God doesn’t pick anyone because they’re special

During the end of the year, people start talking about everything they’ve accomplished. I do it. Most people I know do it. And it’s really easy to hear about everything that’s going right for people and feel a little bit left out. Do you ever get that feeling? Like you haven’t done as much as you could have? Or that somehow God is doing more for someone else than you?

It’s okay to admit it. That’s a normal feeling. Not a true feeling but a normal one.

When you start looking at people and comparing yourself to them, it’s easy to start thinking that God loves someone else more than you, because all you’re looking at is them rather than God’s work in your own life. I take God’s work in my own life for granted. It can seem small and insignificant to me. And I begin to wonder why other people are so special that God would show up in their lives when He doesn’t in mine.

33E58C5499Today’s verses are Deuteronomy 7:7-9.

The Lord did not set his heart on you and choose you because you were more numerous than other nations, for you were the smallest of all nations! Rather, it was simply that the Lord loves you, and he was keeping the oath he had sworn to your ancestors. That is why the Lord rescued you with such a strong hand from your slavery and from the oppressive hand of Pharaoh, king of Egypt. Understand, therefore, that the Lord your God is indeed God. He is the faithful God who keeps his covenant for a thousand generations and lavishes his unfailing love on those who love him and obey his commands.

The truth is, you aren’t that special. Sorry to break it to you. But God didn’t pick you (or me) out of a crowd because we had some special skill or unique talent. The only thing that makes us special is God’s work in our lives. It has nothing to do with us.

Sort of like Israel. It wasn’t even a country. It wasn’t even a family to start out with. It was just Abraham and his wife, and they weren’t even able to have children. But God made them a promise. And He kept it. And He’s still keeping it to this day. Israel wasn’t special. It was God who was special, who chose to do something miraculous. That’s how it works with us too.

Now don’t misunderstand. We are loved and unique and priceless. God made each of us, so by that token we are special, individually crafted by God Himself. So that by itself makes us special in comparison to the rest of creation, even in comparison to each other. But I don’t have anything that would make God love me more than someone else. Neither do you. We’re all poor and weak and powerless, and it’s God who comes along and gives us strength and success and victory.

God promises to be our salvation, our rock, our healer, our guide, our light. He promises that when we’re weak, we’ll be strong through His power. He promises that even in our darkest moments, He has a plan that He’s working out for our benefit. That’s not on us. That’s all on Him.

God doesn’t play favorites.

So don’t get into the habit of comparing yourself with other people. When the year-end accomplishment letters start coming in and the personal goals for the year grace your inbox, choose to rejoice with your friends instead of comparing yourself to them. Choose to marvel at God’s workmanship in people and realize that God is working in your life too. It just looks different than it does with other people.

God doesn’t pick anyone because they’re special. He picks people He can use. So if you want God to be visible in your life, if you want His blessings to be obvious, be the kind of person God can use. Be humble. Be honest. Be genuine. Trust Him. Follow Him. Honor Him. And if you’re doing all that, He’s probably more visible in your life than you think.

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Orange lillies at the Dallas Arboretum, Dallas, TX

God is God indeed

I can’t believe today is the last day of September 2013. How did it get here so fast? Yesterday it was August, and the day before that it was April. This year is sailing by faster than I even thought possible. Tomorrow is October, and the month is already scheduled full, practically every day. That means November will be here in the blink of an eye, and December always comes faster than I anticipate too.

I shouldn’t really think about it, because the more I think about it, the more stressed out I get. So much is happening all at once, and I really have no control over any of it.

Orange lillies at the Dallas Arboretum, Dallas, TX

Orange lillies at the Dallas Arboretum, Dallas, TX

Today’s verse is Deuteronomy 7:9.

Understand, therefore, that the Lord your God is indeed God. He is the faithful God who keeps his covenant for a thousand generations and lavishes his unfailing love on those who love him and obey his commands.

I needed to read this today because with my life spinning around me chaotically I needed to remember who my God is. It’s easy to forget, isn’t it? I mean, you’d think we’d remember who He is, but we don’t. Why else do we worry? Why else do we try to take over things that we can’t control? Why else do we ignore His warnings and His words? It’s not that we’re malicious in our disobedience; it’s just that we forget who He is. And it’s time for me to remember.

