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September 15, 2003

God Doesn't Play Favorites

Galatians 2:6
But from those who seemed to be something - whatever they were, it makes no difference to me; God shows personal favoritism to no man - for those who seemed to be something added nothing to me.

Paul is telling the story of his 2nd visit with Peter, James, and John. It was 14 years after his initialal visit with Peter (which followed Paul's self-imposed "exile" in Arabia). Established in his own sense of calling, Paul was not intimidated by this meeting, not was he envious of how much more "success" the other Apostles had had. They had not yet been really persecuted or faced the hardships that Paul had already. Their's could seem to be "cushy" assignments compared to the trials that Paul had faced in his ministry of the Gospel.

If I had been Paul, it would have been very easy to look at P,J & J and think, "why do they have it so easy? God, remember how you called me? Haven't you seen how diligent I have been? Look at the sacrifices I have made." I get caught up in that comparing game, looking a others who don't seem to be as "gifted" as I am (hello, pride), or who have had breaks that I haven't (hello, self-pity). It is a good reminder that God doesn't play favorites. Instead, I need to perceiveve the grace that had been given" to those around me (v. 9), and direct my energy to that which God had committed to me to do. It's all about assignment. It's all about process.

Lord, as hard as it may be, I will win the battle inside myself to stop comparingng and to be diligent with that which You have comitted to me.

June 6, 2007

Beauty and Eternity

Ecclesiastes 3:9-14 (NLT)
What do people really get for all their hard work? 10 I have seen the burden God has placed on us all. 11 Yet God has made everything beautiful for its own time. He has planted eternity in the human heart, but even so, people cannot see the whole scope of God’s work from beginning to end. 12 So I concluded there is nothing better than to be happy and enjoy ourselves as long as we can. 13 And people should eat and drink and enjoy the fruits of their labor, for these are gifts from God.

Two of the most beautiful scriptures addressing the sovereignty of God are included in this passage from Ecclesiastes; "God has made everything beautiful for its own time" (emphasis added) and, "He has planted eternity in the human heart" (NKJV - "...in the hearts of men"). They also form a unique juxtaposition. These two concepts, God's purpose and God's plan, are often points of theological conflict. We know that not everything that happens in life is beautiful. In fact, life is often ugly and painful - that's why the "teacher" comes to the conclusion he does in v12. This is the world's philosophy on life - "eat, drink,and be merry, for tomorrow you may die." What we fail to understand is the sense of God's timing. The key phrase in this concept is not "God has made everything beautiful" (for his essence is goodness and beauty, so what else could he create?), but "for its own time." Since we have not yet experienced eternity (and consequently have no concept of eternity), we project outcomes to situations/circumstances that impose our limited experience (for an interesting scientific look at this I recommend Stumbling On Happiness by Daniel Gilbert) . Since we are not God, we're not able to see God's beauty in them or understand the purpose of them. This is why the apostle Paul later says, "And we know that in all things God is working for the good..." (Romans 8:28 - NIV) (To read the whole context. click here). The beauty that is inherent in all of creation, and therefore in all of our life's circumstances is that God is working in them and will reveal His glory through them.

This brings us to the next concept, the fact that having been created in his image, mankind is an eternal being. This is in contrast with our temporal physical existence. This physical existence encompasses our subsistence, yet it does not define our existence. The pleasure we derive from living and experiencing life is a gift from God says Solomon in v13. But, this is only temporal compared to the eternal. As eternal beings, there's more to living than just working, eating, dying...There's meaning to these things that is sought to be known by men. That's why every person comes to the conclusion at some point in their lives, "there must be more than this." That's because there is.

God's plan is that all things would point men to Himself ("beauty"). God's purpose in these things is to reveal himself to men; to be known ("eternity"). These concepts can appear to contradict each other, but they don't. Instead the contrast between them compliment each other and display that God in His sovereignty is good and right. Although we may not be ale to "see the whole scope of God’s work from beginning to end" (v11), what I know of His beauty, and what I hope for of eternity will be realized.

June 28, 2007

The Scarlet Thread of Redemption and Restoration

Ruth 4:13-15 (NKJV)
12 May your house be like the house of Perez, whom Tamar bore to Judah, because of the offspring which the LORD will give you from this young woman.”

13 So Boaz took Ruth and she became his wife; and when he went in to her, the LORD gave her conception, and she bore a son. 14 Then the women said to Naomi, “Blessed be the LORD, who has not left you this day without a close relative; and may his name be famous in Israel! 15 And may he be to you a restorer of life and a nourisher of your old age; for your daughter-in-law, who loves you, who is better to you than seven sons, has borne him.”

As we were praying today (during our BoD meetings) there was a spirit of introspection and repentance. The Lord brought me to this passage in Ruth as I recalled the words of v 15, "may he be to you a restorer of life..." These words were spoken to Naomi, a widow weary and bitter because of her perspective of how God has dealt with her in the past. As I began to meditate on this passage I skimmed the overall story of Boaz, Ruth, and Naomi. I want to try to record my observations for my personal future reference.

