weeks have resulted in confusion and a disconnect between her body and mind. As she turns for help, we've started to say, "Mom, next you're going to do (whatever) and live your best life." There is comfort and hope in knowing that today I can experience God's best.

What does it mean to "live my best life?" It means 

- I will take life as it comes. There are a lot of people and situations I can't control. That's okay. I can trust God to bring what He will and see me through. He sees and knows each one and He is with me.

- I will ask for God's help in each and every moment. Whether it's a breakfast choice, completing the laundry, or loving others, I will ask God for help realizing I can't do it on my own--and I don't want to.

- By God's grace, I will make wise, God-dependent choices in those things that are my responsibility. Each day has a multitude of decisions. Am I putting God first--acknowledging Him in all my ways? Am I loving others in thought, speech and conduct?

- I trust that God will provide and reward. He is the Giver of every good gift (James 1:17). Others may seek to harm me, but God has a bigger, better plan (Genesis 50:20, Jeremiah 29:11). I choose to believe God has "my best life" in mind, too.

- I will be grateful. Knowing I need God's help, asking for His help, and trusting His goodness will help me see Him throughout the day. 

- Finally, living my best life today means recognizing that I will blow it. I will sin against God and others. Confessing my sin and asking forgiveness is the reality of life on earth. 

May each of us, in the little and big moments of today, live our best life--to the glory of God.

Lord, You have been our dwelling place in all generations.
 Before the mountains were born
Or You gave birth to the earth and the world,
Even from everlasting to everlasting, You are God.

 You turn mortals back into dust
And say, “Return, you sons of mankind.”
 For a thousand years in Your sight
Are like yesterday when it passes by,
Or like a watch in the night.

You have swept them away like a flood, they fall asleep;

In the morning they are like grass that sprouts anew.
 In the morning it flourishes and sprouts anew;
Toward evening it wilts and withers away.

For we have been consumed by Your anger,

And we have been terrified by Your wrath.
 You have placed our guilty deeds before You,
Our hidden sins in the light of Your presence.
 For all our days have dwindled away in Your fury;
We have finished our years like a sigh.
 As for the days of our life, they contain seventy years,
Or if due to strength, eighty years,
Yet their pride is only trouble and tragedy;
For it quickly passes, and we disappear.
 Who understands the power of Your anger
And Your fury, according to the fear that is due You?
 So teach us to number our days,
That we may present to You a heart of wisdom.

 Do return, Lord; how long will it be?
And be sorry for Your servants.
 Satisfy us in the morning with Your graciousness,
That we may sing for joy and rejoice all our days.

Make us glad according to the days You have afflicted us,

And the years we have seen evil.
 Let Your work appear to Your servants
And Your majesty to their children.
 May the kindness of the Lord our God be upon us;
And confirm for us the work of our hands;
Yes, confirm the work of our hands. (Psalm 90 NASB)