The God I talked to this morning is the same God who created the universe. It’s easy to say that, but it’s not easy to understand it. I can believe it, but I can’t wrap my mind around that. It’s too big for me. So maybe I should say the God I talked to this morning is the same God who walked with Abraham and guided him to his destiny as the father of a nation. He’s the same God who appeared to Moses as a bush that burned but was never consumed. He’s the same God who changed Gideon from a coward hiding in the shadows to a mighty man of courage. He’s the same God who spoke to Elijah and Elisha and Samuel.

It’s different when you think about Him that way. It’s one thing to recognize Him as creator; it’s something else to understand that He hasn’t changed at all from the person He was. He loved Abraham and Isaac and Jacob and Joseph and all of Israel through all of history in spite of their failures and flaws. He didn’t make allowances for them, but He loved them anyway. And He’s the same today.

If you read higher in this paragraph in Deuteronomy 7, you’ll find that it’s Moses delivering his departing words to the nation of Israel, and he reminds them that God didn’t choose Israel because they were a strong, victorious nation. He chose them because they were nothing. God likes making something amazing out of something insignificant. That’s the way He works. That’s the way He has always worked, demonstrating that He is the only one who can take nothing and make something from it.

That’s who God is. That’s the God I talked to this morning, and I shouldn’t take that for granted. I shouldn’t forget, because if He was faithful then, He’ll be faithful now. He kept His promises then, so He’ll keep His promises now. He never gave up on people who deserved it in the past, and He won’t give up on me today, tomorrow, or later on in my life. That’s not who He is.

So as fast as life flies and as busy as I get and as anxious as I become, God is the same through all of it. I can’t control events in my life, but God knows what He’s doing. He doesn’t stand back with his arms crossed, ignoring me as I walk this path He set me on. No, He’s paying attention. He’s watching, and He’s waiting for the opportunity to help. That’s how He worked in the past, so there’s a good chance that’s how He operates now.

Are you busy? Are you stressed? It’s the time of year for it, and it’s only going to get worse. But you’re not on your own. And you don’t have to tackle life and life’s challenges by yourself. If God set you on this road, He won’t step back and let you fall on your face. Trust Him. If you fall, He’ll catch you. You may not be able to control your life, but as long as you hang with God, you’ll be able to face it with your head held high.

You can’t control your life, but He can. He’s been doing it for generations and generations, and the people who trusted Him in the past were never disappointed.

Beach sunrise - Galveston, TX

Psalm 18

 

Beach sunrise - Galveston, TX

Beach sunrise – Galveston, TX

I love you, Lord; you are my strength. The Lord is my rock, my fortress, and my savior; my God is my rock, in whom I find protection. He is my shield, the power that saves me, and my place of safety. I called on the Lord, who is worthy of praise, and he saved me from my enemies.

The ropes of death entangled me; floods of destruction swept over me. The grave wrapped its ropes around me; death laid a trap in my path. But in my distress I cried out to the Lord; yes, I prayed to my God for help. He heard me from his sanctuary; my cry to him reached his ears.

Then the earth quaked and trembled. The foundations of the mountains shook; they quaked because of his anger. Smoke poured from his nostrils; fierce flames leaped from his mouth. Glowing coals blazed forth from him. He opened the heavens and came down; dark storm clouds were beneath his feet. Mounted on a mighty angelic being, he flew, soaring on the wings of the wind. He shrouded himself in darkness, veiling his approach with dark rain clouds. Thick clouds shielded the brightness around him and rained down hail and burning coals. The Lord thundered from heaven; the voice of the Most High resounded amid the hail and burning coals. He shot his arrows and scattered his enemies; his lightning flashed, and they were greatly confused. Then at your command, O Lord, at the blast of your breath, the bottom of the sea could be seen, and the foundations of the earth were laid bare.

He reached down from heaven and rescued me; he drew me out of deep waters. He rescued me from my powerful enemies, from those who hated me and were too strong for me. They attacked me at a moment when I was in distress, but the Lord supported me. He led me to a place of safety; he rescued me because he delights in me. The Lord rewarded me for doing right; he restored me because of my innocence. For I have kept the ways of the Lord; I have not turned from my God to follow evil. I have followed all his regulations; I have never abandoned his decrees. I am blameless before God; I have kept myself from sin. The Lord rewarded me for doing right. He has seen my innocence.

