Tag Archives: Isaiah

Expunging the Record

If a person is convicted of a crime, it goes on his or her record, sometimes referred to a rap sheet.

Under certain circumstances, a person’s record might be expunged. If a record is expunged it is as if it never existed. It is completely erased, never to be resurrected.

Under other circumstances, a person’s record might be sealed. The procedure to seal a record is often used in juvenile cases. Once a record is officially sealed, it can only be opened by order of the court. But it can be opened. It is not really gone.

Scripture tells us that every person has sinned – “for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” Romans 3:23 (NIV). We all have had a record, some longer than others.

Then in comes God and offers to forgive our sins. And God’s forgiveness of our sins is akin to an expungement. It’s as if the sins were never committed and there is no record of them. The prophet Isaiah recorded the words of the Lord:

“Come now, let us reason together,” says the LORD. “Though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they are red as crimson, they shall be like wool.” Isaiah 1:18 (NIV).

“I, even I, am he who blots out your transgressions, for my own sake, and remembers your sins no more.” Isaiah 43:25 (NIV).

But as humans, we have difficult time with the concept of the record of our sins being expunged. We worry that the record has simply been sealed and that it could be reopened by order of the Judge at a moment’s notice.

After all, that’s what we do. When others sin against us, we might forgive them. But we don’t expunge the record; we simply seal it. We may intend to leave it sealed, but when another sin is committed against us by the same person, we unseal that record and add the new sin to it. We keep a record of wrongs. Cf. 1 Corinthians 13:5 (NIV).

But a sealing of the record is not what God calls us to do. He calls us to expunge the record just as He has expunged our record. He calls us to forgive AND forget. But we can’t do it in our own strength, and He doesn’t expect us to. He has given us His Holy Spirit to help us and guide us. The fruit of the Spirit includes love. And love “keeps no record of wrongs.” 1 Corinthians 13:5 (NIV).

So whose record is God calling you to expunge? Who is God calling you to love like He loves you?

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The Shepherd – A Poem

The other day I posted a “found poem” that my son wrote for his social studies class. After reading a bit about this form of poetry, I decided I wanted to try writing one. I thought of all the references to sheep and shepherds in the Bible and chose to focus on these references for my found poem. Biblegateway came in handy so that I could easily search and “find” the verses I wanted to include. I thought about including all of the scripture references as footnotes, but decided that would make the post too cluttered.

I’m posting this poem as my Thankful Thursday post because I am thankful that Jesus is our Good Shepherd. I am also thankful for the consistent theme of God as the shepherd of His lost and wandering sheep throughout the Bible.

The Shepherd

We all, like sheep, have gone astray,
each of us has turned to his own way;
Hear us, O Shepherd of Israel,
You who lead Joseph like a flock;
You who sit enthroned
between the cherubim.

Like a hunted gazelle, like sheep
without a shepherd,
each will flee to his native land.
Save your people and bless
your inheritance; be their shepherd
and carry them forever.

He had compassion on them,
because they were harassed and helpless,
like sheep without a shepherd.
This is what the Sovereign LORD says:
Woe to the shepherds of Israel
who only take care of themselves!

Should not shepherds take care of the flock?
The LORD is my shepherd,
I shall not be in want.
“I will place shepherds over them
who will tend them, and they will
no longer be afraid or terrified,
nor will any be missing,” declares the LORD.

Then I will give you shepherds
after my own heart, who will lead you
with knowledge and understanding.
They will follow my laws
and be careful to keep my decrees.
And David shepherded them
with integrity of heart;
with skillful hands he led them.

For you were like sheep
going astray, but now
you have returned to the Shepherd
and Overseer of your souls.
And when the Chief Shepherd appears,
you will receive the crown of glory
that will never fade away.

For the Lamb at the center
of the throne will be their shepherd;
He will lead them to springs
of living water. And God
will wipe away every tear from their eyes.
So the LORD’s people will not
be like sheep without a shepherd.

