Reconciling God’s Promises with Life

 

I am deep into planning for our upcoming school year, so this week and next will be from the archives. Enjoy the memories!

To hear my blog post read aloud, just click the play button. If you’re reading this in an email, you may have to click here to hear the post on my site.

 

God’s Words are often difficult to understand.
I don’t know why this is so, why God wouldn’t want us to easily comprehend Him and His ways, but that is a wondering for another time.
All throughout His Word, God makes promises about what will happen when we approach Him. He makes promises about how He answers when we ask Him for something. He makes promises about what He will give if only we would ask.
Sometimes those promises seem to be contradicted by the reality we can see.
Jesus tells us that if we ask, we will receive.
Jesus tells us that if we ask together with others, we will receive.
Jesus tells us that if we ask in His name, we will receive.
Jesus promises that if we are just persistent enough, just have faith enough, just beg Him hard enough with our faces to the ground and our tears falling like blood in desperation, He will give us what we ask for.
This is not what we live.
This is not what we live when a young mother dies of cancer. This is not what we live when a child lives her life in chronic pain and then dies. This is not what we live when a family is torn apart by depression.
So how do we reconcile this? How do we reconcile the promise with the life lived in this world?
Because Jesus also made other promises.
He promised that we would have trouble in this world, that storms would come against us, that we would be hated by this world in which we live.
Did He lie? Is He crazy?
Or is there something deeper within His words that we have trouble understanding?
Is there something deeper that we cannot see from our place here on earth, tethered as we are to the physical, unable to grasp the spiritual all around us?
From one who is stumbling along in the dark with the rest of you, here is what I believe based on what I read in God’s Word as a whole.
What God does is not always what I want. What God allows is sometimes more than I can comprehend. What God gives is often too hard for me.
What God accomplishes is always best.
Best for me, best for someone else, best for our world. Just…best.
Not painless, not comfortable, not happy.
Best.
I know from my own experience as a parent that best is often painful and unpleasant. My children often are unhappy (to put it ridiculously mildly) with what I decide would be best.
When Jesus tells us to ask in His name, rather than His name being a magical incantation to get what we want, perhaps it is a way of living, of remaining in Him as He is in His Father.
When Jesus tells us to ask alongside of others, rather than it being a way to coerce others into asking for what we want so that we can manipulate God, perhaps it is a way to allow the Holy Spirit to work in our hearts in a way that cannot happen on our own.
I don’t know.
As my Papa would say, “Well, I’ll tell you…
I don’t know.”
Here’s what I do know.
When I look at God’s Word in its entirety, whether that be the whole of Scripture or the whole of Jesus’ life, I see a God who is ultimate power and who is ultimate love.
And I see a God who has a plan that makes absolutely no sense while in the middle of it all. A plan that seems, frankly, insane while you are watching it all unfold.
A plan that, at its ending, is better, is more beautiful, is more glorious than anything I could have imagined or asked for.
A plan that is best.
And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be His people, and God Himself will be with them as their God. He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.” And He was seated on the throne said, “Behold, I am making all things new.”…  And He said to me, “It is done! I am the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end.
And looking up, they saw that the stone had been rolled back – it was very large. And entering the tomb, they saw a young man sitting on the right side, dressed in a white robe, and they were alarmed. And he said to them, “Do not be alarmed. You seek Jesus of Nazareth, who was crucified. He has risen; He is not here. See the place where they laid Him. But go, tell His disciples and Peter that He is going before you to Galilee. There you will see Him, just as He told you.
I think perhaps that is why He gave us Jesus. To show us what the end will be even when the middle seems to be crushing the life out of us.
That end?
Best.

Layers of Meaning in Scripture

To hear my blog post read aloud, just click the play button. If you’re reading this in an email, you may have to click here to hear the post on my site.

 