To the faithful you show yourself faithful; to those with integrity you show integrity. To the pure you show yourself pure, but to the wicked you show yourself hostile. You rescue the humble, but you humiliate the proud. You light a lamp for me. The Lord, my God, lights up my darkness. In your strength I can crush an army; with my God I can scale any wall.

God’s way is perfect. All the Lord’s promises prove true. He is a shield for all who look to him for protection. For who is God except the Lord? Who but our God is a solid rock? God arms me with strength, and he makes my way perfect. He makes me as surefooted as a deer, enabling me to stand on mountain heights. He trains my hands for battle; he strengthens my arm to draw a bronze bow. You have given me your shield of victory. Your right hand supports me; your help has made me great. You have made a wide path for my feet to keep them from slipping.

I chased my enemies and caught them; I did not stop until they were conquered. I struck them down so they could not get up; they fell beneath my feet. You have armed me with strength for the battle; you have subdued my enemies under my feet. You placed my foot on their necks. I have destroyed all who hated me. They called for help, but no one came to their rescue. They even cried to the Lord, but he refused to answer. I ground them as fine as dust in the wind. I swept them into the gutter like dirt. You gave me victory over my accusers. You appointed me ruler over nations; people I don’t even know now serve me. As soon as they hear of me, they submit; foreign nations cringe before me. They all lose their courage and come trembling from their strongholds.

The Lord lives! Praise to my Rock! May the God of my salvation be exalted! He is the God who pays back those who harm me; he subdues the nations under me and rescues me from my enemies. You hold me safe beyond the reach of my enemies; you save me from violent opponents. For this, O Lord, I will praise you among the nations; I will sing praises to your name. You give great victories to your king; you show unfailing love to your anointed, to David and all his descendants forever.

Path through the wheat - Safe Haven Farm, Haven, KS

God will give us more than we can handle alone.

Sometimes I feel like God trusts me too much. I don’t think He understands how fragile I am some days, and those seem to be the days when He gives me more emotional trauma than I can handle. And I get frustrated with Him. Because if He really knew how much I was going through, wouldn’t He take it easy on me?

Path through the wheat - Safe Haven Farm, Haven, KS

Path through the wheat - Safe Haven Farm, Haven, KS

Today’s verse is 1 Corinthians 10:12-13.

If you think you are standing strong, be careful not to fall. The temptations in your life are no different from what others experience. And God is faithful. He will not allow the temptation to be more than you can stand. When you are tempted, he will show you a way out so that you can endure.

This is one of the most misquoted verses in the Bible. For starters, people usually miss the parts of this verse that really matter. I’m not sure if it’s just because of other translations, but many Christians interpret this verse to mean that God won’t give you more than you can handle.

That’s not what this verse says. That’s not even what this verse is about.

This verse is about temptation. And what Paul is saying here is that everyone experiences temptation. No matter who you are or how long you have followed Christ, you will be tempted to sin. Why? Because we have an enemy and because that enemy wants to make trouble in our lives, so he is going to do everything he can to see that we struggle.

But according to this verse, when we are tempted, God is faithful to help us. When we are tempted to do things we know are wrong, God will provide a way for us to fight back or to escape. He won’t let us be tempted beyond what we can handle.

No where in Scripture does it say that God won’t give us more than we can handle. Life is more than we can handle. That’s why we have God. So why does God insist on giving me issues and problems on the days when I’m too weak to handle them?

Because He does know me.

He knows that I’m a control freak. He knows that I’m a fixer. He knows that I am an insufferable people pleaser. So He allows things into my life to remind me that I don’t have control over any of it. Because the more I try to control my life, the faster I’m going to lose it (Mark 8:35).

It’s easy to focus on everything that is going wrong in your life because it’s directly in front of you. It’s an inescapable truth you have to face every day when you look in the mirror. And if you’re a perfectionist, all you will see is your failures. Your flaws. The times you could have succeeded but didn’t.

