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).

 

Bible Verses and a Prayer about Waiting

  • Psalm 25:4-5 ESV
    Make me to know your ways, O Lord;
    teach me your paths.
    Lead me in your truth and teach me,
    for you are the God of my salvation;
    for you I wait all the day long.
  • Psalm 27:13-14
    I remain confident of this: I will see the goodness of the LORD in the land of the living. Wait for the LORD; be strong and take heart and wait for the LORD.
  • Psalm 33:20-22
    We wait in hope for the LORD; he is our help and our shield. In him our hearts rejoice, for we trust in his holy name. May your unfailing love be with us, LORD,   even as we put our hope in you.
  • Psalm 37:7 ESV
    Be still before the Lord and wait patiently for him;
    fret not yourself over the one who prospers in his way,
    over the man who carries out evil devices!
  • Psalm 37:9 ESV
    For the evildoers shall be cut off,
    but those who wait for the Lord shall inherit the land.
  • Psalm 40:1-3 ESV
    I waited patiently for the Lord;
    he inclined to me and heard my cry.
    He drew me up from the pit of destruction,
    out of the miry bog,
    and set my feet upon a rock,
    making my steps secure.
    He put a new song in my mouth,
    a song of praise to our God.
    Many will see and fear,
    and put their trust in the Lord.
  • Psalm 62:5 ESV
    For God alone, O my soul, wait in silence,
    for my hope is from him.
  • Psalm 130:5-6 NIV
    I wait for the Lord, my whole being waits,
    and in his word I put my hope.
    I wait for the Lord
    more than watchmen wait for the morning,
    more than watchmen wait for the morning.
  • Isaiah 30:18 ESV
    Therefore the Lord waits to be gracious to you,
    and therefore he exalts himself to show mercy to you.
    For the Lord is a God of justice;
    blessed are all those who wait for him.
  • Isaiah 40:29-31 HCSB
    He gives strength to the weary

    and strengthens the powerless.
    Youths may faint and grow weary,
    and young men stumble and fall,
    but those who trust in the Lord
    will renew their strength;
    they will soar on wings like eagles;
    they will run and not grow weary;
    they will walk and not faint.

  • Isaiah 64:4 NIV
    Since ancient times no one has heard,
    no ear has perceived,
    no eye has seen any God besides you,
    who acts on behalf of those who wait for him.
  • Lamentations 3:25 ESV
    The Lord is good to those who wait for him,
    to the soul who seeks him.
  • Micah 7:7 NIV
    But as for me, I watch in hope for the Lord,
    I wait for God my Savior;
    my God will hear me.
  • James 5:7-8 HCSB
    Therefore, brothers, be patient until the Lord’s coming. See how the farmer waits for the precious fruit of the earth and is patient with it until it receives the early and the late rains. You also must be patient. Strengthen your hearts, because the Lord’s coming is near.

Say to those with fearful hearts

At the amusement park, after we’ve parked  the minivan and handed over our passes to be scanned and our bags to be checked, we head for the measuring station .

Only one of my kids still needs to be measured.  My girls have long since passed the point where they can ride anything in the park because of their height.

My son, though, is still tracking his growth progress through wrist band colors.  Each color tells him what he can ride based on how tall he is.

Somehow between the start of summer to the early fall, he shot up through three different colors on the ride chart.   That means technically he can ride his first big roller coaster.

This is thrilling to him.  He announces to each member of the family what color he’s on now.

But when I ask him if he really wants to ride any of the bigger rides—any of them at all—-he says, “I’ll do that when I’m 7.”

He’s taller than he is brave.

I remind him that the colors don’t really matter if we’re not going to ride any of the higher, faster rides, but he’s thrilled just the same.  He celebrates physical growth and that’s enough for him.

Not all of my kids have been like this, but most of them have (three out of the four).  We are timid about these things,  more likely to enjoy the small swings,  the bumper cars and the kiddie roller coaster long after others have moved on to bigger thrills.

We’re not born brave.  We’re  not naturally bold.  Courage isn’t part of our DNA.

(I’m still not a thrill-seeker.  At almost 40 years old, I’d rather not ride any rides at all . Even the spinning teacups aren’t my favorite.)

I can have fun at an amusement park without the speed and the rush and the drops that I hate so much.

But in life, fear can be so  much more crippling than this:  stealing joy, stealing peace, stealing boldness for the gospel and courage for Christ, stealing sleep.   It’s not about preference—rides or no rides.  It’s about fear holding me back from obeying Christ or keeping me from fully entrusting myself, my family, my kids to God.

