Whoa, hoss!

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 “Pay attention to this, Job. Stop and consider the wonderful miracles of God!”

This passage encourages me to ask God for His miraculous intervention!  What a God we serve!  Creator of the Universe!  Molder of the everything from the Rocky Mountains to the pebble I skip in the lake!  Designer of the intricacies of the human body as well as an amoeba! 

This dove-tails right into what Jesus said about having mustard seed-sized faith and moving those mountains and asking for “whatever you will and it shall be done”—that suits me just fine, thank you!

Then I realize this passage comes from the book of Job…which gives me pause.  More like slamming on the brake…

If anyone had reason to ask for miraculous intervention, it was Job.  By the time this verse shows up in the narrative, we find our ragged hero drowning in disappointment and sitting on an ash heap with pus leaking from his multiple skin sores.  All of his children and most of his servants have been killed in various assaults, his wealth has been stripped from him, his wife has been less than encouraging, and now his erstwhile friends have showed up to accuse him of being guilty before God for who-knows-what. 

It hasn’t been a good week.

I’m all about asking God for miracles; He knows more than anyone how badly we need them down here.  However, God is more concerned with intervening in my character than with intervening in my situation.  If the trial will benefit my intimacy with Him more than the miracle, He’ll choose the trial every time.

Which sounds pretty scary at first, but then God also says this in the book of Job:

“I said, ‘This far and no farther will you come.
    Here your proud waves must stop!’”

No matter what the circumstance, my Father is still in control.  His plan for my character and my relationship with Him supersedes my immediate comfort, (and not just physical, but emotional, mental, and spiritual as well.) 

Even the secular segment gets the idea that sadness has a crucial place in our proper development:

Of course, I have choices to make in how I process these difficult times—regardless of what’s happening around me, I have decisions about what is happening within me.  And as a Christian, God says I have internal resources not otherwise available.

Part of that processing has to do with interpretation; that is, how I “see” my circumstances.  It’s very, very tempting to fall prey to thoughts such as:

God doesn’t love me like He loves others.

“For God shows no partiality [undue favor or unfairness; with Him one man is not different from another].”

Or, God’s going to do what He wants anyway, so why bother praying?

 “Be unceasing in prayer [praying perseveringly];”

Then there’s the age-old: God must not exist. 

“For whoever would come near to God must [necessarily] believe that God exists and that He is the rewarder of those who earnestly and diligently seek Him [out].”

The bottom line is the historical reality of the Cross and Resurrection of Jesus Christ—when nothing else makes sense, that does.  The splintered, bloodied pieces of wood and the splendidly empty tomb mean there’s more going on behind the scenes that I’m not privy to…yet.  To think otherwise means my arrogance is peeking through, something God addressed with Job in no uncertain terms.

So where does miraculous intervention fit in to all this?  Jesus’ template of “Thy kingdom come, Thy will be done” is a good start, but I don’t think He meant for it to be a spiritually lazy default.  I like His disciples initial request: “teach us to pray.” 

Which is becoming an ongoing request for me: “Holy Spirit, teach me what to pray specifically, give me grace to pray persistently in the face of disappointment, and help me to engage the power of Heaven for the building of Your kingdom in this circumstance.”

quarter-horse-746979_1280Interestingly, I suspect that’s when something quietly miraculous begins to happen…

…in me.

Romans 2:11; Hebrews 11:6; 1 Thessalonians 5:16  Amplified Bible, Classic Edition (AMPC) Copyright © 1954, 1958, 1962, 1964, 1965, 1987 by The Lockman Foundation

Job 37:14; Job 38:11 Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright © 1996, 2004, 2015 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.

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Time to eat

bread-1643951_1920Here’s an obscure little paragraph of a story that I find interesting buried away in the Old Testament: 

“One day a man from Baal-shalishah brought the man of God a sack of fresh grain and twenty loaves of barley bread made from the first grain of his harvest. Elisha said, ‘Give it to the people so they can eat.

‘What?’ his servant exclaimed. ‘Feed a hundred people with only this?’

But Elisha repeated, ‘Give it to the people so they can eat, for this is what the Lord says: Everyone will eat, and there will even be some left over!’ And when they gave it to the people, there was plenty for all and some left over, just as the Lord had promised.”

Sound familiar?  Fast forward a few chapters and several hundred years, and we see Jesus likewise feeding a crowd, the whole famous “loaves and fishes” picnic on the side of a hill. Continue reading “Time to eat”

Just another story…

neuschwanstein-castle-467116_1280When people say the Bible is boring, I have to question if we’re reading the same book.  Okay, so I get a bit bogged down in Leviticus when they’re talking about how to deal with infectious skin diseases, but truthfully, some of the accounts sound like a script straight out of Hollywood.