First, v 15 has some imagery that I'd like to connect. It's understood that Boaz is a picture of Jesus, the Kinsman Redeemer. The "he" in v 15 has an application to him. "He" also refers to the LORD "who has not left (her)." The "he" could also refer to the child born to Ruth and Boaz who brings comfort to Naomi and will sustain her, like the Holy Spirit does, and is the validation of her identity. This is so important to Naomi who feels she had lost everything. Upon her return to her homeland (Bethlehem), she is so wounded that she tell those who come to greet her to call her "Mara" - bitter. Mara(h) is the place where the bitter water became sweet after the staff had been cast into the waters - a picture of the cross removing the bitterness of sin. Now Naomi (which means "pleasant"), has experienced God's restoration and redemption. God had taken the shame of her past and honored her. This happens to the entire genealogical line of Ruth and Boaz as well.

Boaz's own family line (and Naomi's as well as a distant relative to Boaz) is filled with shame as well. His great, great, great, great-grandfather Perez was the offspring from the nearly incestuous relationship between Judah and his daughter-in-law Tamar (read the story here). Tamar's story is one of rejection and broken promises - a woman who felt forced to take her situation into her own hands. Her resulting pregnancy with twins brought forth Perez, the one who has "broken through," had the "scarlet thread" tied to him to become the holder of the birthright. The shame of Perez's conception was covered by a legacy of blessing. That "scarlet thread" of redemption now has tied Naomi and Ruth not only to Boaz, but to the Messiah who would come through this line.

The last words regarding Naomi leave her nursing the fruit of her own suffering. What a tender picture! From shame to honor, bitterness to fulfillment, breakdown to breakthrough! He is a restorer of life.

April 22, 2008

Remember the Donkey Show

Joshua 24:9-10 (ESV)
Then Balak the son of Zippor, king of Moab, arose and fought against Israel. And he sent and invited Balaam the son of Beor to curse you, 10 but I would not listen to Balaam. Indeed, he blessed you. So I delivered you out of his hand.

It's funny the things you remember, what gets registered in your brain. I'm thinking that as I'm reading this list from Joshua of all the amazing things God has done to bring them into the promised land. At the end of his life and the conclusion of posessing the land, Joshua is reviewing how God has sovreignly directed them as a people; from God's call to Abraham (big), the original journey into Egypt (with no mention of Joseph, but still an important event), the exodus, the battle where when Moses hands were raised the Israelites won (for which Joshua was the field general), and then the above verses fall.

I know the story of Balaam and the talking donkey. And interesting little side story with a funny side show. But for whatever reason, this must have been a very significant event in the nation's history. In fact, Peter, Paul, and even John in The Reveation comment on Balaam.

I'm not going to try today to fid the significance in Balaam's story. My point is that sometimes what we think is insignificant isn't. In hindsight, small events can have major influence. Maybe Joshua used this story to remind the people that God is often working on our behalf behind the scenes and not only in the big stuff. I wonder what events in my life are identity shaping that could be overlooked.

Lord, don't let me overlook the the stuff that you want me to remember.

February 24, 2010

Prognosticators, Forecasters, Speculators, and the Decline of Civilization

Deuteronomy 18:12-14 (NKJV)
For all who do these things are an abomination to the LORD, and because of these abominations the LORD your God drives them out from before you. 13 You shall be blameless before the LORD your God. 14 For these nations which you will dispossess listened to soothsayers and diviners; but as for you, the LORD your God has not appointed such for you.

Observation:

Application:
So much of the culture today is shaped by editorialized information. News correspondents are hired to present speculation as fact. The more outlandish and abrasive their opinions, the more influence they yield. Investment bankers and Wall Street brokers sell educated “hunches” as commodity for which they are handsomely paid. Our nation’s policies are shaped by forecasts and projections, many of which have proven to be less effective than guessing. So much of life is influenced by well meaning people who are simply trying to find a way to tell the future. No matter how well educated their experience or well-meaning their intentions, their efforts fall short, often with devastating results.

The Lord warns his people against developing any structure – governmental, environmental, financial, social – that does not place Him clearly at the center of any policy or action. God clearly points out the self-serving yet futile natures of the nations surrounding Israel. He warns them not to be influenced by their processes. In fact, God promises to drive these nations them out of their lands. This is so when Israel possesses the land, they also implement a completely new structure and system; one that is dependant upon God, and not mankind’s delusional attempts for self governance and self reliance.

The church can even get caught up in the “talking head” approach to life. We can place issues ahead of individuals, policy ahead of people. But God calls us to live blameless. God invites us to live dependant. God frees us to live obediently.

Prayer:
Lord, dispossess us of from our self-importance. Drive out the abomination of self-serving pride from my life that I may live in the promise you’ve appointed for me.

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.

About Sovereignty

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

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