Sometimes, all the anxiety over taking a next step can be utterly paralyzing.  What I really need to  do is just do  it.  Just take the step.   Just have  the conversation.  Just sign up or just step down.  Whatever God is asking me to  do, I need to do in obedience.   Faith over fear.  Trust over timidity.

Still I waiver so often.

Still I feel that paralysis of indecision and anxiety.

Still I try so hard to keep control over the many things I cannot control.

In the Everyday with Jesus Bible, Selwyn Hughes reminds me of what fear does and why it’s our enemy:

Fear sinks us:  When Peter stepped out of the boat, he “saw the strength of the wind, he was afraid, and beginning to sink he cried out, ‘Lord,  save me!'” (Matthew 14:30 CSB).

Fear knocks us down:  When the disciples saw the glory of the Lord at the Mount  of Transfiguration, their fear sent them to their knees.  But, “Jesus came up, touched them, and said, ‘Get up; don’t be afraid.'” (Matthes 17:7 CSB).

Fear hides our treasures and gifts:  The man with one talent in the parable said, “I was afraid and went off and hid your talent in the ground.”  His talent was wasted, buried in the earth and shoved into a hole in the ground because of fear.(Matthew 25:25 CSB).

Fear puts us behind closed doors:  After Jesus’s resurrection, the disciples gathered in secret, “with the doors locked because they feared the Jews. Jesus came, stood among them, and said to them, ‘Peace be with you.”” (John 20:19 CSB). 

“Fear drives us underground:” Joseph of Arimathea was “a disciple of Jesus—but secretly because of his fear of the Jews” (John 19:38 CSB).

I wonder how often I let fears from my past hold me back in the here and now.  Maybe I’ve grown. Maybe I’ve gone up a few colors on the growth chart, and yet I’m still sticking to the same-old same-old, the easiest and the most comfortable things before me instead of moving on.

Isaiah the prophet said:

Say to those with fearful hearts,
“Be strong, and do not fear,
for your God is coming to destroy your enemies.
He is coming to save you.” (Isaiah 35:4)

Maybe these are words we can speak to fearful hearts around us.

Or  maybe this is the reminder our own fearful heart needs:  “Be strong, and do not fear, for your God is coming….”

It’s because of his presence, His strength, His might, His mercy that we fearful ones can take the next courageous step.

 

Just Keep Walking

My daughter and I sat in our travel chairs, watching the soccer game.  We cheered on her teammates and told them “good work” and “way to go” when they ran over for water breaks.

Our coach cheered them on also, and she pushed them to persevere.  At one point she called out, “I don’t want to see any more walking out  there!”

We’ve heard her  say those same words at soccer practices all season.  There’s not much reason to walk around on a soccer field.  Pretty much anywhere you need to be, you need to get there fast.

My daughter, though, sat through the whole game, her crutches leaned against her chair.  She had hobbled onto the side of the field just to watch and cheer since running  (and even walking) was impossible.

She sprained her ankle in gym about a week  ago and she’s thankfully on the mend.  Today, she finally stepped onto the school bus without any crutches.

These past few days, she has moved slowly and depended on others for constant help.  Sweet friends have carried her backpack down the hallway and toted her binders from class to class.  Her kind teacher has carried her lunch tray for her.  Friends at play rehearsal have given her piggyback rides and actually carried her around as we ran through choreography.

She needed help and others have so generously given that help.

This  week  as we’ve sat on the soccer sidelines while  my daughter heals up, I’ve been thinking  about walking, running and hobbling around, and how sometimes the best we can do is a slow, painful crawl while others help us along.

Then there are times when we need to be in top form, running and running and running .  God equips us for the running seasons.  He trains and disciplines us for the sprint and He calls us out for the occasional marathon.

But that doesn’t mean we de-value the simple, faithful, daily act of walking or the seasons when walking alone takes perseverance.

“Run your own race.”  That little bit  of encouragement tells us not to give up when we’re on crutches and our best friend is zooming across finish lines.

We also remember what Isaiah said:

but those who trust in the Lord
will renew their strength;
they will soar on wings like eagles;
they will run and not become weary,
they will walk and not faint (Isaiah 40:31 CSB). 

We will have times that we soar.

We will have times that we run.

We will  have times that we walk.

Our pace doesn’t need to match anyone else’s, as long as we’re traveling with the Lord.

