Tag Archives: God’s plan

Don’t Lose Hope

GriefOne of the most devastating experiences you can face is when things are going well after you’ve waited so long for something to happen and then you hit a major road block. Maybe it’s trying to start a family and after overcoming problem after problem, you finally get pregnant… only to lose the baby. Or it’s getting a new job after weeks or months of unemployment, only to find when you get there that there is no longer a spot for you.

It’s easy to lose hope in those cases. It’s very human to feel all that frustration very, very deeply. What makes things worse is if that roadblock is a long term one. You’ve just gotten started and then you’re shut down. And you have no idea if you’ll ever be able to get started again. It’s understandable if you feel like giving up.

Therefore make a decree that these men be made to cease, and that this city be not rebuilt, until a decree is made by me. And take care not to be slack in this matter. Why should damage grow to the hurt of the king?” – Ezra 4:21-22, ESV

The Israelites had made progress. The altar and the foundation for the Temple had been rebuilt. Then those who were opposed to the rebuilding of the Temple, adversaries of Judah, sent a message to the new king over Persia, Artaxerxes. They pointed out how Judah had risen up in the past. The adversaries naturally neglected to point out that Cyrus had commissioned the work in the first place. With their carefully crafted message, the adversaries succeeded in getting Artaxerxes on their side. He then issued a decree ordering all work to be stopped. I’m sure the news had to be devastating to those who had waited so long, who had returned so triumphantly, and who had poured their hearts into the rebuilding of the Temple.

Here’s where, from a human perspective, we’d probably say further progress was impossible and we’d give up. The wonderful thing about God is that He can do what we think is impossible. He didn’t send His people back to fail. He wanted His Temple rebuilt. It would take some time. Artaxerxes would pass from power and Darius would become the new guy in charge. God would call Nehemiah to go down and rebuild the walls of Jerusalem and jump start the rebuilding. In the end, the Temple was completed. It was completed because God desired it so.

This is what we need to cling to as Christians when hard times come upon us. It’s what we grasp when we think we’re moving forward, only to be stopped once again. If what we are doing is God’s desire, He will bring it to pass. We have hope, Him, even when things look the bleakest. Don’t lose hope.


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Don’t Judge God Too Quickly

Bread BakingWhen I first surrendered to Jesus Christ, I was a very impatient person. I wanted things to get done fast. I wanted situations to resolve themselves quickly. Almost twenty years later, I realize that I’m still very much an impatient person at heart. I do a better job of realizing my impatience and intentionally trying to slow down, to be more willing to give things time. I’m far from overcoming this character flaw in myself, but I have seen progress. One area where I’ve learned through repeated lessons to be more patient is with God’s timing. There have been too many times in the past where I wanted God to move immediately. I wanted answers to my prayer right away. I wanted changes in myself overnight. Only later I came to realize how foolish I was. God doesn’t rush. He moves at the proper speed. When He doesn’t move as quickly as we want, it’s because things must unfold further for the best possible plan.

  The foremen of the people of Israel saw that they were in trouble when they said, “You shall by no means reduce your number of bricks, your daily task each day.” They met Moses and Aaron, who were waiting for them, as they came out from Pharaoh; and they said to them, “The Lord look on you and judge, because you have made us stink in the sight of Pharaoh and his servants, and have put a sword in their hand to kill us.”  – Exodus 5:19-21, ESV

Aaron and Moses showed up on the scene and confronted Pharaoh as they were instructed to do. Pharaoh responded by making the situation harder on the Israelites. The people, and specifically their work leaders, responded by confronting Aaron and Moses and were clearly beside themselves. Life was hard and now these two had caused Pharaoh to make life harder. The foremen couldn’t understand that there was a crucible here. They needed to go through the heat to see freedom from their slavery. All they could see was the immediate affliction. They judged Aaron and Moses, and by implication God, too quickly.

One of the things in life that has taught me patience is baking. About a year ago I decided to see how hard it was to make homemade bread. It’s not hard. Measurements have to be precise, but the measuring, kneading, and baking tasks are relatively simple. What’s hard is the waiting. You have to wait for the dough to rise. If you don’t, after the dough is baked into bread you have bread that is as hard of a rock. If you do wait for the dough to rise properly (and sometimes multiple times where you beat the dough back down and let it rise again – this can lead to lighter, fluffier bread), you have to wait the appropriate time for the bread to bake. If you don’t, you end up with bread that looks and is baked on the outside, but that is mushy and only partially cooked on the inside. Eating raw bread dough is not like eating raw cookie dough. It’s not a pleasant experience. Quite simply, to get good bread, you must be patient.

