He can do what is above and beyond

I’ve found myself repeating one particular Facebook comment in the last few weeks, over and over, post after post.  I have one thing I keep saying:

Way to be creative!

In the middle of coronavirus craziness, I’m stunned by the creativity of teachers and business owners and churches and more.

I’ve seen our local  parks and recreation have to  cancel all summer programs and then the karate instructor get permission to  take his class outside.

I’ve seen a gym owner who can’t train others inside the gym, so he does social distance training from his own home and even hosted an outdoor boot camp.

I’ve seen churches offer online services, hymn sings, drive-in prayer meetings, and meal distributions with toilet paper.

Teachers have my kids doing Star Wars work-outs, musical hopscotch, virtual field trips, scavenger hunts and nature walks.

Theaters are live-streaming productions of Shakespeare I’d never have seen otherwise.  I’m watching virtual choirs and bands jamming together over Zoom.

Restaurants closed down indoor seating and quickly transitioned to  curbside delivery and take-out.

Our local pottery painting studio made adorable take-home kits and our  library posts a steady stream of videos with stories and drawing lessons and more.

We’ve watched zoo safari lessons and the interpreters at Colonial  Williamsburg busy at work all from our living room.

There are days and moments within days that I begin to feel doomed and in despair, especially when I hear about changes they might make to the schools next year.  I fret over what my kids will experience and all that they have to lose.  I’ll have two high schoolers next year who love the arts and I’m reading articles saying that band, chorus, and theater are all on the chopping block because of coronavirus concerns.

I worry.

Oh, do  I worry.

I do not like the potential of a new normal and I’m relentlessly brokenhearted about each loss for my children.

And then I remember the creativity I have seen in the people around me….and the seemingly endless capacity for human creativity points me back to the undefinable, unlimited creativity of our Creator God.

He is not surprised by our situation and He is able to rescue and redeem us in it.

I read this today:

Now to him who is able to do above and beyond all that we ask or think according to the power that works in us—  to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus to all generations, forever and ever. Amen.  Ephesians 3:20-21

He is able, not just to do what we expect or imagine, but to do far more than that.  He is able to go above and beyond.

G.K. Chesterton said:

The trumpet of imagination is like the trumpet of the resurrection. It calls the dead out of their graves.

God creates beauty from ashes.  He forms a world out of the void.

He resurrects what is dead and heals what is broken.  He makes us new.  He is making everything new.

And when we create and imagine, we are just imitating our Heavenly Father and the resurrecting, creating work He is always doing.

So may it point us back to Him.  May all the innovation we see around us encourage us to bring all the worry and all the struggle to a God who can do a new thing in us and around us.

In Romans, it says:

Therefore we were buried with him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, so we too may walk in newness of life. For if we have been united with him in the likeness of his death, we will certainly also be in the likeness of his resurrection.  Romans 6:4-5

It’s this creative, resurrection work that I’m looking to Christ to do, in me and in our churches and communities, in my kids and their situations.  We have not seen the limit of what God can and will do.

Of course, the super-planner-extraordinaire in me wants to nail down the details.  Get it all in writing.  What exactly will it all look like?  When can I know?

But that’s when I see another  example of someone being creative  and I remember our God creates–above and beyond.  He helps us “walk in newness of life,”‘ overcoming what we experience, enduring what is difficult, holding onto hope, reaching what is promised.

 

The Unexpectedness of God | Advent

I bought the gift online and the box arrived on my porch yesterday.

It was quite a large box , much larger than I expected.  I couldn’t imagine what could possibly be inside since nothing I’d ordered would be that bulky.

I dropped the load I had in my hands inside the front door and hauled the package inside,  cutting it open quickly with scissors.  That’s when I found the surprise.

My son has two things topping his Christmas wish list:  Lego sets and dinosaur toys.  So, when this particular T-Rex toy went on super-sale on Black Friday online, I snatched  it up, knowing he’d love it.  The T-Rex is  his favorite  dinosaur and he always loves this brand o f toys.  I expected it to be a few inches tall like all the other toys we have by this same toymaker.

But this was beyond all expectation.  This T-Rex stands at least 5 times larger than all  the other action figures and is so big that he can “eat” the other toys and swallow them down into his expansive belly.