This same thought encourages me in another way.  Not just to keep going and not give up.  Not just to avoid comparing my speed with anyone else’s, choosing instead to be content with my own journey.

But also this–don’t criticize someone else’s pace.

One of my daughter’s teammates took a moment after the game to tell her, “Thanks for the support.  I hope you feel better soon.”

He thanked her—even though she had spent the game in a chair on the side of the field.

Sometimes the people around us who are limping along on crutches need us to say, “Keep it up!  You can make it!”  Sometimes, they need us to carry a binder or bookbag because they cannot do  that alone.

When we’re sprinting, it can be easy to judge others who aren’t.  But Jesus calls us to  grace.  Jesus calls us to compassion and encouragement, gentleness and kindness with our brothers and sisters.

Today, I read:

The end of a matter is better than its beginning;
a patient spirit is better than a proud spirit.
Don’t let your spirit rush to be angry,
for anger abides in the heart of fools (Eccles. 7:8-9)

God cultivates the patient spirit within us. 

He doesn’t say that a patient spirit is better than a “hasty” spirit or an “impatient” spirit.  He says it’s better than being proud.

That’s because it’s pride that drives haste and impatience and a rush into anger when others don’t meet our expectations or pass our judgment.

Matthew Poole’s commentary says this verse is partly “to correct the vulgar error of proud men, who think highly of themselves, and trample all others, especially such as are meek and patient, under their feet.”

May that not describe me.

In my haste, eagerness, devotion, or passion, may I never trample over others, especially the meek and patient around me.

May this also be true:  May I value the walking seasons instead of envying when others run.  May I be a cheerleader for  those around me.  May I be a help instead of a hurt to  those who might be wounded or weary.

 

Bible Verses about Walking With God

  • Genesis 5:22-24 ESV
    Enoch walked with God after he fathered Methuselah 300 years and had other sons and daughters. 23 Thus all the days of Enoch were 365 years. 24 Enoch walked with God, and he was not,[b] for God took him.
  • Genesis 6:9 ESV
    These are the generations of Noah. Noah was a righteous man, blameless in his generation. Noah walked with God.
  • Genesis 13:17 ESV
    Arise, walk through the length and the breadth of the land, for I will give it to you.”
  • Genesis 17:1 ESV
    When Abram was ninety-nine years old the Lord appeared to Abram and said to him, “I am God Almighty; walk before me, and be blameless,
  • Leviticus 26:12 ESV
    And I will walk among you and will be your God, and you shall be my people.
  • Deuteronomy 5:33 ESV
    You shall walk in all the way that the Lord your God has commanded you, that you may live, and that it may go well with you, and that you may live long in the land that you shall possess.
  • Deuteronomy 6:7 ESV
     You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise.
  • Deuteronomy 8:6 ESV
    So you shall keep the commandments of the Lord your God by walking in his ways and by fearing him.
  • Deuteronomy 10:12 ESV
    And now, Israel, what does the Lord your God require of you, but to fear the Lord your God, to walk in all his ways, to love him, to serve the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul,
  • 1 Kings 2:3-4 ESV
    and keep the charge of the Lord your God, walking in his ways and keeping his statutes, his commandments, his rules, and his testimonies, as it is written in the Law of Moses, that you may prosper in all that you do and wherever you turn, that the Lord may establish his word that he spoke concerning me, saying, ‘If your sons pay close attention to their way, to walk before me in faithfulness with all their heart and with all their soul, you shall not lack[a] a man on the throne of Israel.
  • Psalm 1:1 ESV
    Blessed is the man
        who walks not in the counsel of the wicked,
    nor stands in the way of sinners,
        nor sits in the seat of scoffers;
  • Psalm 15:1-2 ESV

    Lord, who shall sojourn in your tent?
        Who shall dwell on your holy hill?

