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September 4, 2003

Lucky

Ecclesiates 9:11
I returned and saw under the sun that -
The race is not to the swift,
Nor the battle to the strong,
Nor bread to the wise,
Nor riches to men of understanding,
Nor favor to men of skill;
But time and chance happen to them all.

I've stared a new book called Fooled By Randomness - The Hidden Role of Chance in the Markets and In Life. From his backgound as a Wall Street trader, the author (MBA, PhD) discusses the role luck plays in success. He suggests that the people who are paraded as geniuses are often the beneficiaries of fortunate circumstance, not superior intellect or strategy implementation. He attempts to support this view with mathamaticl equations and theories. I'm only on chapter 2, but thus far it's made for some interesting reading.

Little did I know that "the Preacher" in Ecclesiates held a similar view. There is a side to me that embraces the "Life Happens" philosophy. That even w/in the will of God we are subject to circumstances beyond our control that may benefit or hinder. Time and chance happen to them all. I'm comfortable with this this, just as I am with "Thanks be to God who always leads us in triumph in Christ..." (2 Corinthians 2:14). How can I hold these view? Because I believe God's purpose for me is to conform me to the likeness of His Son. (Romans 8:29) I believe God is not limited by my circumstances. Instead he chooses to work within them for my good, accomplishing his purpose for me. (Romans 8:28)

So it doesn't matter if I'm lucky or not. It also means I'm not limited to my own abilities or skill. I'm free from comparing myself to others. And I'm able to see how God is working in my life.

Lord, thank You for working within the circumstances of my life.

November 7, 2006

A self-fulfilling prophecy

John 11:47-53
47 So the chief priests and the Pharisees gathered the Council and said, "What are we to do? For this man performs many signs. 48 If we let him go on like this, everyone will believe in him, and the Romans will come and take away both our place and our nation." 49 But one of them, Caiaphas, who was high priest that year, said to them, "You know nothing at all. 50 Nor do you understand that it is better for you that one man should die for the people, not that the whole nation should perish." 51 He did not say this of his own accord, but being high priest that year he prophesied that Jesus would die for the nation, 52 and not for the nation only, but also to gather into one the children of God who are scattered abroad. 53 So from that day on they made plans to put him to death.

There are times in our lives when were so conusumed by our current circumstances that we speak words that become self-fulfiling prophecies. This was the case in this passage. The background for this story reaches all the way back into ch 9, when Jesus heals a blind man on the sabbath (ironic that it happens during the Feast of Dedication - 10:22, which I know as Hannukah - the festival of lights. This feast commorates the liberation and redeication of the temple. Interesting...a blind man recieves his sight during the festival of lights, and the Pharisees now afraid to lose thier polical power with the Romans and thier temple now want to kill Jesus - 9:48. But all this info requires it's own reflection).

There's a part of me that doubts that Caiaphas understood the ramifications of his comment in v 50. Yet there's another part that makes me think he'd have to be completely clueless to miss what he could have been implying. 11:55 places this comment near the time of Passover (Hannukah in Dec, Passover in April - about a 3 1/2 time span); the time when a lamb would be sacrificed for the sins of the nation. With all the preparations required for an event of this magnitude, the activities of Passover would be at the center of the attention of the members of this "council." Yet they could not make the connection that Jesus would become "the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world?" These words are a quote from John the Baptist (1:29) and had been a source of frustration for the Pharisees for almost 3 years now. Now they are creating the the circumstances that would allow these words to be fulfilled. The writer of this memoir, John, recognized this and commented on it - v 51-52.

These men were so comsumed by maintaing thier positions and sence of self-significance that they didn't even see how they were orchestrating thier own demise. Many well-intentioned people don't consider the total consequences of thier decisions. Even when they have the different pieces of the puzzle, they don't put the picture together. This "Pharisee" thinking is really a kind of "blindness" - the very issue that became the tipping point for thier fatal attraction with Jesus. Now they planned to put him to death because he had raised someone from the dead (Lazarus). This show how illogical we can be when our security is threatened.

I don't have the time to really think all this through today. But it is something I'm going to chew on for a while. Lord, heal me from blindness in my own life. Help me to see beyond my own short-sightedness and discover what your big-picture plan is.

May 23, 2007

What, Why, How, When

Proverbs 17:24
A discerning man keeps wisdom in view,
but a fool's eyes wander to the ends of the earth.

Proverbs 19:8

He who gets wisdom loves his own soul;
he who cherishes understanding prospers.