But you, Bethlehem, in the land of Judah,
out of you will come a ruler
who will be the shepherd of my people Israel.
“I have other sheep that are
not of this sheep pen. I must bring them also.
They too will listen to my voice,
and there shall be one flock and one shepherd.”

He will stand and shepherd
his flock in the strength of the LORD,
in the majesty of the name of the LORD
his God. And they will live securely,
for then his greatness will reach
to the ends of the earth.

“I am the good shepherd
who lays down his life for the sheep.”
He tends his flock like a shepherd:
He gathers the lambs in his arms
and carries them close to his heart;
and the LORD has laid on him
the iniquity of us all.

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On the Road to Emmaus

A number of years ago – I can’t really remember how long ago – I was reading through Luke. It wasn’t the first time I had read Luke, or at least parts of it, but as often happens when I’m reading scripture I saw something I hadn’t before.

There is a passage of scripture at Luke 24:13-35 that is titled “On the Road to Emmaus” in my NIV Study Bible. It recounts the story of some previously unnamed disciples of Jesus who are trudging along the road three days after the crucifixion of the One they had been following, the One they believed was going to save Israel. The resurrection has occurred, but these disciples don’t understand. They think perhaps Jesus’ body was stolen; they can’t quite grasp the reality that He is alive.

I can picture them walking slowly along, heads hung low, in no particular hurry because there no longer seems anywhere worth going. They are dismayed by the events that have taken place and don’t understand that what has happened to Jesus is the greatest event in the history of the world.

As they trudge along, a man appears and begins walking with them and talking to them. It is Jesus, but they don’t realize it. They tell Him all that has happened, as they understand it. Jesus responds by saying that these things had to happen to the Messiah as foretold by the prophets. Then comes the verse that jumped out at me so that I had to reread it several times to take it all in: “And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he explained to them what was said in all the Scriptures concerning himself.” Luke 24:27 (NIV).

I sat there mesmerized by that verse. “Moses and all the Prophets” – that’s the Old Testament. With the exception of a few obvious verses, like Isaiah foretelling of the virgin birth, I had never before thought of “all the Scriptures” as being about Jesus.

But they are all about Him. The entirety of the Bible, from Genesis 1:1 to Revelation 22:21, is about Jesus. He was there in the beginning and He will be there in the end. The Law is there to show our need for Him as Redeemer and Savior. The Prophets are there to foretell both His first coming as a baby in a manger and His second coming at the end of time. The Prophets were also there to show the Israelites how much they needed the change of heart that only Jesus can bring about and the great mercy of God that only He reveals.

As I pondered this verse that day years ago, right then and there I closed my eyes, bowed my head, and prayed this prayer: “Lord Jesus, just as You revealed to the disciples on the road to Emmaus what was written about You in the Old Testament, please show me wherever You are whenever I open my Bible and read these ancients words.”

And you know what? God is faithful! He has answered this prayer more times than I can count. He opened my eyes to see the big picture of the Scriptures – both Old and New Testaments – and to see the place of Jesus throughout. Jesus is central to it all! Everything that is exists by Him, for Him, through Him, and reveals His glory and grace.

I know I have written other posts about specific places in which I have found Jesus revealed in the Old Testament, but the purpose of this post is not to recount all the places in the Law and Prophets that I have found Him. Rather, today I want to encourage you who are reading to humbly pray the prayer I shared above. Then open up your Bible to an Old Testament book or chapter that you have avoided because you think you can’t possibly find Jesus there. When you find Him there, come back and tell me about it in a comment. I’d love to hear about how our faithful God opens your eyes, too.

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God with Us – A Poem

I often ponder the wonder of “God with us,” but especially so at Christmas time. I am in awe of the fact that the God of the Universe, the Creator of all things, He who is omnipresent, omniscient, and omnipotent, would desire to be with me. It is an amazing thing that Christ has seen fit to dwell in me, and the hearts of all believers, because of His great love for us. Of all the wonders of the world and the blessings in my life to be thankful for, it is this truth of God with us that I am most thankful for.