For example, the well-known story about the widow and her son barely scraping by during (one of) the terrible famines, a consequence brought about by the prophet Elijah at Yahweh’s behest, another attempt to get His people’s attention. God sends His man to this particular household, to a widow and her son, to ask for, guess what—food!  The response he gets is expected.

“But she said, ‘I swear by the Lord your God that I don’t have a single piece of bread in the house. And I have only a handful of flour left in the jar and a little cooking oil in the bottom of the jug. I was just gathering a few sticks to cook this last meal, and then my son and I will die.’”

Elijah convinces her that, if she provides him with food and water, God would continue to miraculously multiply her supply to sustain her through the crisis.

What did she have to lose?

“So she did as Elijah said, and she and Elijah and her family continued to eat for many days.” 

In Act Two, as if the famine wasn’t enough stress, this kind lady’s only son gets sick and dies.  She confronts the prophet, who has become a boarder during this time.  This widow is now overwhelmed with grief.  Her boy is dead, which back then had more implications than just the loss of a loved one.  Her future just got a whole lot more impoverished, both emotionally, and financially.

“Then she said to Elijah, ‘O man of God, what have you done to me? Have you come here to point out my sins and kill my son?’”

I love Elijah’s reply.  There’s no “oops”.  He doesn’t wring his hands.  In fact, there isn’t even a note of surprise or worry. 

“But Elijah replied, ‘Give me your son.’”

Once again, what did the mother have to lose?  Elijah takes the lifeless body up to his own room and prays. 

“The Lord heard Elijah’s prayer, and the life of the child returned, and he revived!  Then the woman told Elijah, ‘Now I know for sure that you are a man of God, and that the LORD truly speaks through you.’”

Which I find to be an interesting reaction from this mother.  Wasn’t the first miracle of the ever-flowing oil and grain enough to convince her of God’s presence working through His prophet? 

Different miracles

The first miracle was a life-sustaining one.  It had to do with maintenance. And it wasn’t like they had a five-course meal everyday, either.  Just enough oil and grain to keep them going, to sustain the life they had until the famine had passed.   

The second miracle was a life-giving one.  That which was dead has been resurrected.  Where life had been extinguished, life had been reborn.    

This gives me pause…

What do I have to lose?

God knows the level of my faith and intimacy with Him.  He also knows how fickle human beings like me (like you?) can be, allowing complacency to set in as what we once wondered at becomes normalcy and therefore taken for granted.  And He knows what is needed to take our faith and intimacy with Him to the next level, to jump start us out of that spiritual malaise. 

In other words, He not only knows how to maintain my dreams, even my faith, but also how to resurrect them and give them new life.

Of course, the first step is to hand it over to Him.

1 Kings 17:12; Hebrews 7:25 Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright © 1996, 2004, 2015 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.

Decisions, decisions!

neuschwanstein-castle-467116_1280Moses, what a guy.  Talk about job stress—the perks were pretty great but so were the occupational hazards.  (And I think I have tough days!)  At least there was clear communication with the Boss; no lost email trails or intra-office misinterpretation of body language, all that.  God’s instructions were always unmistakably clear, right down to what colors of decorative embroidery thread to use for the big church tent!

One year into their miraculous escape/rescue from centuries of Egyptian slavery, God now has them positioned to pull up the stakes and start their journey in earnest to the Promised Land.  He has also promised to be their Guide, a cloud by day and something that looks like a pillar of fire by night.  Again, fairly distinctive, even for someone directionally challenged, like me.  When Continue reading “Decisions, decisions!”

Give Him a break, people! (or not…)

wood 2Now here’s an interesting scene.  Jesus’ cousin, herald, and probably one of his closest friends to date, John the Baptist, has just summarily ended his sojourn in Herod’s jail by being beheaded.  Jesus, by contrast, was at the height of His popularity with the people and had crowds clamoring to get whatever they could by being around Him.  But after such a personal Continue reading “Give Him a break, people! (or not…)”

Canons, or Can of Raid?

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Have you ever seen someone use a shotgun to kill a flea?  Sounds silly, I know, but it provides an interesting mental image.   And what a waste…

Yet, it’s sometimes what we expect of God, that is, to answer our prayers with the full cavalry, flags flying and guns blazing.  Now, certainly, He is “the Lord of Heaven’s Armies”, and someday He will come back in full array.  It’s just that occasionally I feel like I Continue reading “Canons, or Can of Raid?”