When we travel, I want to know where we’re going, how we’re getting there, what it’s like there, and when we’re coming back.
When God led the Israelites out of Egypt, they knew basically where they were headed, but their itinerary was a secret. Wherever the cloud of God’s presence stopped, they stopped and set up camp, BUT they had no idea how long they would be there—a night or two, or a few years! (Numbers 9:15-23) Every day when they got up, they had to check on the position of the cloud before they knew whether to pack their bags or settle in for another day—or month—or year. What a life!
Could I do that? Can I keep my eyes on God and let His plan determine my action plan for the day? I wish he’d tell me in plain English (audible!) what to do each moment. That would be so easy. Sometimes I feel like I’m groping in the darkness trying to find that cloud and follow it!
Look here, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we are going to a certain town and will stay there a year. We will do business there and make a profit.” How do you know what your life will be like tomorrow? Your life is like the morning fog—it’s here a little while, then it’s gone. What you ought to say is, “If the Lord wants us to, we will live and do this or that.” James 4:13-15
Some of my heroes are Bezalel & Oholiab, two very talented guys who knew how to make all kinds of beautiful things. In fact, God gave them these abilities for one purpose: to craft a beautiful place where He would meet His people. (See Exodus 35:30-35 and following.) He also gave them the ability to train others in these skills.
“Goldsmith” or “sculptor” or “embroiderer” can’t be found in the lists of spiritual gifts in the New Testament, nor can “singer” or “instrumentalist.” (1 Chronicles 15:16.)But I love to see how God gave people these gifts for the purposes of serving Him.
It doesn’t matter if my gifting doesn’t occur in the NT lists. I can still delight in what God has given me for serving Him. So I will sing with my whole heart and play the piano for my Audience of One.
When my high school’s triple trio took to the annual music contest a song based on Psalm 84, I fell in love with that Psalm. Here are a few of those beautiful thoughts that reflect my heart’s longing for God:
…fainting with longing to enter God’s presence
…even the sparrow builds a nest near Him
…setting my heart on a pilgrimage to be with God
…passing through the Valley of Weeping and seeing it become a place of refreshment and blessing.
If I were an artist, I’d paint a picture of a weeping pilgrim making his way through a grim and desolate place. And in each spot where a tear falls, a beautiful pool appears surrounded by lush beauty to refresh those who follow. The pilgrim may not be aware of the blessing he leaves in his wake, but he proceeds in faith and out of his need for God. Someday he will be surprised to learn the effect of his life of faith and tears.
The big news right now is a shipwreck just off Italy. Interestingly, I read this morning about another shipwreck almost 2000 years ago in the same part of the world. Whatever the cause of the recent one, we know that Paul’s shipwreck was caused by the “majority vote” of the crew to proceed even when Paul, through God’s wisdom, warned of certain disaster. (See Acts 27-28.)
Here are principles from this story; how might they apply to us?
1. The majority isn’t necessarily right! God’s word trumps man’s every time.
2. Even though a bad decision was made, God was still with Paul and accomplished His purpose (getting Paul to Rome) anyway.
3. God took the bad turn of events, based on a bad decision, and turned it into blessing for the people of Malta.
We can rest secure that God’s purposes cannot be thwarted.
God is at work in this world.
A world-famous Filipino boxer has confessed faith in Jesus Christ.
So has a Kuwaiti prince.
An outspoken American Christian athlete has people running to Google to find out what John 3:16 says.
And this is just the tip of the iceberg. God is at work in my neighborhood and yours. Isn’t it exciting to be on the winning team as the conflict escalates?
“The kingdom of the world
has become the kingdom of our Lord
and of his Christ,
and he will reign for ever and ever.” (Revelation 11:15)
“Take out a quarter sheet of paper.” A pop quiz in biology—groan!! (Grrr!) I hated them. (Amusingly, I had a prof in college who would announce “pop quizzes” ahead of time!) But without opportunity to prepare, how could I be confident of doing well? Does one ALWAYS have to be ready with all the right responses?
Now many years later in real life, I find that tests—yes, God’s pop quizzes—are still there. An aggravation suddenly presents itself. How do I respond? Sometimes I look back and realize that I just took a test—and failed it! As a friend once said, when your bucket is kicked, what spills out?
My prayer is, “Lord, sweeten me up so that when the next pop-quiz comes, I will pass: I will respond according to my new nature in ways that please You and bless others.”
Yesterday a statue of Jesus was carried around a city in the country where I live, in a huge annual celebration. I am reminded of Isaiah 46:1-7 which graphically contrasts gods that have to be carried around by equally helpless people — and our Eternal God who carries us in His own arms every day of our lives:
Bel and Nebo, the gods of Babylon,
bow as they are lowered to the ground.
They are being hauled away on ox carts.
The poor beasts stagger under the weight.
Both the idols and their owners are bowed down.
The gods cannot protect the people,
and the people cannot protect the gods.
They go off into captivity together.
(God says) “Listen to me, descendants of Jacob,
all you who remain in Israel.
I have cared for you since you were born.
Yes, I carried you before you were born.
I will be your God throughout your lifetime—
until your hair is white with age.
I made you, and I will care for you.
I will carry you along and save you.”
How has God carried you and me today?
Hungry for God. And homesick for heaven. These are two phrases I caught at church this morning, and they powerfully express the deepest longings of my soul. Longings that nothing but God can satisfy.
It brings to mind the triumphant conclusion of Psalm 73, after the writer has detailed his struggles with the seeming unfairness of the prosperity of the wicked and the futility of his own upright life. Only when he enters God’s presence does he get the right perspective:
Yet I still belong to you;
you hold my right hand.
You guide me with your counsel,
leading me to a glorious destiny.
Whom have I in heaven but you?
I desire you more than anything on earth.
My health may fail, and my spirit may grow weak,
but God remains the strength of my heart;
he is mine forever. (Ps 73:23-26 NLT)
I’m up earlier than normal today, looking out a second story window, seeing the darkness and listening to the delightful varied songs of a bird somewhere in the vicinity. This kind of bird seems to sing only in the pre-dawn hour before the other birds chirp in, which is why I rarely hear them.
My heart is singing too this morning because God is good.
He has shown his love by giving my husband a safe trip back here to Asia last night..
He is good and loving even when I experience physical pain that mystifies and scares me.
He is good when I face the unknowns and threats of the coming year.
He is so good to give me His Word which encourages and delights me daily.
Now it’s getting lighter. As I look over the treetops at the mountains beyond, a cloud that resembles a man’s right hand is lying right on top of the mountain, as in blessing. Because God has his hands on this world and on my life, I can go into this day with confidence!