But instead of focusing on everything that’s wrong, maybe we should try focusing on what’s right. Because no matter how bad we think we have it, there is always something to be thankful for. Maybe I’m not where I thought I would be at this point in my life, but that doesn’t mean God’s done with me. Maybe I haven’t accomplished all the things I wanted to accomplish yet, but that doesn’t mean those things won’t happen tomorrow or next week.

Putting God on your timetable is always a bad idea. He invented time. So He’s not bound by it, and He moves at His own pace.

So when everything blows up today (and it probably will), instead of wondering why God is throwing all this crap at me at once when I don’t have the strength to keep standing anymore, I’m going to focus on the fact that He’s the one holding me up to begin with.

Yes, He’s giving me more than I can take by myself. But I’m not by myself.

God never abandons us; we just stop listening to Him.

It’s good to remember that God is faithful to us. I really just don’t know why He loves us the way He does. It’s beyond me. Because He is so great, and we are so much trouble. And way past being trouble, we only care about ourselevs. And even after He gives us everything we need and most everything we want, we still aren’t happy and we still don’t thank Him the way we should. We’re just selfish.

But He is faithful. He’s faithful to us, especially when we aren’t faithful to Him.

It’s a kind of love that I don’t understand. He never gives up on us.

Today’s verse is 2 Thessalonians 3:3.

3 But the Lord is faithful; he will strengthen you and guard you from the evil one.

One thing is certain and that is God is faithful. He says it over and over and over again, and in other verses He promises to lead us and protect us and never leave us. So what does that mean when you feel lost and vulnerable and alone? Does that mean that He’s left you?

No. Because God is faithful. But just becuase He’s faithful doesn’t mean that He always has to talk to us. Sometime we need to learn to be content with the silence. And sometimes silence is an indication that something is wrong.

God remains faithful to us no matter what, but we are cold-hearted, selfish people. And we rarely remain faithful to anyone but ourselves. I think so much of “being faithful” as far as God goes depends on our perspective. I think that’s why people believe that He leaves us or that He abandons us. I think sometimes people get to the point where they only want what they want and  if God tells them that what they want will hurt them, they don’t listen. And they do it any way. And so when they are dealing with the ramifications of their actions, they feel like God has abandoned them. And that’s not true. God never abandons us. We just don’t want to follow Him or do what He tells us to do, so we stop looking for Him.

And that’s the idiocy of humanity: We whine about God forsaking us when we aren’t really looking for Him in the first place.

If we are in that place in our lives — that blind place where we only see the things we want and only do the things we want — even if God materialized right in front of us and ask that we follow Him, I don’t think we would do it. People are just like that. Given a choice, they will usually do the things that are bad for them.

 3 But the Lord is faithful; he will strengthen you and guard you from the evil one.

How many of you read that and wondered why it wasn’t true in your life? Obviously, I don’t know your circumstances. I just know my own. And I know that I have struggled with this so many times that it can’t just be me who feels this way.

How many of you feel like God isn’t faithful? How many of you feel like God hasn’t strengthened you or guarded you from evil?

The first thing you need to find out is if you want God to be faithful to you. Because part of God being faithful is protecting you and keeping you from doing things that you shouldn’t be doing, things that will hurt you, things that will destroy your testimony, things that will destroy your life and the lives of the people around you. So how can God strengthen you if you don’t want to be strong? How can God guard you from evil if you keep looking for it?

Granted, God will be faithful to you no matter whether you want it or not, but if you aren’t listening He won’t change you and you’ll keep living your life as you always have.

I want God to be faithful to me. I want Him by my side every day. I want Him to keep me strong and keep me on the right track. I want to listen to Him and learn what He has to tell me about life and about myself and about the future. It’s a desire that I struggle with on a daily basis because the dark part of me doesn’t want it. That dark, evil part of my nature is suffocating sometimes and overpowering at other times, but God has given us all the strength to overcome our old natures. We just have to do it.

What’s amazing to me about God’s faithfulness is that it truly is eternal and uncompromising. He loves us. He always has. He always will. And He is always waiting for us to get our heads on straight and come to Him. And when the day finally comes that we get it through our thick skulls that we can’t live without Him, He rejoices and runs to meet us, like we were the only ones He was looking for. And no matter what we have done or where we have been, He welcomes us with open arms because He loves us. And because He is always faithful, most especially when we aren’t faithful to Him.