Wednesday, September 30, 2009
Last night I couldn't sleep.
You see I'm teaching a Bible Study on Friday morning, and I have to figure out how to bring the lesson to my students in a way that it matters. That's the question we should all be asking every time we look at the word.
For instance, I'm reading in Exodus. And I read these kinds of stories, one after another. God leads his people from Egypt through the wilderness to the promise land, not the easy way, not the direct route, but the long way. Then, when Egyptian enemies come chasing after them, God miraculously drowns the bad guys. But just two chapters later, when the Amalakites come after them, these poor guys find themselves on a battle field for the first time in their collective memory. They have to beat them the old fashioned way. The hard way. (though yes, God helps them)
So I find myself trying to make sense of God's work with his people. Is He a long-way God? Is he occasionally miraculous? Does he want us to work for our own victories -- sometimes? Confusing isn't it?
And here is my breathtakingly brilliant conclusion:
God is incomprehensible.
We don't understand what He is doing. His ways are beyond us. His thoughts are deeper, truer, wiser than ours.
But in the midst of our confusion, we do know one thing. God is NOT random. While WE may not always know WHY he does what he does, we know that HE DOES KNOW.
In the crazy examples above, each one comes with an explanation. They went the long way because God thought the direct way would bring them to a battle they weren't prepared to win (the Philistines). He led them through the Red Sea, because God wanted the people to fear the LORD and to put their faith in Him and his servant Moses (verse 14:31) and they fought the Amalakites because God wanted to demonstrate his opposition to those who "raise their fist against the LORD's throne."
He had his reasons.
So what? Well, it pertains to the Sunday School word we use all the time when we describe God. We call him incomprehensible. Beyond our understanding. Yes. But God understands. He has reasons. Plans. Purposes. They are beyond us, yes. But not beyond Him.
He reasons. He plans. He works. He acts. He responds. We don't always understand it. But we don't have to.
When we know God's character, we can rest in his HEART for us and trust that his reasons, plans and purposes are good. Like He is.
That's faith, isn't it?
Monday, September 28, 2009
I have a friend who bugs me regularly about how rarely I blog. I tell her, it would be easier if someone wrote back to me. As it is, I often feel as if I'm writing to myself!
So hey, are you out there?
I spent the last two weeks getting ready to help my son move to Loma Linda, California. I've painted his room, gone through the stuff stored there, moved some to the basement, taken some to the Goodwill and had the Salvation Army truck come by. I found mice tracks in my pantry (yuck!), and put new shelves in the basement. What a busy end of summer! Last week, we drove to California together and set up his apartment.
But the Word of God draws me in. I'm reading Exodus again, and I've caught something I never noticed before. It happens at the part where Moses leads the folks out of Egypt and they end up camped against the Red Sea; then the Egyptian army comes after them. Picture this. As the sun sets, they set up camp. On one side is the sea. The Jews pitch their tents, get ready to cook their dinner, and find the kids. Then someone shouts. Fingers point. Screams come from the outer rim of the camp.
The Egyptians are coming.
Terror starts to spread. Panic runs through the camp. Then suddenly, the "angel of God, who had been leading the people of Israel, moved to a position behind them and the pillar of cloud also moved around behind. The pillar of cloud settled between the Israelite and Egyptian camps." (Exodus 12:19) God steps in to protect them from the enemy.
Then, as most of us know, the Israelites cross the Red Sea on dry ground.
But have you ever noticed that they cross at NIGHT?
They do. Check it out.
"So as the sun began to rise, Moses raised his hand over the sea. The water roared back into its usual lace, and the LORD swept the terrified Egyptians into the surging currents."
The Jews were over the sea and onto dry ground BEFORE the sun rose.
They crossed at night.
Important? Maybe not. But it seems to me that many times, God does his most miraculous work when things are darkest. And as God worked, (stacking up the water) he asked his people to walk through the provision he made for them. In the dark.
How many times have you walked through a dark place on dry ground?
Has he healed your marriage? Blessed you with a new attitude? Healed your body? Brought you through grief? Has he given you a new job? Taught you how to manage your money? Given you confidence, even in the face of a tough economy?
God is so different from the world where we live. In modern movies, the worst always happens at night.
But in God's stories, He always shows up when things look darkest! When the sun goes down, look for God. He is behind you, protecting you, working on your behalf. When he opens up the way, walk in it.
God shows up in the dark!
Sunday, September 13, 2009
I've just finished Matthew again, and once again, I found something I've not seen before.
Look for yourself. Matthew 28:17
"When they saw him, they worshiped him -- but some of them doubted."
After Jesus death, the eleven disciples went to Galilee, (just as Jesus had instructed them through the women who had visited the empty tomb). There, they saw Him, the risen Lord, exactly as He planned.
But some of them doubted.
Can you believe it? These guys had hung out for at least three years together. They'd eaten and slept and ministered together day in and day out. If anyone should have recognized the risen Lord, it should have been these guys. After all, these guys were the inner circle.
And after his death, they trot off to Galilee, where they see the risen Christ, in person. And some of them -- doubted?
What is that about?
I don't know exactly. But I do have some thoughts. For one, isn't it interesting that Matthew could have left this detail out? It would have made more sense (if he were writing propaganda, anyway) to leave it out. Wouldn't you? If you were writing simply to convince someone of a false story, wouldn't you tell them that "everyone believed?"
But Matthew doesn't sacrifice accuracy for the sake of believability. I think that small detail tells us that he must have had a commitment to truth, and thus, we can conclude that he has told the WHOLE truth to the best of his ability. Matthew told us even the difficult details.
Secondly, I think it tells us something about human nature. How many times have we thought, "If only I'd have walked with Jesus, this whole faith thing would be so easy. I wouldn't struggle with doubt."
Doubt is part of our walk. Not because we believe in something false, or because we are stupid and foolish, but because we believe in something that is completely impossible. What kind of idiot believes that a dead man can be raised? It's impossible.
We have to acknowledge that simple fact. It IS ABSOLUTELY impossible.
But with God, impossible things are quite possible.
And sometimes, even in the face of those quite impossible things, we may pinch ourselves, thinking, "Can this be true?"
It isn't always easy to believe. But of course, if it were easy, it wouldn't take faith.
The take away? When you doubt, don't beat yourself up; remember the eleven. They struggled with doubt. You are in very good company. But do remember this:
Jesus said in John chapter 20:29,
"You believe because you have seen me. Blessed are those who haven't seen me and believe anyway."
Be blessed and believe.