From a logical perspective, it all seems quite preposterous. If you were God, would you do such a thing? I’m not sure I would. I think I might leave sinful man to his own devices. But thankfully, I am not God; and God is faithful, merciful, and loving in a way I can scarcely comprehend. It is only when I seek Him with all my heart that I can even begin to fathom what He has done, and find hope in what He will do when He returns.

Do you know the Holy One, who longs to be with you? Are you in awe of His majesty? Do you ponder His great love? He is not some distant deity who desires to judge and punish you. He is “God with us.” He is God with you. He alone is the greatest gift you will ever receive.

God with Us

Glory of the Holy One, robed in majesty
Omnipresent King of kings, deserving pageantry
Deity incarnate be, because of love for you and me

Willingly He came to earth, left His throne behind
Immanuel, Son of God, seeking to redeem mankind
To leave mankind dead in sin was not what He designed
His love and mercy, on the cross, there with grace combined

Understanding His great love is for us what Christ desires
Sinners to trust in Him alone is all our God requires

All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had said through the prophet: “The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel” (which means “God with us”). Matthew 1:22-23 (NIV).

12/10/13 Update: Decided to link this up for the final dVerse Poets Pub Open Link Night of 2013. No time to write a new one, but this is one of my favorite Christmas poems that I’ve written so I wanted to share it and the wonder of Christmas with the folks at the pub.

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Remembering Why Christ Came

I can’t believe it is the last Monday before Christmas! That means it is my last Music Monday before Christmas Day. I thought it was going to be hard to pick just one more Christmas song that is in my one of my favorites to post about today, but a clear front runner has emerged over the past two weeks, as I heard it on one of the few Christmas CDs I have in my car and we sung it in church. It is God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen.

I love this song because not only does it tell of the Christ child coming into our midst, but it tells us why He came. He was born “to save us all from Satan’s power when we had gone astray.” It echoes one of my favorite passages in the book of Isaiah, one that we usually meditate on during the Easter season, but which is just as appropriate to consider during this season of Advent.

But he was pierced for our transgressions,
   he was crushed for our iniquities;
the punishment that brought us peace was on him,
   and by his wounds we are healed.
We all, like sheep, have gone astray,
   each of us has turned to our own way;
and the LORD has laid on him
   the iniquity of us all.
Isaiah 53:5-6 (NIV).

We are very much like sheep. For those who don’t know much about sheep, let me just say that they are pretty stupid creatures. They will go their own way into harm’s way without a second thought. They need a shepherd to keep them safe. We are no different. Without our Good Shepherd, we will do things and go places that are not in our best interest, often into harm’s way. Obviously we are much more intelligent than sheep, and yet when it comes to choosing among multiple options, some of which are in our best interests and some of which are not, we often seem just as stupid as sheep.

Just as sheep are easily fooled by the lure of greener pastures away from the shepherd, so we can be easily fooled by Satan into what appear to be greener pastures. We are lured by wealth and fame, by fun and games, by the easy way out. The sheep venturing away from the shepherd is often eaten by wolves. When we venture away from the Shepherd we often find a similar fate of pain and sorrow.

But Jesus, our Good Shepherd, came so that we would be able to see through the lies of Satan and choose the better way, that we might know the comfort and joy of our Lord.

Here is a video of the MercyMe version of God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen that I have been listening to in my car. It is accompanied by a cool light show with someone’s Christmas lights.

 

I also like this instrumental version played on violin, piano, and ocarina, because my son plays the ocarina. (In fact, don’t tell him but I got him a new clay ocarina for Christmas).

 

As you listen to these beautiful renditions of God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen, or hear it somewhere else, or sing it in church, remember why Christ came. Remember that because He came, those who trust in Him have the power to overcome the lies and tricks of the evil one. We have the power to live a life that glorifies God.

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Poetry Is Wonderful

Last Saturday my son wanted to go to Game Trader, a store that is about 12 miles from our house. He often wants to go to Game Trader on Saturdays because he is, in his own words, a retro-gaming geek. Anyway, I agreed to take him and his best friend, and his friend’s mom (who is my friend) came along too.