My son is going to love this.

I would never, ever have bought this toy knowingly, but this accident and this surprise will  probably be the hit of his Christmas morning.  I can’t wait.

Sometimes it can be so hard to “work up” anticipation, expectation and joy during the Advent season.  Calendars bog us down.  “Must-do’s”  and “have-to’s” can stifle our spirit.  Grief and even just disappointment at how the year turned out can weary us.

I need the reminder (maybe others do also?) about the unexpectedness of God.  How He breaks down the boxes we cram Him into.   We package Him up,  and He surprises us.   He is bigger and grander and far more unexpected than our wildest expectations.

I think I know how situations will unfold and sometimes I settle into thinking that “this will never change.” I see the problem.  I see the complications.  I see the mess.

But God.

I want to  see Him, who is able to do more and to do it in the most wildly creative way.  I cannot trust in my plans or my solutions and fixes, but I can trust in our Mighty God.

I remember Paul’s song of praise in Ephesians:

Now to him who is able to do above and beyond all that we ask or think according to the power that works in us—  to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus to all generations, forever and ever. Amen.  (Ephesians 3:20-21 CSB).

God is the defier expectations.  He is our Above-and-Beyond God.

In my Advent devotional this week, the readings began in Genesis, telling why we need a Savior, how because of our sin we needed a Rescuer and Deliverer who could restore our relationship with God.

And Adam and Eve knew this.  They heard God’s curse on the serpent:

I will put hostility between you and the woman,
and between your offspring and her offspring.
He will strike your head,
and you will strike his heel (Genesis 3:15 CSB).  

They knew that Another—a Deliverer—would come to defeat the serpent once and for all.

But what would this look like?  How would the Deliverer come?   How long would they have to wait?

Surely they could not have imagined as they headed out of the Garden of Eden how Jesus would come, how He would be born, how His rescue would come through His perfect life and sacrificial death.  Surely they could not have known the long line of generations who would wait for the coming of the Messiah.

My devotional reading says this:

“Scholar James Boice says Adam and Eve likely thought Cain was the deliverer who would defeat the serpent that God  promised in Genesis 3:15.  It’s even reflected in the name they gave him…In view of the promise of a  deliverer, [Cain’s] name probably means, ‘Here he is’ or ‘I’ve gotten him.’ Eve called her son ‘Here he is’ because she thought the deliverer had been sent by God.” (Advent, Lifeway Women, p. 14)

In Genesis 3, God says there will be a Deliverer.  In Genesis 4, Eve is pregnant and gives birth to Cain, the first human baby ever.

Maybe Adam and Eve truly thought this baby was the one who would rescue and restore them.  Cain would be the promised one.

But God.

They could have grown disappointed and discouraged with Cain’s failure and how nothing turned out the way they expected.

Still, God had a plan they could never have imagined, the perfect Savior who would come at the perfect time:

When the time came to completion, God sent his Son, born of a woman, born under the law,  to redeem those under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons (Galatians 4:4-5 CSB).

 

And then what happened?– Part I

“Nothing, you see, is impossible with God”
(Luke 1:36, MSG)

I’m not a big fan of surprises and hate suspense.  With the end of the regular TV season upon us, I’ve recorded the season finales of a few shows and will let them sit unwatched until September.  That way I can watch the season finale in all of its suspenseful glory and then immediately watch the resolution that typically occurs in the first 5 minutes of the new season. Spending an entire summer not knowing how a story ends is not my idea of a good time.

I do it with books, too.  If a character is in jeopardy, I’ll flip ahead a few pages to see if his name still occurs in the text (he must still be alive) and then turn back to continue the story from where I left off.  I’ve been known to read the last page of a book first and then flip back to the beginning.  In most cases, I’ll still read the book the whole way through, but I can do it without tension or nervousness and am therefore more able to enjoy the story with some leisure and appreciate the actual writing.  At least, that’s my excuse.  My husband, however, says “I destroy the dramatic integrity of the author.”

Outside of the fictional world, I’m still no fan of cliffhangers. As a believer in Jesus Christ, I can live with my eternal future already determined.  I can easily skip to the end of The Book, read the final chapters and then happily mosey through the rest of the story, looking forward always to the “blessed hope—the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ” (Titus 2:13).