I am often astonished at the beauty of Scripture.
Word
Not only astonished at the beauty of individual books or passages, although that happens too.
What often takes me aback is the elegance of how the entire Bible fits seamlessly together, flowing in and out of itself like a river flowing into the sea.
The Old Testament points toward the New Testament, while the New Testament points back to the Old as well as forward into the future.
There are layers of meaning to everything – the personal inside the theological inside the historical – and every layer is truth.
Everything that Jesus said and did points back to what God did for Israel and forward to what He was going to do for all the nations.
Exquisite.
Beauty
Look at the Crucifixion.
It was certainly historical and political. It happened to one man in one place on earth at one particular time, a man caught between two powers struggling for supremacy.
It was theological. When Jesus died, He took upon Himself the sins of the world to atone for them once and for all.
It was personal. Jesus paying the penalty for your own sins is about as personal as it can get.
Light
Look at the meeting between Jesus and the disciples after the resurrection. The one after the disciples had been out fishing and Jesus called them to shore for breakfast.
Jesus spoke to Peter and told him, If you love Me, then feed My sheep. That is a very personal calling.
A calling which is nestled inside of the layer of Jesus as the Passover Lamb and all of the theological meanings implied therein.
The theological meanings that are nestled inside the first Passover and Israel overthrowing Egypt in their escape through the Red Sea and all the historical and political pieces of those events.
Personal meaning burrowed inside theological meaning burrowed inside historical meaning.
Truth
You see? Go look for it. Find it everywhere and be astonished.
See the Word as beautiful.

The Word

To hear my blog post read aloud, just click the play button. If you’re reading this in an email, you may have to click here to hear the post on my site.

 

In the beginning, God spoke.
Word created
God spoke His Word and Word created.
God’s Word created sun and moon, trees and sea grass, sparrows and lions.
Nothing exists that was not created through Him.
In the beginning was the Word.
Word put on flesh
God’s Word created man.
He created man and then God’s Word became a man. He put on flesh and dwelt among us.
The Word incarnate.
The Word came so that the incarnation can continue, so that our lives can become incarnate, the whole of life an incarnation of the Word.

Word Incarnate

The Word taught us, He showed us how to love and how to live.
God’s Word is a lamp to our feet and a light to our path while we live on this earth.
The Word came to be light, to shine in the darkness. To be the way so we can know how to go.
He spoke words for us to hear and was the Word for us to see. He was the words He spoke because we are simple and slow and need more than one way to comprehend.
Someday we will no longer need the sun for the Word will be our lamp in the new Jerusalem.
The Word will be our lamp and so we will know the way, will remain in the way.
The Word is light and the Word is love, and the Word shows us that love knows no bounds.
All while teaching by example, the Word gave Himself up for us.

Word gave Himself

The Word gave Himself so that we can know love. The Word gave Himself so that we can be love.
The Word is in the beginning and the Word is in the end and the Word holds all the in-between together.
In Him is life.

Word became life

Best

God’s Words are often difficult to understand.
I don’t understand why this is so, why God wouldn’t want us to easily understand Him and His ways, but that is a wondering for another time.
All throughout His Word, God makes promises about what will happen when we approach Him. He makes promises about how He answers when we ask Him for something. He makes promises about what He will give if only we would ask.
Sometimes those promises seem to be contradicted by the reality we can see.
Jesus tells us that if we ask, we will receive.
Jesus tells us that if we ask together with others, we will receive.
Jesus tells us that if we ask in His name, we will receive.
Jesus promises that if we are just persistent enough, just have faith enough, just beg Him hard enough with our faces to the ground and our tears falling like blood in desperation, He will give us what we ask for.
This is not what we live.
This is not what we live when a young mother dies of cancer. This is not what we live when a child lives her life in chronic pain and then dies. This is not what we live when a family is torn apart by depression.
So how do we reconcile this? How do we reconcile the promise with the life lived in this world?
Because Jesus also made other promises.
He promised that we would have trouble in this world, that storms would come against us, that we would be hated by this world in which we live.
Did He lie? Is He crazy?
Or is there something deeper within His words that we have trouble understanding?
Is there something deeper that we cannot see from our place here on earth, tethered as we are to the physical, unable to grasp the spiritual all around us?
From one who is stumbling along in the dark along with the rest of you, here is what I believe based on what I read in God’s Word as a whole.
What God does is not always what I want. What God allows is sometimes more than I can comprehend. What God gives is often too hard for me.
What God accomplishes is always best.
Best for me, best for someone else, best for our world. Just…best.
Not painless, not comfortable, not happy.
Best.
I know from my own experience as a parent that best is often painful and unpleasant. My children often are unhappy (to put it ridiculously mildly) with what I decide would be best.
When Jesus tells us to ask in His name, rather than His name being a magical incantation to get what we want, perhaps it is a way of living, of remaining in Him as He is in His Father.
When Jesus tells us to ask alongside of others, rather than it being a way to coerce others into asking for what we want so that we can manipulate God, perhaps it is a way to allow the Holy Spirit to work in our hearts in a way that cannot happen on our own.
I don’t know.
As my Papa would say, “Well, I’ll tell you.
I don’t know.”
Here’s what I do know.
When I look at God’s Word in its entirety, whether that be the whole of Scripture or the whole of Jesus’ life, I see a God who is ultimate power and who is ultimate love.
And I see a God who has a plan that makes absolutely no sense while in the middle of it all. A plan that seems, frankly, insane while you are watching it all unfold.
A plan that, at its ending, is better, is more beautiful, is more glorious than anything I could have imagined or asked for.
A plan that is best.
And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be His people, and God Himself will be with them as their God. He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.” And He was seated on the throne said, “Behold, I am making all things new.”…  And He said to me, “It is done! I am the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end.
And looking up, they saw that the stone had been rolled back – it was very large. And entering the tomb, they saw a young man sitting on the right side, dressed in a white robe, and they were alarmed. And he said to them, “Do not be alarmed. You seek Jesus of Nazareth, who was crucified. He has risen; He is not here. See the place where they laid Him. But go, tell His disciples and Peter that He is going before you to Galilee. There you will see Him, just as He told you.
I think perhaps that is why He gave us Jesus. To show us what the end will be even when the middle seems to be crushing the life out of us.
That end?
Best.