The same is often true with God’s plans. He sees the bigger picture. He sees all the possibilities. He knows the best course at the best time. This means that He will often let a situation to come about or to persist that we wouldn’t intentionally desire to be in. It is easy to judge God and not even realize that we’re doing it. Or when something doesn’t go our way, such as when tragedy happens, it is very easy to intentionally judge God, to blame Him, to wonder why He would do this to us. We need to stop that line of thinking. God is good. God is holy. God is just. And God is unchangeable. All of that adds up to God doing what needs to be done for the best result for those whom He has called (as a group). Therefore, let us not judge God too quickly. Let’s be patient with Him. Otherwise our lives will be like bread we can’t be bothered to wait on: hard and half-baked.

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Practice Hurry Up and Wait

“Hurry up and wait” is an expression I first heard at The Citadel. It’s the idea that we are hurried up to be ready for something and then we wait. For instance, a military unit may mobilize immediately because of a potential issue, be ready to go, and then wait hours or even days before the call finally comes to either launch the mission or stand down. That’s hurry up and wait. When it comes to God, we need to practice hurry up and wait, too. The truth of it is that we already have the first part of it down. We can be quick to ask God to “hurry up” and help with whatever it is we’re asking. However, God’s timeline isn’t our timeline.

  In the six hundred and first year, in the first month, the first day of the month, the waters were dried from off the earth. And Noah removed the covering of the ark and looked, and behold, the face of the ground was dry. In the second month, on the twenty-seventh day of the month, the earth had dried out. Then God said to Noah, “Go out from the ark, you and your wife, and your sons and your sons’ wives with you.  – Genesis 8:13-16, ESV

Having been locked up on a boat for almost a year, I’m sure Noah and family wanted to get out. On the first day of the first month, Noah and his family could see the waters had receded from the earth. I’m sure they were ready to go. We’re even told that they removed the covering from the ark and that the face of the ground was dry. However, we have no indication that Noah and family did anything to leave the boat. The birds had been sent. The cover was removed. But on the boat they remained? Why? This is a case where most of us would have tried to “hurry up” and get off the boat. Noah and his family didn’t. They waited. They waited on God. When God said come out, that’s when they left the boat.

Thinking through the situation, it only makes sense, but I’m of the opinion that most of us wouldn’t have thought this through. We’d have jumped at a chance to get back on the ground. However, the rain and the amount of water must have come as quite a shock to Noah and crew. They surely realized all the rules had changed. I’m sure they also felt that they could no longer trust when the land was safe and when it wasn’t. If you’ve ever walked in a swamp or marsh area, you know what I’m talking about. You go to step on what looks to be solid ground, only to feel your foot sinking in. Before you know it, you could be in up to your hip. I’m not even talking about quicksand. Quicksand is even worse. So while the face of the ground was dry, there was no way for Noah and family to know that things were okay. They had just gone through the destruction of the world. It was time to wait on God. They had done it God’s way since starting on the construction of the ark. They would see it through until he said to disembark. We can learn a lot from their example.

We must adopt the same attitude. The steps we want to take in life may seem safe to us. However, if God hasn’t given us the go ahead, we need to practice waiting. We need to be ready for God to move, and that’s the real “hurry up” part, not the “Come on, God, let’s get this moving,” and we can’t neglect the “and wait.” Should we do so, we could be taking a step on ground that’s not solid, that swallows our foot up and gets us stuck. We must wait on God. Don’t be in such a big hurry that you can’t wait on God. God is the seasoned pro. He’s the ultimate guide. He knows when it’s safe and when it’s not. Go ahead of Him and you’re taking a foolish risk. Follow behind Him and things will be for the best. Always.

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On Your Adventure, Remember Your Guide

Whenever I watch a travel show, which isn’t very often, I note that usually the star of the show has a guide, a local, to help him or her with the destination. This is how the star can see the hidden sights of a particular place and not get caught up in the tourist traps. Sure, the big places are always visited, but then you get the hole-in-the-wall restaurants, the parks no one outside of the locals know about, and things of this sort. That local guide is invaluable. That local guide literally makes that show worth watching. That local guide is the cause for the adventure that is rolled out for our entertainment.

In the Christian life we have our local guide, too. Jesus made this abundantly clear with the following words:

  But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, he will teach you all things and bring to your remembrance all that I have said to you. Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid. You heard me say to you, ‘I am going away, and I will come to you.’ If you loved me, you would have rejoiced, because I am going to the Father, for the Father is greater than I.  – John 14:26-28, ESV

When I read that passage I am reminded that the Holy Spirit, God Himself, is the one whom the Father sent to teach me and lead me. Jesus was about to leave His disciples. He would no longer be physically present with them for He was returning to the Father. And though this would normally be a time of sorrow, He tells them He was leaving them with peace – His peace – real peace. How could they have real peace when the man they had given up everything for, the one they believed to be the Messiah, would no longer be with them? Quite simply because He was leaving so the Holy Spirit would come down. They wouldn’t have to worry about not being able to walk with God. God was providing a way that they could always be with Him as they finished their adventures. That same promise to the disciples is a promise to us that is fulfilled when we accept Jesus as our Lord and Savior. He is here to be our guide and our teacher. He is the one that is the cause for the adventure. Without Him, we might be able to find some excitement but that’s trouble, not adventure, and they aren’t the same thing.