In some ways, though, my eternal destination is the easy part.  It’s the suspense of day-to-day living that makes me want to “skip to the end” at times.  Once in middle school I lost my math book for a few days.  Fearing my teacher’s wrath (this mild-mannered, soft-spoken Algebra teacher of mine), I prayed at night, letting God know that it would be a great time for Jesus to come back and requesting that He please end my misery by whisking me off to heaven.  The rapture obviously did not occur in order to meet my middle school needs.  Instead, I had to tell my teacher that my book was missing and all of my nightmares and worst fears abated when my math book reappeared on my desk the next day, having been discovered in the school lost and found.

That night I spent without my math book, though, was a horror of suspense for me.  What exactly would happen?  How would this all work out?

Maybe you, like me, have asked some of these questions, no longer about lost math books, but now about your children, your marriage, your finances, your job, your ministry, your future.  Is everything going to turn out okay?  What is going to happen next?  Will things work out the way I want them to?

When I find myself asking these questions, I’ve learned to stop and ponder these things:

Part I: Put It In Perspective:

As a teacher, I had occasional extra duties outside the classroom, including morning drop-off.  One morning, a petite third-grade girl ran up to me in hysterics.  I thought someone had died, certainly some horrible tragedy had occurred in her home.  It seemed like a true crisis.

She had forgotten her lunch.

“Oh, baby girl,” I said as I held her hand and dropped to my knees so I could look in her eyes, “it’s okay.  Maybe we’ll call your mom for your lunch.  Maybe we’ll get you lunch from the cafeteria.  Either way, you don’t need to worry.”

Immediately, I felt that deep prompting of the Holy Spirit asking me, “How often have you cried in despair over a crisis that is as easy-to-fix in My sight as a forgotten lunch bag?”  This little girl didn’t have any hope, she couldn’t see any remedy or solution on her own, but when she gave the problem to me, I resolved it within seconds.

It’s not that God brushes aside our pain as childish or that the trials that leave us broken and hurting are foolish and unimportant to God.  Not at all.  Yet, it’s so easy to lose perspective because the issues we face in this world are sometimes big, certainly too much for us to handle and it’s hard to have hope when circumstances seem hopeless.

Consider some of the “cliffhangers” in Scripture for a brief moment:

  • Moses and the entire nation of Israel stood on the banks of the Red Sea, rushing water in front of them, Pharaoh’s army in hot pursuit behind them.  Would God rescue them from the enemy and bring them to freedom?
  • Daniel spent all night alone in a dark den of hungry lions and the king himself burst out of bed at the first light of dawn and rushed to the cave to see if Daniel had survived the night.  Was he still alive down there?
  • The three men stood before the fiery furnace, watching as the guards carrying them to the edge of the flames burnt to ashes.  Would God save them from the furnace?
  • Esther marched into the throne room uninvited by the king in order to beg for mercy for her people, knowing that her boldness could get her killed.  Would the king allow her to live and grant her request?

These aren’t scenarios of lost math books or forgotten lunches.  They are life and death matters in the worst possible physical circumstances.  They were impossible situations with insurmountable odds.  So then what happened?

What happened was God.  Yes, these problems weren’t trivial or small, petty or frivolous to the people in them.  But, as difficult as our life may be or as dark and scary as the unknown appears, what happens in our Christian walk will always be with God. 

When we stand on the precipice of unknown, feeling the knots in our stomach, fretting at night rather than sleeping, wondering what will happen next, we hand that situation over to God and then remember:

God can do anything, you know—far more than you could ever imagine or guess or request in your wildest dreams! He does it not by pushing us around but by working within us, his Spirit deeply and gently within us
(Ephesians 3:201-21, MSG).

“Nothing, you see, is impossible with God” (Luke 1:36, MSG)

Even in the biggest trials, we must remember how big our God is.

Heather King is a wife, mom, Bible Study teacher, writer for www.myfrienddebbie.com and worship leader.  Most importantly, she is a Christ follower with a desire to help others apply the Bible to everyday life with all its mess, noise, and busyness.  To read more devotionals by Heather King, click here.

Copyright © 2011 Heather King