The good thing about Game Trader is that it is in a strip mall that has both a Starbucks and a Powell’s Books. If you’re not from Portland, Oregon you might not be familiar with Powell’s, but for locals it is our very own homegrown new and used bookstore. The main location in downtown Portland is called Powell’s City of Books, and you need a map to find your way around it. The store next to Game Trader isn’t quite as big, but still fun to go in, especially because of all the old books and sale tables. When we go I always say, “I’m not going to get a book this time.” But I almost always do.

Last Saturday I purchased a wonderful find – a used book called “Invisible Light: Poems about God” – for only $4.50. And it is in excellent condition. It is a collection of poems by various poets, some well known and some not so well known, as well as a few Psalms and other pieces of poetic scripture. I noticed in the table of contents that there were two poems by William Cowper, who I first heard of when reading “When the Darkness Will Not Lift” by John Piper. (See my book review of that book here).

Both of Cowper’s poems were so beautiful; made me wonder why I even try to write poetry. (But I do know my poetry is getting better, and reading poems like Cowper’s just makes me want to learn more about poetry and get better at writing it).

I decided that for my Thankful Thursday post, instead of writing my own poem, I want to share one of Cowper’s. This particular poem/hymn was inspired by Isaiah 40:15-20. I am thankful for the poetry Cowper wrote, and for the witness that he provides of the truth that God uses the broken for wonderful things. You see, Cowper suffered from recurrent bouts of depression and severe mental illness. Nonetheless, he was able to write some truly inspiring poetry and hymns to glorify God.

The Future Peace and Glory of the Church
by William Cowper

Hear what the Lord hath spoken:-
O my people, faint and few;
Comfortless, afflicted, broken,
Fair abodes I build for you:
Thorns of heart-felt tribulation
Shall no more perplex your ways;
You shall name your walls, Salvation,
And your gates shall all be Praise.
There, like streams that feed the garden,
Pleasures, without end, shall flow;
For the LORD, your faith rewarding,
All his bounty shall bestow:
Still in undisturb’d possession,
Peace and righteousness shall reign;
Never shall you feel oppression,
Hear the voice of war again.
You no more your suns descending,
Waning moons no more shall see;
But, your griefs for ever ending,
Find eternal noon in me:
God shall rise, and shining o’er ye,
Change to day the gloom of night;
He, the LORD, shall be your glory,
God, your everlasting light.

Hymn No. 10 of The Olney Hymns

15 Behold, the nations are as a drop in a bucket,
      And are counted as the small dust on the scales;
      Look, He lifts up the isles as a very little thing.
       16 And Lebanon is not sufficient to burn,
      Nor its beasts sufficient for a burnt offering.
       17 All nations before Him are as nothing,
      And they are counted by Him less than nothing and worthless.
       18 To whom then will you liken God?
      Or what likeness will you compare to Him?
       19 The workman molds an image,
      The goldsmith overspreads it with gold,
      And the silversmith casts silver chains.
       20 Whoever is too impoverished for such a contribution
      Chooses a tree that will not rot;
      He seeks for himself a skillful workman
      To prepare a carved image that will not totter.
Isaiah 40:15-20 (NKJV).

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Thanksgiving – A Poem

Today is Thanksgiving Day! It makes me think about how perfect Thankful Thursday is as a theme day. I’ve been looking back over the poems I’ve written for Thankful Thursday this year, and noticing on my stats page that they are getting hits from web searches on thankfulness this week. It has been such a blessing to me to consciously focus on being thankful for something every single week. But somehow, no matter what I start with in a thankful poem, I always end up at Christ. Perhaps that is really where I should start. I know that He is at the center of all there is to be thankful for in my life.

In celebration of the holiday, I wrote a poem about Thanksgiving, ending with the ultimate Thanksgiving feast in Heaven. I wonder if in Heaven there will be a special day set aside each year for Thanksgiving? Or will we just be so filled with thankfulness every minute of every day that it won’t be necessary?

I pray you and yours will enjoy a wonderful day of thanks and joy this Thanksgiving Day!