    He who walks blamelessly and does what is right
        and speaks truth in his heart;

  • Psalm 26:2-3 ESV
    Prove me, O Lord, and try me;
        test my heart and my mind.
    For your steadfast love is before my eyes,
        and I walk in your faithfulness.
  • Psalm 23:4 ESV
    Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death,
        I will fear no evil,
    for you are with me;
        your rod and your staff,
        they comfort me.
  • Psalm 56:13 ESV
    For you have delivered my soul from death,
        yes, my feet from falling,
    that I may walk before God
        in the light of life.
  • Psalm 81:13 ESV
    Oh, that my people would listen to me,
        that Israel would walk in my ways!
  • Psalm 86:11 ESV
    Teach me your way, O Lord,
        that I may walk in your truth;
        unite my heart to fear your name.
  • Psalm 89:15 ESV
    Blessed are the people who know the festal shout,
        who walk, O Lord, in the light of your face,
  • Proverbs 4:12 ESV
    When you walk, your step will not be hampered,
        and if you run, you will not stumble.
  • Isaiah 2:3 ESV
     and many peoples shall come, and say:
    “Come, let us go up to the mountain of the Lord,
        to the house of the God of Jacob,
    that he may teach us his ways
        and that we may walk in his paths.”
    For out of Zion shall go forth the law,
        and the word of the Lord from Jerusalem.
  • Isaiah 2:5 ESV
    O house of Jacob,
        come, let us walk
        in the light of the Lord.
  • Isaiah 35:8 ESV
    And a highway shall be there,
        and it shall be called the Way of Holiness;
    the unclean shall not pass over it.
        It shall belong to those who walk on the way;
        even if they are fools, they shall not go astray.
  • Isaiah 43:2 ESV
    When you pass through the waters, I will be with you;
        and through the rivers, they shall not overwhelm you;
    when you walk through fire you shall not be burned,
        and the flame shall not consume you.
  • Jeremiah 7:23 ESV
     But this command I gave them: ‘Obey my voice, and I will be your God, and you shall be my people. And walk in all the way that I command you, that it may be well with you.’
  • Micah 4:5 ESV
    For all the peoples walk
        each in the name of its god,
    but we will walk in the name of the Lord our God
        forever and ever.
  • Micah 6:8 ESV
    He has told you, O man, what is good;
        and what does the Lord require of you
    but to do justice, and to love kindness,
        and to walk humbly with your God?
  • Malachi 2:6 ESV
     True instruction[a] was in his mouth, and no wrong was found on his lips. He walked with me in peace and uprightness, and he turned many from iniquity.
  • 2 Corinthians 5:7 ESV
    for we walk by faith, not by sight.
  • Galatians 5:16-17 ESV
     But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh. 17 For the desires of the flesh are against the Spirit, and the desires of the Spirit are against the flesh, for these are opposed to each other, to keep you from doing the things you want to do.
  • Ephesians 4:1 ESV
    I therefore, a prisoner for the Lord, urge you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called,
  • Ephesians 5:2 ESV
    And walk in love, as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.
  • Colossians 1:10 ESV
    so as to walk in a manner worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing to him: bearing fruit in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God;
  • 1 John 1:6 ESV
    If we say we have fellowship with him while we walk in darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth.
  • 1 John 1:7 ESV
    But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin.

I’m in this for the long haul

I’m a lunchbox communicator.

When my oldest girls started school, I slipped little notes of love and encouragement into their lunch bags periodically, especially for big tests or on project days.

I realized, though, that my one girl in particular would much prefer funny to sweet, so I  started writing her jokes instead of love notes.  She liked  them so much,  I ended up creating an entire collection of lunchbox-worthy jokes I found online so I’d always have something to share.

This was a big hit.  If a joke was particularly funny, my kids passed it  around their lunch table and shared with their friends.

When I started running low on material for my lunchtime comedy routine, my  friend suggested I  clip comics from the Sunday newspaper for my family.  So, for the first  time in my life, I’ve become a devotee of the “Sunday funnies,” cutting out  my favorites and tucking them into lunchboxes whenever I find a good one.

My son just started school now and he’s  an emerging reader, so he’s not quite ready for most of my go-to notes, jokes or comics.

So, one day last week I scribbled onto an index card and put it in my Andrew’s lunchbox along with his apple and goldfish.  I included a simple (very simple) drawing (I’m no artist)  of a cat wearing a top hat.  I stuck to beginner phonics and wrote,  “The cat has a hat”  and signed it, “Love,  Mom.”

That night, I ran through my “how was your day?” questions with Andrew, including, “How was lunch?”

He said, “I got your funny note.”

Simple and sweet.  It made him laugh when he found it in his bag, he said.

The next day, I packed his lunch without a note inside,  which I heard about when he got home.  “How come you didn’t make me a funny card for my lunch?”

I just hadn’t thought about it.  I didn’t know he was looking forward to  getting a note EVERY SINGLE DAY.

That’s not  so easy to  do,  by the way, if you aren’t great at drawing and you’re trying to stick to things your beginning reader can actually read.

