This morning we careened through the streets of one of Asia’s largest cities. At least, that’s what it felt like. This was undoubtedly the taxi driver’s normal style. (I recently saw a video of a driving instructor here emphasizing to his students that “Yellow means Drive Faster!”) And since the taxi didn’t show any evidence of collisions, I must assume that he drives safely enough and that I can trust him.
Mine is but to take my eyes off the road, relax and enjoy the scenery. So it is with the Lord on this wild ride through life.
“My thoughts are nothing like your thoughts,” says the LORD.
“And my ways are far beyond anything you could imagine.
For just as the heavens are higher than the earth,
so my ways are higher than your ways
and my thoughts higher than your thoughts. (Isaiah 55:8-9 NLT)
This afternoon we walked by a shielded-off lot where a sign announces that a tall building will rise. It’s been like that for a long time and we haven’t seen anything yet rising above that barrier. However, this afternoon, through a break in it, we could see a deep hole. So something IS happening there! Before they can build up, they have to dig down deep.
What is going on inside me—or someone I observe—might look like nothing. No observable progress. But maybe God is already digging, laying the foundation for something amazing that will suddenly become visible. I wonder what God’s doing in me and what his plans are. I do want to cooperate, make this as painless as possible, and later on revel in the result. Maybe like a make-over. We have God’s guarantee that this will happen:
And I am certain that God, who began the good work within you, will continue his work until it is finally finished on the day when Christ Jesus returns. Philippians 1:6
Did Peter have an identity crisis?
The first time Jesus commissioned him was after an incredible catch of fish, and the job he gave him was to “fish for people.” (Luke 5:1-10)
The other time Jesus commissioned Peter was again after an incredible catch of fish, but this time the job he gave him was to “feed my sheep”! (John 21)
Many years later as Peter neared the end of a faithful life, he passed on this same commission to church leaders:
Care for the flock that God has entrusted to you.
Watch over it willingly, not grudgingly—not for what you will get out of it, but because you are eager to serve God.
Don’t lord it over the people assigned to your care, but lead them by your own good example.
And when the Great Shepherd appears, you will receive a crown of never-ending glory and honor. (1 Peter 5:2-4)
Don’t “lord” but lead–by example. Not for perks or prestige but in selfless service to God.
How does my leadership style measure up?
How often do we read words in the Bible (or sing a song) without really understanding what they mean? Especially when it’s poetry. The words and phrases sound beautiful to our ears and uplift our spirits. But our mind can also be engaged in our worship when we “unpack” these words. For example, the 11th chapter of Romans ends in a beautiful hymn of praise to God:
Oh, the depth of the riches of the wisdom and knowledge of God!
How unsearchable his judgments,
and his paths beyond tracing out!
“Who has known the mind of the Lord?
Or who has been his counselor?”
“Who has ever given to God,
that God should repay him?”
For from him and through him and to him are all things.
To him be the glory forever! Amen. (Romans 11:33-36 NIV)
Now look again at the bolded words above. Take a minute to think what all those prepositional phrases are saying about God.
from him–He is the source.
through him–He is the means.
to him–He is the goal.
Or, as another version spells it out more explicitly:
For everything comes from him and exists by his power and is intended for his glory. All glory to him forever! Amen. (Romans 11:36 NLT)
Ezra saw God in everything! As I read his book, I find a liberal dose of Providence peppered throughout. God stirring hearts, watching over people, causing a king to be favorable, and placing his “gracious hand” on his people. Just look at the things that were accomplished as a direct result of God’s intervention in chapters 1-8:
–The Persian king released the captive Jews to return to their homeland. (1:1)
–Jewish leaders decided to go back and rebuild the Temple which had been destroyed. (1:5)
–Their enemies were unsuccessful in stopping them. (5:5)
–The king supported their work on the temple. (6:22)
–The king gave Ezra all he asked for, for his trip to Jerusalem. (7:6)
–God gave Ezra wisdom to appoint leaders. (7:25)
–God encouraged him in his efforts to prepare for the trip. (7:28)
–God provided the right people to go along and serve in the Temple. (8:18)
–God protected them from enemies on the bandit-infested route. (8:31)
And the work was done! So why am I discouraged about the “impossible” tasks on my plate?