THANKSGIVING

Turkey, roasting in the oven, golden brown
Hand mashed potatoes, stuffing, pecan pie
And all the trimmings for the holiday feast
Now the best part is family joined together
Knowing all the blessings of the King
Son of God, who made all things possible
Giving all good gifts to those who love Him
Immanuel, God with us, better than life
Veritable feast awaits, eternal life of joy
Incredible joy and thanksgiving fill hearts
Nevermore to know sorrow and tears
God’s blessings to be thankful for eternally

6 On this mountain the LORD Almighty will prepare
   a feast of rich food for all peoples,
a banquet of aged wine—
   the best of meats and the finest of wines.
7 On this mountain he will destroy
   the shroud that enfolds all peoples,
the sheet that covers all nations;
 8 he will swallow up death forever.
The Sovereign LORD will wipe away the tears
   from all faces;
he will remove the disgrace of his people
   from all the earth.
            The LORD has spoken.

 9 In that day they will say,

   “Surely this is our God;
   we trusted in him, and he saved us.
This is the LORD, we trusted in him;
   let us rejoice and be glad in his salvation.”
Isaiah 25:6-9 (NIV).

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A Billion Prayers

All through grade school my son had various teachers who thought he had ADD or something else because he just didn’t pay attention. Then there were other teachers who saw the side of him that is very intelligent and creative. Finally, when he was in the sixth grade we’d had enough, and decided to put him through a program called Learning Rx. It’s sort of like going to the gym for your brain. It wasn’t cheap but was one of the best investments in his education we’ve ever made.

Learning Rx is not like a homework help or tutor program. Rather, it is a program designed to strengthen a child’s cognitive skills, which are the building blocks of learning. To determine how to tailor the program to each child, Learning Rx conducted a Woodcock-Johnson cognitive skills test on the child. The test is repeated after the program to see what improvement there has been. With my son, though, we didn’t need the test after to see the improvement because it was quite obvious even to his teachers.

The initial test results were not really that surprising to us. They indicated that his visual processing skills were at a college entrance level (keep in mind he was 11 at the time), and his logic and reasoning skills were at a 15-year old level. So why did he struggle so in school? Because the one cognitive skill that he was below his grade level for was executive processing speed. This is the skill that allows a person to deal with competing sensory inputs, to filter out the things that need to be ignored, and to send the others to either long-term or short-term memory. It is the gatekeeper cognitive skill, kind of like the traffic cop before there were traffic lights to direct traffic at a busy intersection.

Side note: Executive processing is the skill that is most often lacking in kids with ADD. If you have a kid that has been diagnosed with ADD, I would highly recommend checking out your nearest Learning Rx program to see if it might help before resorting to medication. There are centers throughout the United States.

So what does all of this have to do with “a billion prayers”? Well, it occurred to me that God must have awesome executive processing skills. Have you ever thought about how God listens to all the prayers in all the world and also answers them?

There are now officially 7 billion people in the world. Of all these people, 16% are secular, nonreligious, agnostics, or atheists, so they aren’t praying – but maybe wishing and does God have to listen to see if maybe it’s a prayer? Another 14% are Hindus who pray to a god or gods other than the God of the Bible. Another 6% are Buddhists who do not pray to a Creator God but do spend time in contemplative meditation. Another 12% adhere to various tribal, Chinese traditional, or other religions. See Adherents.com.

That leaves 52%, or 3.64 billion people, who are potentially seeking to pray to the God of Abraham at any given time. Then consider those who take Paul’s admonition in 1 Thessalonians 5:17 to “pray without ceasing” seriously and that’s a lot of prayer.

In 2003, Jim Carrey was in a movie called Bruce Almighty. Bruce, the main character, is a fluff news reporter whose life is not going so well. He is mad at God about it and challenges God that he could do a better job of running things than God does. So God, played by Morgan Freeman, accepts the challenge and gives Bruce all His powers to run the universe, along with all the corresponding responsibilities. One of my favorite parts is when Bruce, trying to keep up with answering all the prayer requests (which come in via email) decides it would be easier to just answer all of the prayers “yes” so he hits “reply yes to all.” The next day, every person who purchased a lottery ticket the day before wins, and so they all get some miniscule amount, like $17, and no one actually wins the jackpot so they are all unhappy.

