Whoa, hoss!


 “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.


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.

More than tomatoes

garden lastI was interested in canning a long time ago.  I saw what one of my friends was doing to “put up” fresh tomatoes; talk about a LOT of work!  The boiling and peeling and grinding and washing and timing…

I’m not so much interested in doing it anymore.

But I’m still mightily impressed with the process and commitment of those who do their own food storage.  Back before the days of Walmart Superstores, if you wanted to feed your family, you either canned, or you didn’t eat very well after harvest season was over.  But, oh! what a feast you could provide for your family in the dead of winter with fruit preserves, canned vegetables, dried homemade noodles, and the potatoes snuggled in the nice, cool cellar.

Kind of makes me think of what Paul is trying to get at here with the people in Galatia.  When the apostle was writing this, these folks were under a serious attack in the form of (once again) legalism.  Let’s eat only these things and celebrate these certain days and keep these special regulations to get in good with God, and oh yeah, then there’s the Cross, let’s not forget that…

…except that Paul knew there was no such thing as a Cross-plus gospel.  The Cross plus not wearing makeup.  The Cross plus which day of the week you assemble for church.  The Cross plus not stepping inside a bar or a theatre or listening to that “devil rock music”.

 But we refused to give in to them for a single moment. We wanted to preserve the truth of the gospel message for you.”

The Truth of the Gospel.  THE Gospel.  The only good news that God provides for our acceptance by Him, and purely good new it is: the Cross and Resurrection…period. 

It’s not that I throw behavioral decisions to the wind of culture and narcissistic whims, far from it.  Rather, only in the preserving of (and subsequent feasting on) the true good news of God’s acceptance only through Christ can I have the wisdom to know HOW to behave in the ways that honestly please Him.

Whew!  What a relief.

But here’s the kicker—how crucial (pardon the wordplay) it is that I preserve this truth, not merely for myself, but for those around me!  Like my friend and her tomatoes, it takes skill, knowledge, passion, and persistence.  Thankfully, Paul had plenty of all four, not just for the Galatians, but for me as well.

And, oh, what a feast it provides.

Galatians 2:5  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.

Modern parenting

IMG_20150103_172451138I have discerned that one of the buzz-words in behavioral training is “redirection”.  It’s the idea that instead of simply scolding and saying “NO”, which certainly has its place (I’m old school), it is important to add a positive element to the situation by redirecting the child’s focus to a more, shall we say, profitable activity. 

“NO, you must not put the Tinker Toy into the wall socket; how about I help you build a bridge?”

“NO, your baby brother would not prefer eating his applesauce over your ice cream made of Lego blocks.”

“NO, we must not cut the feet off your sister’s Barbie doll and glue her ankles onto the snow skis you just made; let’s fashion something else to fit her orthopedically challenged posture instead.”  (Hmmmm…wonder where THAT one came from??)

God, our perfectly loving Father, must also have something Continue reading “Modern parenting”

In other words…


“For this is how God loved the world: He gave his one and only Son, so that everyone who believes in him will not perish but have eternal life.

John 3:16  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.