But it made me happy that he enjoyed it, so I  made a new card that said, “Batman has a red dog” and I sketched out my version of Batman and a red canine.

That was a win.

So now when I ask him at night what he would like in his lunch for the next day, he doesn’t ask for  food of any kind.  He says, “Don’t forget to  make me a funny note if you have time.”

I’m in this for the long haul now, at least until he can read the comics in the newspaper.

And the long haul aspect of spiritual life is what I’ve been thinking about.  What is it that I’ve begun that I need the reminder to stick with or even re-engage?

I’m usually a highly-energized starter, but isn’t it so easy to grow weary?  Isn’t it so natural to slip  into doing what I’ve always done without attention, care, passion, focus—without moving forward?

In the past few years, I’ve had many ministries and relationships that God has asked me to lay down.  I’ve said goodbyes in some places so  I could start in on something new.  There have been endings and new beginnings.

I remain watchful and yielded, asking  and praying often, “Do I continue?  Do I stop?  Do I begin?  Do I  move on?”  I seek intently and purposefully to know what God would have me do or not do.

But there are some in-it-for-the-long-haul commitments where I need some intermittent reminders like Paul’s words  to the church in Corinth:

 Therefore, my beloved brethren, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that your toil is not in vain in the Lord (1 Corinthians 15:58 NASB).

Be steadfast.

Be immovable.

Be productive—abounding in the work of the Lord.

The only way that steadiness and faithfulness a re possible for me is because I  can remember this promise: that anything I do in the Lord is never wasted.

This i s Paul’s reminder in Galatians also:

And let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up (Galatians 6:9 ESV).

It’s the reminder of harvest that helps me not give up; the reminder that God has a purpose and a plan and a blessing; the reminder that I’m serving Him and loving Him and this is truly worship.

It’s the reminder of how He loves us so that re-energizes me for the race I’m running  and helps me keep at it, day after day, season after season.

 

 

Bible Verses about Guidance and Direction

  • Exodus 33:12-16 NASB
    Then Moses said to the Lord, “See, You say to me, ‘Bring up this people!’ But You Yourself have not let me know whom You will send with me. Moreover, You have said, ‘I have known you by name, and you have also found favor in My sight.’ 13 Now therefore, I pray You, if I have found favor in Your sight, let me know Your ways that I may know You, so that I may find favor in Your sight. Consider too, that this nation is Your people.” 14 And He said, “My presence shall go with you, and I will give you rest.” 15 Then he said to Him, “If Your presence does not go with us, do not lead us up from here. 16 For how then can it be known that I have found favor in Your sight, I and Your people? Is it not by Your going with us, so that we, I and Your people, may be distinguished from all the other people who are upon the face of the earth?”
  • Psalm 5:8 NIV
    Lead me, Lord, in your righteousness
    because of my enemies—
    make your way straight before me.
  • Psalm 25:4-5 NASB
    Make me know Your ways, O Lord;
    Teach me Your paths.
    Lead me in Your truth and teach me,
    For You are the God of my salvation;
    For You I wait all the day.
  • Psalm 25:9 NIV
    He guides the humble in what is right
    and teaches them his way.
  • Psalm 25:12 NIV
    Who, then, are those who fear the Lord?
    He will instruct them in the ways they should choose.
  • Psalm 31:3
    Since you are my rock and my fortress, for the sake of your name lead and guide me.
  • Psalm 32:8 NASB
    I will instruct you and teach you in the way which you should go;
    I will counsel you with My eye upon you.
  • Psalm 43:3 NASB
    O send out Your light and Your truth, let them lead me;
    Let them bring me to Your holy hill
    And to Your dwelling places.
  • Psalm 86:11
    Teach me Your way, O Lord;
    I will walk in Your truth;
    Unite my heart to fear Your name.
  • Psalm 119:35 NASB
    Make me walk in the path of Your commandments,
    For I delight in it.
  • Psalm 119:105 NASB
    Your word is a lamp to my feet
    And a light to my path.
  • Psalm 139:23-24 NASB
    Search me, O God, and know my heart;
    Try me and know my anxious thoughts;
    And see if there be any hurtful way in me,
    And lead me in the everlasting way.
  • Psalm 143:8 NASB
    Let me hear Your lovingkindness in the morning;
    For I trust in You;
    Teach me the way in which I should walk;
    For to You I lift up my soul.
  • Proverbs 3:5-6 ESV
    Trust in the LORD with all your heart,
    and do not lean on your own understanding.
    In all your ways acknowledge him,
    and he will make straight your paths.
  • Proverbs 16:9 NASB
    The mind of man plans his way,
    But the Lord directs his steps.
  • Isaiah 30:21 NIV
    Whether you turn to the right or to the left, your ears will hear a voice behind you, saying, “This is the way; walk in it.”
  • John 10:3-4 NASB
    To him the doorkeeper opens, and the sheep hear his voice, and he calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. When he puts forth all his own, he goes ahead of them, and the sheep follow him because they know his voice.
  • John 16:13 NIV
    But when he, the Spirit of truth, comes, he will guide you into all the truth. He will not speak on his own; he will speak only what he hears, and he will tell you what is yet to come.
  • James 1:5-6 NIV
     If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you. But when you ask, you must believe and not doubt, because the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind.
  • Romans 12:2 NASB
    And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect.