Thankfully, God, with His awesome executive processing skills and even better logic and reasoning skills, doesn’t just answer every prayer request with a “yes.” God listens to and considers each prayer, no matter how many there are, and determines what is the best answer for each and every person. God sees the whole picture, from beginning to end, and answers prayers in a way that results in the most long-term spiritual benefit for all.

The prophet Isaiah wrote:

Seek the LORD while he may be found;
   call on him while he is near.
Let the wicked forsake his way
   and the evil man his thoughts.
Let him turn to the LORD, and he will have mercy on him,
   and to our God, for he will freely pardon.
“For my thoughts are not your thoughts,
   neither are your ways my ways,”
            declares the LORD.
“As the heavens are higher than the earth,
   so are my ways higher than your ways
  and my thoughts than your thoughts.”
Isaiah 55:6-9 (NIV).

When we pray we often think in terms of our own situation only. We pray that we will win the lottery and be rich. We pray for material comfort and for outward peace. We pray for physical healing of our loved ones.

But God sees the bigger picture and He knows that it is better to grant a big lottery win to one who will use the money wisely than to split the pot up among hundreds. He knows that sometimes hard times and struggles are necessary to bring spiritual healing and to bring us closer to Him. He knows that sometimes physical healing would be less beneficial than for others to see the strength He gives to those who are seriously ill. He knows that sometimes to bring one of His children home is better than to cure whatever disease is plaguing them.

God hears and answers a billion prayers every day, and maybe more. I don’t know how He does it, but I am in awe of the fact that He does. I have a hard time dealing with two sources of auditory input at one time; I can’t even imagine dealing with a billion prayers. I am thankful that even without cognitive skills training, God’s ways are so much greater than mine and that I’m not in charge of all those prayers.

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I Love to Tell the Story

Yesterday in church our opening hymn was “I Love to Tell the Story.” It is one of those great old hymns where you really don’t need to have the words on the overhead screen or in the bulletin because everyone knows it. I don’t think we’ve ever sung it in church before, but it was perfect to go with the message we heard. (Our worship team always does a great job of selecting music appropriate for the message!)

Before I get to the message, I wanted to share this Alan Jackson version of this beautiful hymn:

We had a special guest speaker who is a perfect example of one who loves to tell the story. He is a representative of The Gideons International. He shared with us how the Gideons distribute Bibles worldwide and the impact they have made.

When I think of the Gideons, I think of how there has always been a Bible placed by the Gideons in every hotel or motel room I’ve ever stayed in. I always thought that was the only way they distributed Bibles. And our speaker did mention that there are some new hotels with a policy that they will not open until all the Gideon Bibles are placed. He also told the story of a local hotel where the Gideons couldn’t get there before the grand opening. When they arrived a few days after the opening, the manager told him the story of a couple who had enjoyed their stay, but noticed that there was no Gideon Bible in the room.

I learned yesterday, however, that putting Bibles in hotel and motel rooms is only a small part of what the Gideons do. They also bring Bibles to people in hospitals, distribute Bibles in prisons, and on college campuses. According to their website, in the last fiscal year they placed 10,802,435 Bibles in the United States, including youth Testaments, college Testaments, hotel Bibles, hospital Bibles, prison Bibles, and medical Testaments. They also distribute 68,190,377 Bibles to 192 countries worldwide last year. Since they first started in 1908, the Gideons have placed over 1.7 billion Bibles.

A great thing about this ministry is that if you donate money to them, 100% of your donation goes to the purchase and distribution of Bibles because the Gideons, who are all volunteer, pay their own expenses and the administrative costs.

