go.first.then.see

I was an entrepreneurial kid. If I saw sycamore leaves all over a yard, I’d knock on the door with a rake and trash-bag in hand, and convince the homeowner to let me rake the yard. But, I requested payment up-front.

I remember getting into a few negotiations with people over this, and my argument went like this, “if you pay me now, then I won’t have to bother you later.”  It seemed to work every time – well, except once.

There was an elderly man who always came to the door with his military-issue garrison cap. He would never agree to pay me up front and negotiations failed. I’d just walk away.

One weekend, I was about $10 short of getting a new bicycle, so I decided to give the old soldier another try. I agreed to be paid at the end of the job, but I wanted to nail down a price. He said, “you’ll know the reward once the job’s done.”

How absurd! I can’t agree to a job without a set fee! How ridiculous!

10 So now, go. I am sending you to Pharaoh to bring my people the Israelites out of Egypt.”

11 But Moses said to God, “Who am I that I should go to Pharaoh and bring the Israelites out of Egypt?”

12 And God said, “I will be with you. And this will be the sign to you that it is I who have sent you: When you have brought the people out of Egypt, you will worship God on this mountain.”
(Exodus 3:10-12)

What a crazy proposition! Go do “this thing” and you will know that it’s the “right thing” after you’re done doing it. Say what? If we read on, we’ll see that Moses was not inspired either. He continued to press God for assurance.

Hmm. How many times have I done that with God? How many times have I pressed Him for assurances? Too many – and I’m ashamed to admit it. But, what I’ve learned from it all is that the leap requires faith, not assurance. Assurance is the reward for faithfulness in (and trust of) God.

P.S. I accepted the old soldier’s deal. At the end of the job, not only did I get a crisp and clean $20 bill – I also got a conversation and a new friend. Oh, and I trusted him to do right by me the next time around.

are.you.hurting?

I noticed in my stat logs that nearly everyday someone comes across a particular post on this blog.

The post deals with when a Christian hurts. I felt compelled to re-post it.

Christians hurt. It is real hurt, about real issues. For Christians, part of our struggle during hurt is the sense of guilt about some of the things we feel about God while we hurt. We feel abandoned. We feel forgotten. We feel punished. We feel distrust. We feel bewilderment. We feel doubt. Yes, we “feel” these things. As we experience them, intense feelings emerge. And then we feel guilty about feeling these things, convinced that we’ve finally stepped out of His favor because of our lack of perseverance and strength.

I recently received a cry of help from someone I care about. As I wrote I searched for the Holy Spirit’s words because I had none. As I wrote, His words began to flow, and something that I had never considered came forth. I decided to write a blog post about it because I do feel it sincerely to be Holy Spirit inspired, and could give some comfort or perspective to some Christian who is hurting.

Here is what came forth (edited for grammar and clarity):

I’m not going to patronize you with the whole “all things happen for the good of those who love Him,” or “God is walking this road with you.” You know all that, but it doesn’t help. The fact is that life really sucks sometimes and “sometime” happens to be right now for you.

I wish, for all the people I care about, that God will immediately lift the burdens they are suffering. But, the painful fact is that for whatever reason, God permits our trials. Of course, we know that none of this is God’s fault – we are products of the failure of our first parents – the whole of creation bears it’s pain. But that hardly matters when we are hurting.

So what do we do? Do we curse God because of His permissive position regarding our suffering? Do we abandon Him because it feels like He has abandoned us? Do we just give up and let the flood overtake us – figuratively if not literally?

I am reminded of David’s struggles. While mostly self-induced, his pain was, nonetheless, quite real and quite debilitating. Yet even in his cries of frustration and anger – sometimes squarely directed at God – somehow David was able to overcome his pain and ultimately, time after time, he was able to praise God.

His praise was not because the pain was magically eradicated during his song, nor because the broken was magically restored. His praise was rooted in the knowledge that God’s love is perfect and His end-game plan was assured.

Could our comfort be so hokey as the promise of a “light at the end of a tunnel?” I struggle with that notion. That peace is found outside of my circumstances, in something that transcends my plight, is difficult to fathom. After all, doesn’t He care about every hair on my head? Isn’t He supposed to care when I hurt?

Yet, even though I may not feel like it, I know, from others too, that somehow Grace is enough – not some self-absorbed notion of Grace, but a view of Grace that binds all of humanity to the hope of being redeemed – restored to our place in His purpose.

The trials that we face, as hard as they are to endure at times, are being creatively and actively redeemed and rewoven into the fabric of a restored creation. The redeemed threads of others are bound with ours as we walk this journey together – touching one anothers’ lives with Grace.

Nothing I said makes it any easier to endure, I know. But I can only offer the hope of God’s perfect plan. I believe that all of our pain will be redeemed to help someone else in their redemptive process. One day, I pray soon, your pain will be redeemed to help someone else in their redemptive process.

I don’t know how or when the end of your tunnel will come. But, the one thing I can assure you of is that He has already empowered you with the ability to see it through to redemption.

2.the.created

Part 2.

Each part of this series builds upon previous entries. I suggest reading the prior entry to activate the context of this post.

God created everything. The God who has always been, decided, at a certain point in time, to create. Everything that exists is something that He created. Even things that are man-made are mere assemblies of things that God created from nothing. Yes, nothing – as hard as it may be to consider. There are several viewpoints about how this took place. Some take a strict and literal view of the Bible’s creation stories. Yet others try to merge scientific observation with a less literal viewpoint. Between these two extremes, there is a vast ocean. But, all of these points of view are secondary to the essential truth: God did it. (John 1:3)

He created people to be like Him. No, we’re not gods – far from it. But, He did make us “in His image” – but how so? Since a physical similarity seems improbable for a transcendent God, “His image” in us shows up in things like our ability to reason on our own, our propensity towards relationship, and even in our creative tendencies. We even have a God-given spark of curiosity about Him embedded within all of us. The point is that we are not hapless creatures operating on a survival instinct, but unique individuals, able to make (and be responsible for) our own choices. (Gen 1:27)

He created us perfectly. Everything God creates is created perfectly. The universe, and everything in it, was perfectly crafted by God. Everything was created to work together in perfect harmony. But, when we look at these things now, they are certainly not perfect. The planet is broken, and torn up. The weather is volatile and often violent. And human beings – well, you’ve heard it, maybe even said it, “I’m just human – I’m not perfect.” But, imperfection is really nonhuman – it’s not how we were created to be. So, what happened? Well, for that, you’ll have to check the next post in this series. (Genesis 1:31)