Trying to live life without the Holy Spirit is like trying to visit a new place without that local tour guide. You will hit and miss, and likely it will mostly be misses. Also, just as the case when you’re in a place you don’t know, you could make a wrong turn and find yourself in real trouble. The Holy Spirit is there to guide us. He is here to ensure we are only in situations we can handle, albeit sometimes with God’s help. He is trying to steer us away from sin and towards righteousness. If we don’t listen to Him we will likely find ourselves in a world of hurt that is entirely of our own making – the consequences of sin in our lives.

Definitely look to get the most out of life, but do so within the context of God’s plan. He hasn’t left us on our own to figure out what that is. He has sent the Holy Spirit to take us through the steps, to guide our paths, to make sure we get the most out of the adventure we call this life. The Holy Spirit isn’t going to prevent all calamities and troubles. What He can prevent are calamities and troubles we would get into due to disobedience. God will use calamities and troubles to build us up – yes, even the ones we muck our way into due to disobedience. And as I have said in previous devotionals, let our thinking be about the problems of life are challenges to be overcome and that we have a guide, the ultimate guide, to help us with them. The Holy Spirit is with us to help us be the people God would have us be. He is here to help us in the process of sanctification. The catch is we have to follow Him and listen to Him. So seek life’s great adventure, but don’t forget to follow our guide, the Holy Spirit.

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A Creation that Testifies to His Majesty

Today I’m going to quote much of the Creation process given in Genesis 1. Even if you’ve read it before more times than you can count, take some time to read over it again. It will be worth it.

And God said, “Let there be an expanse in the midst of the waters, and let it separate the waters from the waters.” And God made the expanse and separated the waters that were under the expanse from the waters that were above the expanse. And it was so. And God called the expanse Heaven. And there was evening and there was morning, the second day.

And God said, “Let the waters under the heavens be gathered together into one place, and let the dry land appear.” And it was so. God called the dry land Earth, and the waters that were gathered together he called Seas. And God saw that it was good.

And God said, “Let the earth sprout vegetation, plants yielding seed, and fruit trees bearing fruit in which is their seed, each according to its kind, on the earth.” And it was so. The earth brought forth vegetation, plants yielding seed according to their own kinds, and trees bearing fruit in which is their seed, each according to its kind. And God saw that it was good. And there was evening and there was morning, the third day.

And God said, “Let there be lights in the expanse of the heavens to separate the day from the night. And let them be for signs and for seasons, and for days and years, and let them be lights in the expanse of the heavens to give light upon the earth.” And it was so. And God made the two great lights—the greater light to rule the day and the lesser light to rule the night—and the stars. And God set them in the expanse of the heavens to give light on the earth, to rule over the day and over the night, and to separate the light from the darkness. And God saw that it was good. And there was evening and there was morning, the fourth day.

And God said, “Let the waters swarm with swarms of living creatures, and let birds fly above the earth across the expanse of the heavens.” So God created the great sea creatures and every living creature that moves, with which the waters swarm, according to their kinds, and every winged bird according to its kind. And God saw that it was good. And God blessed them, saying, “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the waters in the seas, and let birds multiply on the earth.” And there was evening and there was morning, the fifth day.

And God said, “Let the earth bring forth living creatures according to their kinds—livestock and creeping things and beasts of the earth according to their kinds.” And it was so. And God made the beasts of the earth according to their kinds and the livestock according to their kinds, and everything that creeps on the ground according to its kind. And God saw that it was good.
– Genesis 1:6-25, ESV

The first thing to notice is the systematic plan that is in place. The creation account that is given isn’t helter skelter with God creating a bit of this and a bit of that and then going back and forth over and over again. We know from the rest of Scripture that this is consistent with who He is. This is the same God who speaks of the plans He has for us. This is the same God who promises that He eventually works all things for good for those who believe in Him and are called by Him. Life may be unpredictable in our eyes, but it isn’t in His. And just as He had a plan for Creation, He has a plan for each one of us. While He is executing that plan in our lives, we serve Him here. When the plan is done, He calls us home. Even if your life seems like complete chaos right now, remember that it isn’t. Your Lord and your God sees it clearly and His plan will bring you through the current crisis period so long as you put your trust in Him.