Famine in the Land

Word
Bread
 Light
Amos, the herdsman turned prophet.
The visionary with the visions of things he kept talking God out of doing.
Too much! he would say, and God would agree.
Locusts forming up to devour the land.
Too much! And they were turned away.
Fire consuming the deep places in his country.
Too much! And they were put out.
Amos looked around at the men lounging around eating their fill of the richest of foods and throwing the rest to the hounds.  He looked around at the women dressed in the finest of cloth and adorned with the choicest of jewels.  He looked around at the leaders and their wives lying on beds of the softest linens and dabbing themselves with the sweetest perfumes.
Amos also looked at the men and women who fought with the rats for the stalest of bread, who froze when the wind whipped through the largest of holes in their shirts, who slept with the cockroaches on the hardest of stone.
He said there would be famine.  A famine and a thirst and a loss of the sun in the middle of the day.  But not a famine of bread or a thirst of water.
No, this famine would be far worse.  It is a shortage of the words of God.  It is a loss of the light of His face.
The rich and the lovely would be doomed to run from sea to shining sea, searching and thirsting for the Word of Life.
It is a loss of light, a loss of life.  It is the loss of God himself.
Towards the end, God will make himself so scarce that the world won’t even know what it’s starving to death for. ~ Frederick Buechner in Peculiar Treasures
Too much!
May God have mercy and not abandon us to our own selves and desires.
Lord, we would have more of You.

Outside the World

Outside
We stand outside the world.
We dance and dream and die, and through it all we long.
We long for something else, for something more.  We long for something bigger, for something more real.
Some understand what they long for and others do not.  We long for what is true.  We long for a world that is fully real.
We catch breaths of the morning air, fresh and clean and pure.  We catch glimpses of the morning light, startling and bright and glorious.
Yet we stand outside the world and these hints of morning air do not change us.  We do not become pure or glorious.
We stand outside the world and we hear a Word.  We hear a Word that spreads a rumor.
It is a rumor that this shall not always be so.  It is a rumor that one day we will be allowed to walk through the door and stand on the right side.  On the inside.
It is a rumor that one day we will finally be changed by the Morning.  Through the Morning Star we will become pure and clean, bright and glorious.
We will be as we were made.  We will become as we are remade.  Remade into the very image of the Word.
And by moving through the Word we will be allowed to stand.  To stand in desperate gratitude.  To stand covered in another’s glory.
We will dance and we will dream, but we will not die.
We will stand inside the world.

Breathe

He knelt down, leaned in close, and
breathed into the dust.
Dust became man and man
breathed in His image and life.

 

He breathed His Word and
Word gained skin and
breathed life into twelve who then
breathed that life into more.

 

Spirit became fire and
breathed mighty wind into
hearts and minds which then
breathed change into the world.

 

We breathe a human breath then
slip under the waters where
all breath stops and when
we come up we now have His
breath in our souls.

 

One day our lungs will
breathe last breath and we fall
asleep but when we wake we
find Him leaning close and He
breathes into us perfect life.

