The Milestone That Wasn’t

In Genesis 27, we read about a milestone that should have been, but wasn’t.

Imagine what Esau looked forward to the day his dying father told him to get ready to receive the blessing. Esau, Isaac’s older son, had been expecting to receive this blessing from his father for his whole life. It was an important milestone in an oldest sons’ life.

The blessing would signify his stature, outline his inheritance, and seal his glorious future before the Lord. While Esau was preparing for the big moment, his brother Jacob tricked Isaac and took the blessing, robbing Esau. The oldest son’s long awaited milestone never came to pass. 

The younger son likewise prepared for a milestone that didn’t come as expected. He fell in love with a woman named Rachel. For seven years he worked for her father in order to marry her. On his wedding day, Jacob was tricked into marrying Leah instead. His long-awaited wedding was a time of deceit and disappointment.

Can you imagine the milestones Job was awaiting when suddenly his life was plagued, torn apart, and brought to a place of misery? Or the disappoint of Ruth, as she got married, looking forward to years of love and many children, only to lose her husband and end up in a strange land caring for her mother in law in poverty?

Mary prepared herself for Godly marriage only to discover God’s plans actually involved being pregnant out of worldly wedlock.

Paul is a great example, too. He was a zealous Jew, well-known for his “great” work persecuting Christians. Surely he looked forward to a life of upstanding religious reputation and power. Then, he was struck blind on a road, transformed by Jesus Christ, and joined the ranks of the persecuted.

he-will-not-grow-tired-or-wearyand-his-understanding-no-one-can-fathom-he-gives-strength-to-the-wearyand-increases-the-power-of-the-weak

The Bible holds no shortage of examples of people whose expected and desired “milestone moments” weren’t what they hoped for.

Who among us hasn’t also had grand plans and dreams that haven’t come true or weren’t what we expected? There are plenty of milestones we look forward to that never happen. Or, that occur, but are tainted by sin or are altogether not what we anticipated.

We struggle with dreams as Christians. Often we struggle because we put our hope, oh so humanly, in things, ideas, and plans instead of in the Lord. Surely He knows His plans for us, and His plans are for our good and His glory.

Disappointment comes when what we expected isn’t found or isn’t what we thought. But our strength is renewed when we look to our true hope –our Lord.

“Why do you say, Israel,
“My way is hidden from the Lord;
my cause is disregarded by my God”?

Do you not know?
Have you not heard?
The Lord is the everlasting God,
the Creator of the ends of the earth.
He will not grow tired or weary,
and his understanding no one can fathom.
He gives strength to the weary
and increases the power of the weak.
Even youths grow tired and weary,
and young men stumble and fall;
but those who hope in the Lord
will renew their strength. –Isaiah 40:27-31

Looking back at Biblical examples of expected milestones dashed to bits, we see how God lines the walk of faith with unmet milestones.

God had plans for each of the people mentioned- and His plans turned disappointment into God-appointments.

We have the same privilege of witnessing God working in our disappointments today.

{This post was originally published on My Faith Radio}

This post may also be shared on: #MomentsofHope #TestimonyTuesday, #RaRaLinkup, #TellHisStory, #Thought-Provoking Thursday, #Heart Ecnouragement, #DanceWithJesus, #LLMLinkup, Faith-Filled Friday, Sitting Among Friends, and #SoulSurvivalLinkup.

Deja Vu and Milestone Moments

You’re sitting on the side of the road in your car. It’s just broken down. As you sit and wait for the tow, you think of all the mess of your life of late. The list of complaints is probably long.

Then you remember the last time your car broke down. It almost feels like Deja-vu, as the same worries and fears flood your mind again. The stress subsides quickly however; you recall how God provided last time. You wake up to His presence.

Taking a step back, you praise the Lord for a reminder of His faithfulness. It’s amazing how He uses even unfortunate circumstances to point us (over and over!) to Himself.

We all have moments like this. Our Lord uses parallel circumstances to remind us of His character and to reinforce His work in us. “Deja-vu” moments can be spiritual milestones marking God-defining moments.

Two Biblical examples of such milestones come to mind.

1. David, the Chased


Shortly after encountering David early in 1 Samuel, we learn that he had to flee from the king he served. King Saul, fearful of David’s popularity and might, was intent on killing him. So began David’s ministry as a public figure elected by God. A number of Psalms outline David’s learning to rely on the Lord for his deliverance and future, though enemies persecuted him (See Psalms 7, 27, and 53 for example).

Eventually, David became king. He was referred to as “the man after God’s own heart”. His reign was marked by extreme prosperity and rampant popularity. Over time, David committed prideful, bold sin. His family found itself in turmoil in more than one circumstance.

Then, David was chased again. His own son, Absalom, had decided he would take the throne and kill David to gain rule over the kingdom.

