Happy sunflower at Safe Haven Farm, Haven, KS

God does amazing things

Late miracles are still miracles. That’s what I posted yesterday from the 15th floor waiting area at the Minnesota campus of the Mayo Clinic. My parents and I had been waiting for days for the impossible, and it was looking like we weren’t going to get in. We fully expected to have to wait until next Wednesday, using up vacation time so my mom could get in to see this specialist.

So that’s why I posted what I did yesterday, because I wanted to get my perspective straight. The moment I pushed the publish button on yesterday’s post, the nurse called us. We had an appointment the next day.

We are meeting with an allergy specialist at 9:45 this morning. It’s not the doctor we were expecting, who was both an allergy specialist and an immune system specialist. But we’re trusting there’s a reason a door opened with this one instead. I mean, if God has been faithful enough to get us in to see anyone at Mayo, He’s not going to get us in with a doctor for no reason.

Happy sunflower at Safe Haven Farm, Haven, KS

Happy sunflower at Safe Haven Farm, Haven, KS

Today’s verse is 1 Chronicles 16:24.

Publish his glorious deeds among the nations.
Tell everyone about the amazing things he does.

Like I mentioned yesterday, how often do miracles go unnoticed? How often does God do something amazing in our life and we don’t take the time to recognize it? I’m afraid it happens more frequently in my life than I’m comfortable admitting.

Well, I want to recognize this one. We asked God to open a door for us, and He did. So now we’re going to sit back and see what God does today.

Don’t be shy about sharing what God has done in your life. You might come off like a crazy person, sure. But you also might catch somebody’s attention, someone who thinks God has given up on them or who believes that God doesn’t get involved in our lives.

Parents, tell your kids what God has done. Tell your friends. Tell your family. Tell anyone who will listen.  You never know how your story might help someone else.

God does great, amazing things. Yes, He does them in His time, and usually that’s better than our time anyway.

Screenshot from King's Quest (copyright Sierra Games 1987)

It’s not about the carrot

When I was very young, I started playing a computer game with my dad and my brother called King’s Quest. Amazing game. It required thinking skills and reasoning skills and the ability to type fairly fast. You moved your character with the arrow keys and typed instructions. Anything you wanted your character to do, you had to type it. Move rock. Pick up dagger. Swim. Jump. Play fiddle.

And there was one part in the first King’s Quest where you had to convince a goat to butt a troll off a bridge so you could answer Rumpelstiltskin’s riddle and get the beans to grow a beanstalk. (Nope. Not making it up.) The thing about the goat was that it wouldn’t follow you just because. You had to give it a reason to leave its pen, and that reason was a carrot you pluck out of the king’s garden.

So what on earth does that have to do with anything?

Well, if your Christian experience is anything like mine, then you’ve probably encountered some disappointments along the way. Am I wrong? You’ve chosen a path and walked down it faithfully, fully expecting God to turn up and work miracles as you go, and He doesn’t. Or you sacrifice and give up your dreams to pursue a course you think God has laid out for you, and you encounter nothing but difficulty every day until you finally have to turn around and go back to where you started.

What is that? Why is that? Does that mean God is unreliable? Does that mean God just lures us along and is waiting for the opportunity to pounce on us or use us? Are we just the goats and God’s promises are the carrots?

Screenshot from King's Quest (copyright Sierra Games 1987)

Screenshot from King’s Quest (copyright Sierra Games 1987)

Today’s verse is Hebrews 10:23.

Let us hold tightly without wavering to the hope we affirm, for God can be trusted to keep his promise.

It’s not wrong to ask questions. Let’s get that straight before we go any farther. God wants us to ask questions. He wants us to be wise about our choices, and you can’t really be wise until you are brave enough to question what everyone tells you is true. Wisdom begins by understanding who God is and learning that it’s His opinion and His Word that matters. No one else’s.

But my goodness, it gets frustrating sometimes. I’m just being honest here. Sometimes I wish God would just tell me what He wants me to do. Or if He won’t do that, I want some kind of confirmation that I’m doing the right thing–a confirmation that sticks around instead of popping up momentarily and then vanishing without a trace.

But that’s what happens when you rely on signs and symbols. That’s what happens when you go looking for carrots.

Now it’s not wrong to look for signs. It’s not wrong to look for incentives. There are many times throughout Scripture where God says that He’ll bless us if we do something. But there seems to be an idea among Christians that faith is generally incentivized. We’re supposed to take great leaps of faith because God will reward us financially or in some other quantifiable, measurable return. And I’m not saying that’s not true. But should we be doing God’s work for the sole purpose of a return on our investment? Should we obey God merely because we want to get something out of the deal? Or should we do what God tells us to do because He told us to do it?