The Story

In the beginning was a Story.
Story
At first, the Story existed only in the form of an Idea. Then the Author began to tell the Story little by little, within the confines of time.
Creation
As the Story unfolded, there emerged within smaller shadow-Stories, told over shorter spans of time.
These smaller shadow-Stories reflected the same greater Story, yet were given the gift of being allowed to help their Author to write their Story. The shadow-Stories were allowed to choose their own responses to whatever occurred to them while they existed within the greater Story.
Some of the shadow-Stories chose to reflect the greater Story more perfectly than others, to become a more complete shadow, yet all contained the great Story within themselves to some degree.
Stealing
Helping
Many of the smaller shadow-Stories authored even smaller echoes of the greater Story. These echo-Stories were smaller in size, and not all of their authors were aware of their own Author, yet many of the echo-Stories became even more filled with power than were their authors.
The echo-Stories were told to many of the shadow-Stories and, because they were filled with power, were able to stir within the shadow-Stories the Idea that had existed in the beginning.
In the middle of the greater Story, the Author placed Himself.
Christ
He authored Himself to be one of the shadow-Stories, yet He was the most perfect reflection of the great Story. Within this smaller Author-Story was the complete Idea, perfectly written out for all to read.
The smaller Author-Story was the Idea in Word, the most perfect of all the Stories. The other shadow-Stories could look to Him and discover the sort of Story they were written to be.
Within the smaller Author-Story, the other shadow-Stories are able to catch a glimpse of the end of the greater Story. In catching a glimpse of the end, the shadow-Stories are enabled to help write their own Story more perfectly.
For while they do not yet know what each piece of the great Story will bring, the shadow-Stories can know what the end of the Story will bring.
And the wisest of the shadow-Stories will help to write their own Story with the end of the greater Story in mind.
These are a shadow of the things to come, but the substance belongs to Christ.
For Christ has entered, not into holy places made with hands, which are copies of the true things, but into heaven itself, now to appear in the presence of God on our behalf.
“I see,” she said.  “This is still Narnia, and more real and more beautiful than the Narnia down below, just as it was more real and more beautiful than the Narnia outside the stable door!  I see…world within world, Narnia within Narnia…”  “Yes,” said Mr. Tumnus, “like an onion: except that as you continue to go in and in, each circle is larger than the last.”  ~ The Last Battle 
The Last Battle

Art credits: The Creation by James Tissot; Christ with Martha and Mary by Henryk Siemiradzki

Newness and Light

 The people walking in darkness

I once was walking in darkness.

 

I once walked in the darkness of consuming and of my material things.
 
I once walked in the darkness of busyness and self-importance.
 
I once walked in the darkness of anger and impatience.

…have seen a great light 


The Light has dawned and has shone all around me.


 

I now walk in the light of peace and rest.
 
I now walk in the light of love and mercy.
 
I now walk in the light of forgiveness and hope.

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God…In Him was life, and that life was the light of men. 

 I am the light of the world. Whoever follows Me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.

New life.
 
New heart.
 
New spirit.
 
New creation.

I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you, I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh 

You were taught…to be made new in the attitude of your minds; and to put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness. 

Walking in the light of life.

 

Following Him, eyes fixed on the Light, ears attending to the Word.
 
I was walking in darkness and have seen a great light.
 
I live in the land of the shadow of death but, praise be to God, a light has now dawned!
 
Go. Walk in Light.

The Word of God

The Word of God.

God spoke His Word and light exploded out of the dark.


God spoke His Word and our earth was filled with life.

God spoke His Word and law was given as a mirror to show His people their soul-dark, their sin-death.


God spoke His Word
and His Word became flesh and made His dwelling among us. We have seen His glory, the glory of the One and Only, Who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.

In Him was life, and that life was the light of men. The light shines in the darkness, but the darkness has not understood it.

The people living in darkness have seen a great light; on those living in the land of the shadow of death a light has dawned. For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.

The Word of God.

Sent to us who have walked in darkness to bring us into the grace of His light.



God sent His Word, Himself, in the soft, touchable skin of a baby. His Christmas gift to us.


Joy to the world! The Word has come!


The Word of God. 



Light of lights! All gloom dispelling,
Thou didst come to make thy dwelling
Here within our world of sight.
Lord, in pity and in power,
Thou didst in our darkest hour
Rend the clouds and show thy light.
Praise to thee in earth and heaven
Now and evermore be given,
Christ, who art our sun and shield.
Lord, for us thy life thou gavest,
Those who trust in thee thou savest,
All thy mercy stands revealed.
St. Thomas Aquinas 


May we worship Him alone, our light, our gift, God’s Word.


Jesus.


Merry Christmas to you all.