The second thing to notice is how things are related. Compare day 1 to day 4, day 2 to day 5, and day 3 to day 6. We see structure in His plan. We see consistency. We see pattern. Change is stressful for us; lack of consistency wears on us. Yes, sometimes it is good to change, but eventually we need to get back to some sort of normalcy (and not the sort that says, “We’re consistently in a state of change.”). We see the first evidence of that in God’s plan for His creation. He provides pattern and normalcy to our lives. Life may go through many changes, but He will not change. He is our Rock in the strongest and most beautiful sense of the word. We can choose to build our lives upon Him and find that we will be unmoved by whatever life has to throw at us. That is because He provides the platform that is safe, consistent, and more than strong enough to weather any storm.

Finally, if you know the timeline science has proposed for the order of events for Earth’s creation and the process of life, consider the fact that this timeline generally agrees with it, especially if you are talking about someone who is placed on the Earth as an observer to the process. This is resoundingly true when you consider that the word we translate into English as “bird” here in Genesis 1 would more literally be translated “flyer” and would encompass insects as well. Yes, there are individual exceptions. Yes, if we want to nitpick we can find them fairly easily. But consider an Almighty God revealing the Creation process to a mere man. Or better yet, consider how things are written in Introduction to Biology texts. Events are generalized so folks get the “big picture” and upon further study learn the exceptions as they choose to dive deeper. Therefore, putting aside debates about length of time, consider that what we have discovered with the world and universe around us are consistent with what we find in Genesis 1. The Creation agrees with the Word, as we would expect it to do so.

The Creation event in Genesis 1 can give us hope in the most dire times of life. It reminds us that God is in control, that He has built a pattern and a plan into our lives, and that through His Word we can learn more about this God and Creator who sacrificed His own Son for the remission of our sins and reconciliation with Himself. Chaos does not reign. Life is not out of control. Rather, everything is ordered and in God’s all-powerful hand. We can trust Him and put our faith in Him to bring us through it all.

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From the Beginning

Almost every Christian is familiar with the first few verses of Genesis 1, the opening lines of our Bibles:

In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth. The earth was without form and void, and darkness was over the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God was hovering over the face of the waters.

And God said, “Let there be light,” and there was light. And God saw that the light was good. And God separated the light from the darkness. God called the light Day, and the darkness he called Night. And there was evening and there was morning, the first day.
          – Genesis 1:1-5, ESV

What usually isn’t pointed out, though, is that the occurrences of God in the first chapter of Genesis are Elohim in the Hebrew. Elohim is the plural of El, which means “strong one” or “majesty” (as in, “Your Majesty,”). Yes, indeed, God is referred to in the plural form. The first time I learned this, it blew me away. The concept of the Trinity is we serve and love a singular God who appears to us in three persons. We’ve tried to explain this using real world examples such as the triple point of water or the example I typically use: how a man can be a father, son, and husband – three aspects of the same person. However, the catch is that we’re not talking about three separate persons that can appear independently, like we saw at Christ’s baptism. How this works is admittedly a mystery, one that is beyond our comprehension, like so much of God is. With that said, God was giving us a huge hint that this is the way things are by referring to Himself in the plural from the very beginning. Stop and digest that for a moment.

God intended us to know Him. Why He spared time for us is yet another mystery. After all, we’ve made a royal mess of things from Adam on (and He knew we would). Yet the Creator of the Universe decided that He would not only give us His attention, but His Son to straighten out our messes, to reconcile us back with Him. This wasn’t by accident. This wasn’t a mistake. And it certainly wasn’t an afterthought. Even Genesis 1:1 gives us an indication of just how much God pursues us. From the start He has revealed something about Himself we could never know on our own. God has chosen to rebuild the bridge we burnt down with our sins. This is just one measure of His great love for us.

Not only that, but God chose to populate His creation with goodness, things which would help us and build us up and support us. Light is just the first example. Imagine what our lives would be like without light. The truth of the matter is that we wouldn’t have lives. We are so dependent on light. Light along with carbon dioxide, water, and chlorophyll is turned into glucose, a sugar, by plants and algae. These organisms are then consumed by those further up the food web. The smaller predators are consumed by larger predators, which are consumed by even larger predators, including us. And in some cases, we go for the plants directly, since we’re omnivores. That’s what fruits and vegetables are all about. We have to have the light to live. I won’t even go into how light produces vitamin D in us or serotonin, which helps keep us balanced mentally. God knew all that. That’s probably why He created it first. Everything according to plan. Everything in its proper place. Everything in its proper timing. And in case you weren’t aware, that process of converting light, water, and carbon dioxide to sugar has a byproduct: oxygen. Yes, the very gas we need to live. God built that in, too. Amazing. Absolutely amazing.

From the beginning God has had us in mind. Why we have been showered with His attention and love is not something I cannot answer, but it is something I can revel in and be humbled by. I can be amazed by His great attention to detail and how everything just fits. I can be grateful for the Savior who created the world and then went to the Cross to pay for the sins I could not. My Lord God, how great is Your love for us!

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