When I was a kid, my family took long road trips halfway across the US to see relatives, camping each night on the way. My brother’s favorite spot was the “bump” behind the front seat (when that was still legal) where he would stand to spot a picnic table for our lunch and point out other sights along the way like, “Deah’s da Zoobi Wibba!” (‘There’s the Missouri River.’)
During our days of riding, we often found ourselves singing—especially songs about the life-is-a-journey metaphor. I still love those songs because I love metaphors. Every day the Lord is my traveling companion, and each day is one day closer to the end of the journey when I’ll reach my real Home! And if I don’t like the place where I have to “camp” along the way, I want to be content knowing that it’s only a temporary stop along the way to my Destination.
Here are the words to a couple of those songs we sang:
Just one day nearer Home as shadows of the night descend
Just one day less to roam as fading twilight color blend
Beneath the starry dome I’ll rest beside my Guide and Friend
With each day’s tramping, nightly camping, one day nearer Home!
Over the sunset mountains someday I’ll softly go
Into the arms of Jesus, He who has loved me so…
Toiling will all be ended; shadows will flee away
Sorrow will be forgotten; oh, what a wonderful day!
Over the sunset mountains heaven awaits for me
Over the sunset mountains Jesus my Savior I’ll see.
John W. Peterson
Our son was calming his fussy two-month-old daughter. As soon as he started singing “Jesus Loves Me,” she stopped crying and fixed her full attention on his face.
Then her daddy proceeded to tell her some important things:
Daddy: Hi Cadence. I love you!
Daddy: You’re my little girl. Yes you are. My precious little daughter.
Daddy: I’m your Daddy.
Baby: (cries more)
Daddy: (Cuddles her.) “You gotta calm down.” (Sings in her ear.)
C: He…he…he. (Lays her head on his shoulder.)
Okay now, replay the same scenario but with different actors! Now I am the baby and God is my Daddy.
He tells me I am His precious, beloved daughter. He sings to me, holds me in his arms, close to his heart, whispers in my ear, soothes my troubled soul.
And I? I don’t comprehend all His words but I do understand that I am loved and that He is strong and everything’s going to be okay.
Today my neighbor returned the first Narnia book which she had borrowed, “The Magician’s Nephew” by C. S. Lewis. Now they’re reading “The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe.” And I’m delighted. I pray that they will be not only fascinated by the thrill of this wonderful story but also captivated by the truth of what it represents.
Aslan, the beloved and awesome Lion! On Sunday our pastor recalled the oft-quoted exchange between the children and the Narnian beavers:
Susan: “Is he—quite safe?”
Mrs. Beaver: “Safe?…Who said anything about safe? ‘Course he isn’t safe. But he’s good. He’s the King, I tell you.”
This is the God I belong to—not the tame and tolerant god so many people fantasize about—but the “I AM” who demonstrated His character to his people in the Old Testament. To those who are His, He’s as gentle as a lioness with her cubs. But to those who reject Him, like a lion with its prey!
I’m glad my God is powerful to accomplish His purposes and defend His honor and those who belong to Him.
I am safe.
I am loved.
I am content.
My husband and I are the delighted owners of a new painting which is now gracing our living room wall.
Not knowing much about art, I have no idea if this painting has “perspective,” but it did bring to mind a message we heard recently about how we should view our present realities of suffering and frustration, death and decay. (Romans 8:18-23)
Yet what we suffer now is nothing compared to the glory he will reveal to us later. For all creation is waiting eagerly for that future day when God will reveal who his children really are. Against its will, all creation was subjected to God’s curse. But with eager hope, the creation looks forward to the day when it will join God’s children in glorious freedom from death and decay. For we know that all creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time. And we believers also groan, even though we have the Holy Spirit within us as a foretaste of future glory, for we long for our bodies to be released from sin and suffering. We, too, wait with eager hope for the day when God will give us our full rights as his adopted children, including the new bodies he has promised us.
The two points from which we get proper perspective are the Cross (past) and Glory (future). Then all the present, in-between stuff falls into proper place.
As the Israelites looked back on the Exodus from Egypt and the crossing of the Red Sea as their reference point, we look back to the Cross as our point of deliverance and identity. And as they looked beyond their wilderness wanderings to being at home in their own beautiful land, we look ahead to a home in heaven. That perspective helps me make sense of today—and tomorrow—and the next day.