From Here to Eternity

I announced  it was time to go and my son and his friend scrambled into clean-up mode and prepared to say their goodbyes.

When I opened the door, my little guy turned to call out one final farewell.  That’s when his friend ran to the door and they both leaned over for a sideways hug.  My son then made what he considers the ultimate, laid-in-cement gesture of friendship.  He yelled, “I’ll invite you to my birthday party!”

It’s August.

My son’s birthday is in October.

In the parking lot, I ask him how he enjoyed his time with his “best bud,” and he quickly corrects me.  He likes to call him, “my favorite friend.”

I’ve been thinking  as I watch all my kids, in their various stages of friendship and maturity, about what it really means to connect and belong, to love, to show grace, to stand strong and maybe even stand alone, and how God can bind us together with others in community.

After all, my son doesn’t just  think about his friend now, or about inviting his friend to a party in October.  He thinks about when they’re in middle school  together and then about high school.  He’s got long-term plans for friendship. This is sweet and cute and so “5-years-old,” but what if this is also for me as an adult, too?

In his book, Practice Resurrection, Eugene Peterson says this about  the Church,

The Holy Spirit formed it (the church) to be a colony of  heaven in a country of  death.

This image captivates me.  “A colony of  heaven.”  We can’t be heaven, of course.  We live in sin-brokenness and we are so clearly imperfect.  After all, that’s why we’re part of the Church—because we need a Savior!  Because we’re sinners!  We step on each other’s toes and we invade each other’s spaces at times.  We all battle Death;  it surrounds us in this death-bound world.  The church is constantly battered from without and beaten within by the impact of that brokenness.

Still, we have life.  We who follow Jesus already possess eternal life.  This is what ties us together as believers.  We’re not just in this together for the temporary, or even for a decade.  We’re in this together for eternity, and the great news is that our eternity has already begun.

It’s not “once upon a time.”  Our Kingdom life, our heavenly journey, begins the moment we follow Christ.

How can that change my perspective on loving others?

I feel less pressured, for one thing.  I remember that God has an eternal work in mind.  He brings people into my life and then He moves them on in a new season, and I can let Him direct my steps.  When to cling?  When to let go?  He knows, and  I can trust Him.

When God was preparing to  take Elijah up to heaven, his sidekick, right-hand man, and apprentice (Elisha) knew Elijah was about to leave.

In 2 Kings 2, Elijah told Elisha three different times, “You stay here.  God wants me to go to  another place—Bethel, Jericho, the Jordan.”  He tried to get Elisha to stay behind.

But every time Elisha said, “As Adonai lives and as you live, I will  not leave you” (2 Kings 2:6).  Elisha remained steadfastly by Elijah’s side and ultimately received a double-portion of the Lord’s anointing when he sees Elijah taken up to heaven.

Then Elijah was gone.   God removed Elijah and led Elisha into a new season of ministry without his mentor there any longer.

I remember this also: that eternity has begun for us, but none of us are perfect in the here and now.  I need the perspective of grace and of growth for me and for others: that we’re transforming—we haven’t already transformed.

Paul writes:

And he himself gave some to be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, some pastors and teachers,  equipping the saints for the work of ministry, to build up the body of Christ, until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of God’s Son, growing into maturity with a stature measured by Christ’s fullness (Ephesians 4:11-13 CSB).

We’re in that place now of building  and equipping one another, and we’re in this together UNTILUntil Christ comes.  Until we’ve achieved 100% unity in faith and knowing Jesus.  Until we’ve fully matured into Christ-likeness.