On the run again, David was reminded of the difficulty of being personally persecuted and betrayed. In the parallel circumstance, God reinforced David’s need for reliance on God and God’s own reliability.

Psalm 3:3 highlights David’s choice to again trust in the Lord in his difficulty: “But you, Lord, are a shield around me, my glory, the One who lifts my head high.”

2. Peter, The Fisher of Men


When Peter became a disciple of Jesus, he was a fisherman out on a boat, having poor luck. He obeyed Jesus’ strange command to let down the net on the other side of the boat. Catching an abundance immediately, Peter was amazed. He committed to following Jesus. Christ told Peter he would make him a “fisher of men” (Mark 1:17).

From then on, Peter was a disciple. He was zealous, even to a fault. Come Jesus’ shocking arrest, however, Peter did the very thing he swore he’d never do: he denied his Lord and Savior -three times! Ashamed, Peter continued to seek God in his failure. He was around to discover that Jesus was raised from the dead, for example.

One day after the resurrection, Peter had Deja-vu. Out fishing and having poor luck, a man showed up on shore. The man suggested exactly what Jesus had those years before: try the other side. Up came a ton of fish. John recognized what was happening, and as soon as he told Peter, the ever-excited disciple ran to Jesus (John 21.)

It was then that Jesus reinforced Peter’s calling, even charging Peter with being a shepherd for His human-flock.


For both these men, God used a “Deja-vu,” or parallel, experience, to reinforce truth about His own character and His work in their hearts.

As we encounter situations and circumstances, like sitting on the side of the road when our car breaks down (again,) we might find that God is reminding us that “the Lord plans our steps” (Proverbs 16:9).

We sometimes find ourselves “back” in moments that have proven to be significant in our spiritual development.

When there, we are blessed to remember who it is that guides us, and how surely He is at work in this world, regardless of all that tries to distract us from His glorious presence.

{This post was originally published on My Faith Radio}

This post may also be shared on: #MomentsofHope #TestimonyTuesday, #RaRaLinkup, #TellHisStory, #Thought-Provoking Thursday, #Heart Ecnouragement, #DanceWithJesus, #LLMLinkup, Faith-Filled Friday, Sitting Among Friends, and #SoulSurvivalLinkup.

HE is More Than [Fill In the Blank]

Photo from: Piaxbay

We need to “love the Lord, not just the idea of the Lord” said my dear friend (SkillzUSA).

AKA: Don’t reduce God to some idea you have about Him and miss out on His whole person as a result.

Our ideas tend to address issues in reactionary ways, focusing on what isn’t and instead of what is. We come up with ideas to solve whatever’s bugging us. Ideas are tools. They are created, manipulated, and guided by the things we face. Ideas are dependent on people, and they revolve around people. They aren’t about what is, they are about what can be (and are usually in our favor).

More than that, ideas aren’t alive. They don’t interact with us. Ideas have no will apart from ours, no abilities that we haven’t fathomed.

When God is diminished to an idea -like a method for comfort when someone dies- we act as if God’s character depends on us. And what we want. And what we’re dealing with. We never get to what matters, we never open ourselves to a Lord that can surprise us and reach us even when we’ve forgotten He exists.

He is I AM. Done. Boom. From before time began. He is a living being who is more than anything you can fill in the blank with. Good news!

God doesn’t depend on you or I. He isn’t an idea. All those cautionary words and metaphors pointing out that God “isn’t just…” are pointing towards a complete truth that confronts the nature of man and brings us into a redemptive relationship with the one who IS.

In our attempts to be like God, we reduce God to something we feel we can control, alter, and direct. Just as in the garden the first people were tempted to become like God…by reducing God into something attainable, someone who can merely recognize good and evil.

The Lord, however, DEFINES good and evil. We can’t do that.

The Lord knows this is our tendency. He knows that we’d like Him to be an idea rather than active and outside of our control.

He protects us from a resulting sin, saying Exodus 20:4-5 the second commandment: “You shall not make for yourself an image in the form of anything in heaven above or on the earth beneath or in the waters below. You shall not bow down to them or worship them; for I, the Lord your God, am a jealous God…

When my friend differentiated between enjoying the idea of God (and our ideas about Him) rather than loving Him as He is, a question came to mind:

What ideas do we have about the Lord that we hold in higher esteem than the person of Christ?

Which ideas about the Lord do we use to justify our sins?

Is it the idea that He’ll always be there that we cherish more than His presence right now? What about instances in which the idea that He is so loving causes discipline and hardship to challenge our belief in His love?

What ideas do we have about God that our circumstances can shake? Those ideas aren’t who He is. Because He is more than (Yes. Whatever idea you come up with).

You Were Right!…Or Were You?