I've been reading my devotion from The Narrarated Bible, a chronological compilation of the scriptures. In Proverbs, the arranger divided the book by topics rather than chapters and verses. Today's section included proverbs on "discernment and understanding." This was timely for me today as in a few minutes Jayme and I are headed out for a prayer walk as part of a week of fasting we're doing. Our discipline is to take time quarterly for a "review" - to make sure we're in line with God's assignment and purpose for us in the season. We each felt that the time we're in now, that what we asking of the Lord is for discernment.

My tendency is to look so far ahead that I overlook what is right in front of me. That's why 17:24 stood out to me so much. Since the fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom, I feel that a new sense of reverence for God and a call to holiness is what is before me right now. Don't get lost in looking around or ahead, but keep focused right now. Personal holiness and understanding are tied together for me. Worship releases wisdom.

In 19:8, I'm reminded about John's prayer four our souls to prosper. Ending the inner turmoil of doubt and unsettledness requires understanding, requires a pursuit of wisdom. Wisdom is the "what" of life, understanding is the "how" and "when," discernment is the "why."

Lord, as You reveal the "what" and "why" for us, help me to walk in the "how" and "when."

June 10, 2008

Not how I thought it would be

Acts 8:1
At that time a great persecution arose against the church which was at Jerusalem; and they were all scattered throughout the regions of Judea and Samaria, except the apostles.

Acts 1:8
But you shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be witnesses to Me in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.

It amazes me to to find these mirrored passages. Even though I know the chapter and verse designations were added in the 16th century, when I see things like this it makes me smile thinking God could have even inspired the numbering of the verses.

More important is the lesson contained in the verses. Jesus told his followers (not just the disciples, but possibly even including as many as those who gathered in the upper room on Pentecost) that they would be His witnesses beyond Jerusalem. I wonder how they thought that would happen. I don't know if they could imagine what would hapen at the coming of the Holy Spirit. None of the twelve disciples were even current residents of Jerusalem. Like so many things Jesus said to them, I would think they weren't entirely sure of what He was saying. Whatever they thought, I doubt any of them could imagine the persecution that would follow that would drive many of them out of Jerusalem.

That does tend to be the pattern of God speaking to me. He says one thing, so I create scenarios how it's going to take place. Yet what happens is often very different from what I had imagined. Still, in the end I find that I'm where he said that would would need to be, even if the route to get there is different from the journey I expected.

Lord, I trust you to get me from point to point in my journey of following you.

July 29, 2008

God, help me with my plans

2 Chronicles 25:5-10 (NKJV)
Amaziah gathered Judah together and set over them captains of thousands and captains of hundreds, according to their fathers’ houses, throughout all Judah and Benjamin; and he numbered them from twenty years old and above, and found them to be three hundred thousand choice men, able to go to war, who could handle spear and shield. 6 He also hired one hundred thousand mighty men of valor from Israel for one hundred talents of silver. 7 But a man of God came to him, saying, “O king, do not let the army of Israel go with you, for the LORD is not with Israel—not with any of the children of Ephraim. 8 But if you go, be gone! Be strong in battle! Even so, God shall make you fall before the enemy; for God has power to help and to overthrow.”
9 Then Amaziah said to the man of God, “But what shall we do about the hundred talents which I have given to the troops of Israel?”
And the man of God answered, “The LORD is able to give you much more than this.” 10 So Amaziah discharged the troops that had come to him from Ephraim, to go back home.

Here's another example of men who have a good idea, but not God's idea. Amaziah numbered the warriors of Judah in preparation for a war with Moab. He also recruited another 100,000 mercenaries from thier "brothers" in Israel. This seemed like a good idea at the time. Instead, not only was it a waste of money, but it had graver consequences as Israel later initates war with Judah and defeats them.

The word from this unknown man of God is the focus of my thoughts, especiall the end of v.8. I am guilty of asking God to help me with my plans, when His plans are bigger. I want His help to win some little battle and His plans are to overthrow the enemy. More specifically, I want God to help me with some little project and He wants to completely take it to another level. But I've already made arrangements for my plans (like hiring 100,000 mercenaries). I've spent resources to insure my plan will work. Although I might win the battle, ultimately, I end up losing the war. Bigger problems arise down the road all because I'm doing what seems to be right without asking God first. He sees things I can't. He knows things I don't. And most of all, I just don't need his help, I need to know his will.

February 12, 2009

Quick Change

Exodus 33:7-8,25 (NKJV)
7 And the LORD said to Moses, “Go, get down! For your people whom you brought out of the land of Egypt have corrupted themselves. 8 They have turned aside quickly out of the way which I commanded them...
25 Now when Moses saw that the people were unrestrained (for Aaron had not restrained them, to their shame...)...

Moses is meeting with God on the mountain for 40 days and nights. And in that span, God's people decide to create an idol - the golden calf. The process of this slide is documented in these verses. It says that thay had "corrupted themselves." What was the cause of this corruption? They turned aside quickly from the way God had commanded them. See, God had placed boundaries on thier life that were not intended to restrict thier life, but to protect it. Yet in a very short time they chose to live without that constraint.