The Gideons’ ministry is based on two wonderful scriptures that were our readings for yesterday’s service:

As the rain and the snow
   come down from heaven,
and do not return to it
   without watering the earth
and making it bud and flourish,
   so that it yields seed for the sower and bread for the eater,
so is my word that goes out from my mouth:
   It will not return to me empty,
but will accomplish what I desire
   and achieve the purpose for which I sent it.
Isaiah 55:10-11 (NIV).

Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”
Matthew 28:18-20 (NIV).

I know I love to tell the story of Jesus and His love. That’s what this blog is all about. It is always such an encouragement to hear from others who love to tell His story, too. I left church yesterday quite encouraged by this speaker, having learned of another great way to help distribute God’s Word around the world to those who want and need it. Our guest speaker asked mostly for prayer, and so I am passing his request on to you. Please pray for this terrific ministry. And if the Holy Spirit leads you, they can certainly use your financial support as well. Just click on the link above to visit their website and learn more.

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When the Dice Are in the Air

I’ve never played craps and don’t really like gambling, but if I was going to gamble I suppose craps would be my game. Slots are too easy for the house to skew in their favor, and cards are just too complicated. With craps it’s just you, the dice, and the hand of God. Not that I think God is really into helping people out with their gambling, so don’t go thinking I’m advocating this as a method of finding God’s blessing. I really just want to use craps as an analogy for life.

Here’s how craps works. You hold the dice in your hand. As long as you hold onto them, you aren’t really in the game. You can’t win or lose. As soon as you let go of the dice, the outcome is completely out of your control and all you can do is hope for a 7 or 11, or at least to not get a 2, 3, or 12. For a split second the outcome is unknown – the dice are in the air and you’re just waiting. Once the dice land, you either win, lose, or get to keep playing.

Sometimes life is like a game of craps. If you try to stay in control of everything you aren’t really in the game. If you don’t take risks, you miss out on potential blessings. Sometimes you have to let go of the dice. Other times you don’t have any choice because they are forced from your hand. But at any rate, you are bound to face periods of uncertainty in life when the outcome of something – a job interview, or medical tests, or a romantic relationship – is uncertain.

The uncertainty may, as in craps, last only a moment. But often we find ourselves staring at the dice as they just hang in the air for what seems like forever. Why don’t they land already so we will know what’s going to happen? We impatiently await the job offer, or test results, or the opportunity to meet someone we can love. We don’t like to wait.

But wait we must. The only thing we can control is how we wait. We can let the waiting make us miserable, or we can trust that God is in control.

My church has been going through just such a waiting period as we seek a permanent lead pastor. Each member of the congregation is handling it in their own way; some are waiting more patiently than others. We know God is in control and will bring the right lead pastor for us if we trust in Him, but the waiting is still hard.

But there is one person who is an amazing example of trusting in God because the uncertainty of this situation in multiplied for him. That is our interim pastor. The rest of us really want to know who our lead pastor will be and when he will be here so we can move forward as a congregation, but church still goes on week after week while we wait. For our interim pastor, the calling of a permanent lead pastor will be the end of his call with us, and right now he has no idea when that will be. Where he will serve the Lord when his service with us is completed is also uncertain. The possibilities are many, but the outcome is uncertain.

And yet he has been a wonderful encouragement and witness to the rest of us of how to trust in God for the outcome. He is at peace with the situation, knowing that when the dice fall they will fall as God wills. He knows that while the dice are in the air, they are really in the hand of God. He sees and points us to the ways in which God has already been in control of the process in a very real way, right down to opening up a Sunday for our current pastoral candidate to preach for us and to meet the congregation.

So what uncertainty do you have in your life right now? Have you just thrown the dice or have they been hanging in the air for what seems like an eternity? Take heart, God is in control. When the time is right, He will cause the dice to fall as they should. Trust in Him for His perfect timing in all things. When you trust in Him, you will know peace instead of misery, even in the most challenging rolls of life’s game of craps.

You will keep in perfect peace
   him whose mind is steadfast,
   because he trusts in you.
Trust in the LORD forever,
   for the LORD, the LORD, is the Rock eternal.
Isaiah 26:3-4 (NIV).

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