Photo from: pixabay

3 words everybody loves to hear: “you were right.”

We like to be right. Many of us try to do the right thing. In fact, our desire to be “right” is so strong and deep that we have opened its meaning up to include ideas like:

  • Do whatever feels right
  • Do whatever seems right
  • Do what is right for me might be wrong for you
  • Do the right kind of wrong

So warped is our idea of righteousness (the word which “right” is the root of) that we can live blissfully ignorant that our idea of right is absolutely wrong. This isn’t just a secular issue eluding functional logic and philosophy.

In our Christian circles, we’ve become deadset on “right” and “wrong.”

Churches divide over “right” and “wrong” decisions, big and small. Marriages end when one person is right and the other wrong. We examine Scripture to determine what we feel is right. In prayer, we sense what is “right” in our hearts. As we listen to and encourage our spouses and loved ones, we make determinations about what is “right” and push for it.

For many of us, pursuing righteousness encroaches on sin. We try to be right in order to:

  • Assuage our fears
  • Earn a good name
  • Prove ourselves trustworthy
  • Make ourselves wise
  • Build up our pride
  • Guide others
  • Get to where we want to be

In all of these things, the goal of being right is ultimately about us. Ourselves, our loved ones, our futures. But righteousness only exists in relation to God. There is no such thing as truly being “right” apart from Him.

Psalm 16:2 tells us that “You are my Lord; apart from you I have no good thing.”

When we separate being right from pleasing God, we diminish the purpose of being right in the first place. We place our goals in the sin of self and this world instead of glorifying Him. As a result, being “right” is no longer a good thing –or a righteous thing.

Instead of seeing righteous as a part of following and glorifying the Lord, our twisted concept of righteousness is reward-based.

We “save ourselves for marriage” because it’s right…because it leads to healthier relationship and whatever other reasoning we’ve been told. We submit to our husbands because it’s right…because of the benefits and the way it makes him feel. We serve others on missions trips because it’s right…AND because we’ve heard so many times that when it’s over, WE are the ones blessed.

It’s not wrong to receive blessings from the Lord, even as rewards. All good gifts do come from God.

But sometimes our idea of being “right” is a lot like the idea of the kid who shapes up right before Christmas so that Santa will think he is “good.” That’s not righteousness.

Hear and recall the words of Romans 3:

“This RIGHTEOUSNESS is given through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe.

There is no difference between Jew and Gentile, for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God…

and all are JUSTIFIED FREELY by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus.”

Righteousness is all about our standing with God. It has nothing to do with works, but rather the position of the heart. Regarding our eternal relationship with God, we are saved. Sealed. Guaranteed because of the grace of Christ.

In regards to our relationship with the Lord right now on earth, we are to be:

filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ–to the glory and praise of God” (Philippians 1:11.)

When we want to be right or try to be or do right, we must stop to remember why it matters at all.

Remember that being right is all about the glory and the praise of God. Is an eternity of close relationship with Him, praising Him, not our reward in heaven? Let it be our reward on earth, too. Be right by Him, and righteousness won’t be  so selfish after all. 

This post is being shared on: #Thought-Provoking Thursday #Faith-Filled Friday, and #DanceWithJesus.

Thoughts on Being Profound

I’ve almost written this post three times. Ironically, I chicken out when I find that it just doesn’t sound…sufficient, impressive, eloquent, or relevant. I even deleted my notes. But I think it is an important concept to consider in light of the truth of the Lord, so I’m going to try.

 

People don’t seem to like to be considered shallow. We don’t really enjoy thinking of ourselves as valuing unimportant things, or wasting our time on trivial tasks. Feelings of emptiness, of doubt, or of meaninglessness creep in enough as it is. We find we don’t need to validate these feelings by doing things that seem mundane or sound.

So, we push and dig to get to the very depths of our souls and burrow into the trenches of relationship with Christ. We push and dig through conversations trying to find purpose in them. In the things that we do, we seek out meaning and justification. And to make these things more secure in our souls, we seek recognition of our purposes and depth. Our lives, as we then live them, are made to be one of two things: meaningless or profound.

But we miss the point. To live meekly in Christ is incredibly difficult because we have to give up dreams and expectations of spiritual grandeur, like being known for how righteous we are. We have to live like Christ lived, with our eyes ever fixed on God and not on the steps we think we must take to “get to Him.”

As Oswald Chambers pointed out in his November 22nd “My Utmost for His Highest” devotion, Jesus came to us as a baby. A baby! He lived as a carpenter’s son. He traveled and ate and drank with companions like other people did. The miracles and signs he performed he often followed with a request of secrecy (“go and tell no one” -Luke 8, Matthew 16, Mark 9, etc.) When he died, it was between two criminals who suffered crucifixion as well.  Then, when He rose again, Jesus didn’t run around telling all the haters how wrong they were and striking them dead in vengeance. He went to those He loved and spent His days among them, teaching them truth.