Everybody wants the quick change: weight loss, cosmetic surgery, stock speculation...the list goes on. There is no easy way, but it doesn't stop us from looking for one. This is especially true when it comes to our spiritual lives. People want a "bailout" from God, but as soon as we get it, we go back to the old ways that brought us to that desperate position. In my life, I always go backwards when I live without the restraint of God's directives for me. Anytime I step outside of those life principles, corruption creeps in and disipline leaks out.

There is no quick change that produces any real and lasting good in life. Real change is made by little decisions to live with your boundaries, your means, your assignments. This kind of living requires focus, discipline, and perseverance. Without it, we're left to worship the life we've created for ourselves and face the consequences.

October 18, 2010

From The Beginning

Matthew 19:6-8 (NKJV)
"...what God has joined together, let not man separate.”
7 They said to Him, “Why then did Moses command to give a certificate of divorce, and to put her away?”
8 He said to them, “Moses, because of the hardness of your hearts, permitted you to divorce your wives, but from the beginning it was not so"

(emphasis added).

OBSERVATION
In Matthew 19 Jesus is asked about the lawfulness of divorce. There's many things in this chapter that are interesting to consider. But it's verse 8 that caught me attention, especially the last comment (which I've emphasized).

APPLICATION
I've witnessed the effect of divorce. I've seen people who have navigated its challenges with their integrity intact and maintained civil relationships w/ their "ex." Still, even it the best of circumstances it leaves a scar. In the worst case scenarios, it damages one's psyche forever. But I'm not here to talk about the right or wrongs of divorce. I'm intrigued with the idea that not everything plays out as God had designed it. Could it be that God makes concessions to man's will?

(One quick caveat for anyone reading this entry: I'm not presenting a theological position here...You are reading my personal devotional journal; my thought, musings, questions, frustrations with and about God. I'm not trying to settle anything here, just process it out. And I'm willing to let my process be shared. Truth be told, my process probably isn't that different than yours.)

The issue of the will of God is overwhelming. Much smarter people than I have tried to figure this out and any answer still leaves one unsatisfied. Whats so interesting to me is that in this situation Jesus seems to say that there's a way that God originally designed for us to live our lives. After sin entered the picture, His way became subject to "my way." Its not that that His way ceased to exist. Its that "my way" now takes precedent. In doing so we rationalize (justified or not) our choices. We place blame, make excuses, deny culpability to explain why we do what we do, why we are what we are.

It's been said that the most powerful force at work on the earth today is not the power of God, nor the limited power of the "devil," but the will of man. We can choose to accept or reject God and his desires for our lives. We can choose to yield to the destruction that the enemy intends for our lives. We can even impose our will on another human being that produce positive (a father's protection) or negative (a father's abuse) consequences. Nevertheless, I may arrive at an outcome that isn't what God intended when He invited me to the wholeness that comes from obedience. I wonder how many things in my life God's conceded to, but "from the beginning, it was not so."

There will be a day when God's will is imposed and cannot be avoided. But for now, my best life is lived when I voluntarily yield to His will.

PRAYER
Lord, help me to live a life that is in the end how You intended it to be from the beginning.

February 23, 2011

Taking Prisoners

Leviticus 24:12 (NKJV)
They put him in custody until the will of the LORD should be made clear to them.

OBSERVATION
In the middle of a conflict, an Israelite "blasphemed the name of the Lord and cursed..." So he was brought to Moses to determine what the man's punishment should be.

APPLICATION
How many times have I rushed to judgment? There are many situations that I have a tendency to make immediate decisions based on the emotion of the situation, or my own intuition, or assumptions that prove to be underdeveloped at best. What caught me in this passage is that Moses and the elders found a way not only to buy time, but determined to to take any action until the will of the Lord was clear.

This brings to mind many scriptures...
* We can discover and "prove" the will of God: Romans 12:2 - Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.
* We need to place our thoughts in "custody": 2 Corinthians 10:5
We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.

* There's even the precedent set by the apostles when determining the biggest issue they faced addressing the inclusion of the Gentiles: Acts 15:28
It seemed good to the Holy Spirit and to us...

I've said in the past that I've never made a mistake by moving to slowly, but I have made big ones by moving too quickly. I need to place the pressing issues in my life in custody, not to forget about them, but to give me the necessary time to process with the Lord (and my counselors) and determine the will of God.

About God's Will

This page contains an archive of all entries posted to JustJeff | Life Journal in the God's Will category. They are listed from oldest to newest.

Forgiveness is the previous category.

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