We’re not there yet.  In the meantime, we equip each other.  We build each other up.  We help each other become more like Jesus.  We serve and we minister as He’s called and equipped us for the benefit of the whole Church because we’re in this together for now and for eternity.

 

Not the same anymore

When my son was a baby, I  gave away his infant swing because he hated it.  He was the fourth baby in our line of babies to swing in that very same swing.  Others had loved it, just not him.  So I  gave the swing away and saved space in our living room.  It was a win-win.

Now here  we are five years later and this same kid spent at least 30 minutes swinging non-stop at the playground today.  He shooed me away when I tried  to push him because, “I know how to pump my legs all  by myself now, mom.

So, I sat on the nearby bench in the shade and watched as he lifted himself higher and higher.

This is the same boy.

Sometimes you don’t really catch all the signs that your kids are growing up .  Then there’s a moment when you’re sitting on a wooden bench alongside a playground and it hits you all at once: How big he really is.  How he’s about to start kindergarten.  How he’s changed so much.

And that’s the thing that I’ve been  weighing this afternoon, the changing.  A former baby-swing-hater now loves to swing.

I’ve had changes all  around me in the past year or two, and I have changes before me in this next year once again.

A “baby” starting kindergarten.  My oldest starting high school.   A brand new season where, for  the first time in 15 years, I don’t have a little one at home with me.

I do not love change.  I do not seek it out and I do not enjoy it. I push against change all the time, clinging tight-fisted to whatever reality I know in fear of whatever is unknown.

But here I am in a season of  change, a long  season of frequent and significant changes at that.

So I wonder as I  watch my son swinging away today whether God wants to  do more than just transition and transform the environment around me.  Could it be that He wants to do the same work of transition and transformation inside me?

What can He change within me that maybe I’ve thought could never change?   A habit?  A weakness?  A stubbornness?  A sinful attitude?  A prejudice or judgment?  A fear?

When the Old Testament prophet, Samuel, poured anointing oil over a man named Saul and announced he would be the first king  of Israel, it wasn’t because Saul was already equipped for the job.  Scripture says:

Then it happened when he turned his back to leave Samuel, God changed his heart; and all those signs came about on that day (1 Samuel 10:9 NASB). 

God changed Saul’s heart in that very moment.

Not that Saul was perfect, mind you.  Far from it.  We know his failures as a king and spiritual leader of Israel.

Still, in that moment, God changed Saul’s heart because God had a plan for Saul.

What if I offered up my heart for the Spirit’s work, invited the Lord to do the renovation that needs to  be done?

Joy where there is not joy.  Peace where there is fear. Love for others who are hard to love.  Humility in the places pride has dug down deep.  Compassion in hard ground.   Repentance when my heart hasn’t been soft enough to see the sin.

Change my heart, Lord.  Change my mind and thought processes and attitudes so that I reflect your heart and your mind.

My struggle sometimes is that I don’t want change.   Other times my struggle is that I long for something to  give way and change, but  change feels impossible.  Stuck.  Hopeless.

What then?

Warren Wiersbe reminds us that:

God is not limited by the past.  No matter how many disappointments and failures we may have had in the past, when Jesus Christ comes on the scene, everything has to change….Nothing paralyzes our lives like the attitude that things can never change.  We need to remind ourselves that God can change things!  God can forgive sin and put new power into lives that seem to be utter failures.  God can send revival to a church that everybody thinks is dead.   God can move into a difficult situation and turn seeming failure into victory.  God makes the difference!” (The Bumps are What You Climb On).

Christ’s presence means everything has to  change.

So I settle my heart, I yield, I invite Him in and I invite Him to  make Himself at home.  May He change what needs to be changed in my life, in my circumstances, in my relationships, and in my heart and mind.

Bible Verses about Remembering

WE REMEMBER THE LORD AND HIS COVENANT LOVE

  • Exodus 20:8 ESV
    “Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy.
  • Deuteronomy 6:12 ESV
    then take care lest you forget the Lord, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery.
  • Deuteronomy 7:17-18 ESV
    If you say in your heart, ‘These nations are greater than I. How can I dispossess them?’ 18 you shall not be afraid of them but you shall remember what the Lordyour God did to Pharaoh and to all Egypt,
  • Deuteronomy 8:2 ESV
    And you shall remember the whole way that the Lord your God has led you these forty years in the wilderness, that he might humble you, testing you to know what was in your heart, whether you would keep his commandments or not.
  • 1 Chronicles 16:12 ESV
    Remember the wondrous works that he has done,
        his miracles and the judgments he uttered,
  • 1 Chronicles 16:15 ESV
    Remember his covenant forever,
        the word that he commanded, for a thousand generations,
  • Psalm 42:5-6 ESV

    Why are you cast down, O my soul,
        and why are you in turmoil within me?
    Hope in God; for I shall again praise him,
        my salvation[a] and my God.