Christ’s life was not rich, it was not attractive, he was hated by many, and he had all the needs we did….that’s how He was fully man and able to tempted as we are tempted.

What was different, then? What made His life profound and eternally significant when he never made a big deal out of Himself? What kept Him from being shallow when He lived so simply?

That Jesus was the Lord. That Jesus humbly obeyed, even in what He ate and drank and who He spent time with. Nothing human about life on earth was below the Lord. And the only “thing” above Him was the Father.

Consider Matthew 6. Notice the number of instances in which Christ reminds us not to do things in the sight of this world for the rewards of this world. Being profound and earning a reputation of depth, when done to appease a sense of meaninglessness in ourselves -as is the case when we seek to find purpose in how others see us- is seeking wrongly.

While usually the verse is quoted about worrying, I think perhaps Christ said it in relation to the rest of what He was saying, especially in Matthew 6, not just worrying….

“For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.”

-Matthew 6:32+33

It’s a simple point. It isn’t deep or incredibly shocking or profound or anything new and cool. We must fix our eyes on the Lord and seek Him only….and that includes not seeking meaning and purpose and depth to appease that which only He can fill.

 

The Blessing of Endurance

Photo from: (www.redletterchristians.org)

Isn’t it interesting that we tend to count our blessings most when “bad” things happen?

It is after a major accident that we are glad to be alive, or post loss that we are grateful for those who truly love us. It seems that we need disruptions to remind us that life isn’t actually in our control and that there is something more important “out there”.

Yet the faster we get over things, the sooner we forget these pseudo-lessons. Reminders seem fleeting and unable to impact us in a way that changes something in our hearts.

This, the Bible suggests, is the blessing of endurance. Troubles and suffering that endure teach us, rather than remind us, to rely on our Lord and to look on our lives in light of Him. We are to glory in our sufferings, God says in Romans 5:

” And we boast in the hope of the glory of God. Not only so, but we also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us.”


If God chooses to, He can heal the sick, prevent accidents, and delay the time of death. There are certainly times that He has. We often find that this is what we pray for. Or, if not such extreme miracles, we pray that recovery is speedy or that joy come quickly. Why do we fear suffering, tribulation, and uncomfortable emotions? Surely no one needs to desire or wish for trouble, but when it comes, as it did for Jesus, we are to trust in God’s will. And He produces much in our hearts in our times of need.

Consider what Psalm 105:19 says about God’s work in the suffering of Joseph (who was sold into slavery and thrown into jail for no sin of his own!):

“Until the time came to fulfill his dreams, the LORD tested Joseph’s character.”


In Psalm 73, we are given an example of one who begins to slip from righteousness because He focuses on how wicked people seem to have no trouble at all. The writer begins to look around and grow envious of how happy others earthly lives. Meanwhile, his own Godly life is one of affliction. He comes to this conclusion in verses 20-28:

“They are like a dream when one awakes;

when you arise, Lord,

you will despise them as fantasies.

When my heart was grieved

and my spirit embittered,

I was senseless and ignorant;

I was a brute beast before you.

Yet I am always with you;

you hold me by my right hand.

You guide me with your counsel,

and afterward you will take me into glory.

Whom have I in heaven but you?

And earth has nothing I desire besides you.

My flesh and my heart may fail,

but God is the strength of my heart

and my portion forever.

Those who are far from you will perish;

you destroy all who are unfaithful to you.

But as for me, it is good to be near God.

I have made the Sovereign Lord my refuge;

I will tell of all your deeds.”

Sometimes life is a lot to endure when we look around and see how other’s lives seem to go. Particularly when we suffer. Yet our endurance, when rooted in the Lord, can be a blessing.

The “end goal” of our lives as Christians is that we are near to our God. Joy is not the goal. Prosperity is not the goal. These might be a means to our end goal, but we must realize that suffering can also be a means.

It is good for us to be near our God. He is our desire and our glory. If it is in suffering that we spend our days seeking Him, learning from Him, and relying on Him, than we can count our having to endure as a blessing.

In light of our Savior, our hope is secure. He is faithful. His love is unfailing. Time and time again, He has proved Himself merciful. Our suffering does not change the Lord, but the Lord can certainly draw our hearts, shaping them as His, through our suffering.

Suffering is suffering. Having to persevere is what it is. We don’t have to feign joy and peace, or pronounce platitudes to get by effectively. Our hope is in the Lord. His Spirit is poured into us…isn’t that enough? Isn’t His provision sufficient so that we are not “put to shame,” but are all the more able to glory in Him (Romans 5:5)?