    My soul is cast down within me;
        therefore I remember you
    from the land of Jordan and of Hermon,
        from Mount Mizar.

  • Psalm 45:17 ESV
    I will cause your name to be remembered in all generations;
        therefore nations will praise you forever and ever.
  • Psalm 63:6 ESV
    when I remember you upon my bed,
        and meditate on you in the watches of the night;
  • Psalm 77:11 ESV
    I will remember the deeds of the Lord;
        yes, I will remember your wonders of old.
  • Psalm 78:35 ESV
    They remembered that God was their rock,
        the Most High God their redeemer.
  • Psalm 98:3 ESV
    He has remembered his steadfast love and faithfulness
        to the house of Israel.
    All the ends of the earth have seen
        the salvation of our God.
  • Psalm 106:4 ESV
    Remember me, O Lord, when you show favor to your people; help me when you save them,
  • Psalm 111:4 ESV
    He has caused his wondrous works to be remembered;
        the Lord is gracious and merciful.
  • Psalm 119:55 ESV
    I remember your name in the night, O Lord,

        and keep your law.
  • Psalm 136:23 ESV
    It is he who remembered us in our low estate,
        for his steadfast love endures forever;
  • Proverbs 10:7 ESV
    The memory of the righteous is a blessing,
        but the name of the wicked will rot.
  • Isaiah 46:9 ESV
        remember the former things of old;
    for I am God, and there is no other;
        I am God, and there is none like me,
  • Jonah 2:7 ESV
    When my life was fainting away,
        I remembered the Lord,
    and my prayer came to you,
        into your holy temple.
  • Luke 22:19 ESV
    And he took bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it and gave it to them, saying, “This is my body, which is given for you. Do this in remembrance of me.”
  • John 14:26 ESV
     But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, he will teach you all things and bring to your remembrance all that I have said to you.
  • 1 Corinthians 11:24 ESV
    and when he had given thanks, he broke it, and said, “This is my body, which is for[a] you. Do this in remembrance of me.
  • 2 Timothy 2:8 ESV
    Remember Jesus Christ, risen from the dead, the offspring of David, as preached in my gospel,

THE LORD REMEMBERS HIS PEOPLE AND HIS COVENANT WITH THEM

  • Genesis 8:1 ESV
     But God remembered Noah and all the beasts and all the livestock that were with him in the ark. And God made a wind blow over the earth, and the waters subsided.
  • Exodus 2:23-25 ESV
    During those many days the king of Egypt died, and the people of Israel groaned because of their slavery and cried out for help. Their cry for rescue from slavery came up to God. 24 And God heard their groaning, and God remembered his covenant with Abraham, with Isaac, and with Jacob. 25 God saw the people of Israel—and God knew.
  • Psalm 105:8 ESV
    He remembers his covenant forever,
        the word that he commanded, for a thousand generations,
  • Psalm 111:5 ESV
    He provides food for those who fear him;
        he remembers his covenant forever.
  • Isaiah 40:15-16 ESV
    “Can a woman forget her nursing child,
        that she should have no compassion on the son of her womb?
    Even these may forget,
        yet I will not forget you.
    16 Behold, I have engraved you on the palms of my hands;
        your walls are continually before me.

THE LORD CHOOSES TO FORGET OUR PAST SINS

  • Psalm 25:6-7 ESV
    Remember your mercy, O Lord, and your steadfast love,
        for they have been from of old.
    Remember not the sins of my youth or my transgressions;
        according to your steadfast love remember me,
        for the sake of your goodness, O Lord!
  • Psalm 79:8 ESV
    Do not remember against us our former iniquities;[a]
        let your compassion come speedily to meet us,
        for we are brought very low.
  • Isaiah 43:25-26 ESV
    “I, I am he
        who blots out your transgressions for my own sake,
        and I will not remember your sins.
  • Isaiah 65:17 ESV
    “For behold, I create new heavens
        and a new earth,
    and the former things shall not be remembered
        or come into mind.