Hey, Christian, did you know that if you give to God, He’ll give back to you? Hey, Christian, did you know that if you live by what the Bible says, God will bless you? Maybe it starts with incentive, but it doesn’t end there. Maybe God does offer us incentives, but following Christ isn’t about what we can get out of it. It’s not about the incentives. Just like the game. It’s not about the carrot; it’s about who’s offering the carrot. It’s about getting the goat to fulfill a greater purpose than just hanging around in a pen for the rest of its life.

The irony of the game is that after the goat beats the troll, it wanders off on its own. The goat gets to go roam free and find new adventures of its own. It doesn’t care about the carrot anymore. The carrot doesn’t matter anymore because it was never about the carrot anyway. The carrot was just an opportunity.

The incentives God offers us aren’t the point. God is the point, and God can be trusted. His promises aren’t flights of fancy or caprice that He forgets whenever it suits Him. No, when He makes a promise, we can trust that He will keep it.

So what incentive are you grasping at today? Are you sure you’re focusing on the right thing? Are you obeying God just so you can get something out of it? Not saying that’s bad or even wrong, but have you considered maybe forgetting the incentive and just doing it because God asked you to do it? Stop worrying about what you’re going to get out of it and just walk with God.

Get out of the pen, whether there’s a carrot involved or not. You won’t regret it.

Rainbow in the sky near Esfuerzo Dos, Peten, Guatemala

When everything changes, God doesn’t

Do you know people who keep their promises? They’re good people to know. Their word means something to them, and you can trust that when they make you a promise, they will do all they can to see it through to the end. But how many times does someone have to keep a promise before it becomes part of their character? Once? Ten times? Half their life?

The amazing thing about God (one of the many) is that He has made thousands and thousands of promises, just that we know about in the Bible, and He has kept every single one. Maybe I’m generalizing, but I don’t think a normal average human being can do that. At some point, we have to break promises because we aren’t capable of always keeping them; but God is.

Rainbow in the sky near Esfuerzo Dos, Peten, Guatemala

Rainbow in the sky near Esfuerzo Dos, Peten, Guatemala

Today’s verse is Isaiah 44:8.

Do not tremble; do not be afraid.
    Did I not proclaim my purposes for you long ago?
You are my witnesses—is there any other God?
    No! There is no other Rock—not one!”

From the moment He created time itself, God has been making promises to His Creation, and up until now, every promise He has made, except for a few, have become reality. And those few outstanding will change everything once He does what He’s promised to do.

The hallmark of someone you can trust, someone who keeps their promises, is that when they say they’re going to do something, they’re really going to do it. And that works with God as well as with people down here.

So what does that mean for us? Yes, it’s good to know that God keeps His promises, but you have to know His promises before it really has any bearing on our lives. You have to know that He has promised to never abandon us. You have to know that He has promised to help us get through life. You have to know that He has promised to make everything work out for good for the people who have chosen to follow Him.

Has He really promised those things? Yes, He really has. And because God keeps His promises, we can know that He will truly do them.

God has been keeping promises for thousands and thousands of years. The Bible is proof of what He has done and why He has done it. And since He has been keeping promises for so long, why would He stop now? What we need to remember is that God doesn’t change. In our whole life, our whole existence, He is the one person that doesn’t. Everything else does. Life happens. People die. Babies are born. People get married. People get divorced. People move and leave and return. Churches change. Jobs change. Economies change. Governments change.

In our lives on Earth, there’s only one constant: Everything changes.

And change isn’t bad. Most of the time it’s good because it forces us outside our comfort zone, but the change that we welcome is usually the change that we initiate. It’s the change that we don’t choose that is difficult to bear. It’s the change we have no control over that discourages us and frightens us and worries us.

But even when everything around us changes, God doesn’t.

I’m sitting at my office computer accessing the internet from a wireless connection that is broadcast to my farm from a tower in a nearby town. When high-speed internet came to the rural areas of Kansas, there was much rejoicing because we were all still stuck in the limited universe of dial-up modems for years. And with every year, our technology changes and our ability to communicate over vast distances improves. We are able to do things today that people 30 years ago could only imagine; we are able to do things today that people 100 years ago couldn’t even dream.

Our world has changed drastically in the last decade or so. It’s weird for me to stay that I remember 20 years ago, but I do. I remember what the world was like in the ’80s and ’90s. I remember watching the slow change that overtook us until we became the country we are today.

But sitting in my office with all my technology, living in my world that is so drastically different from the world I grew up in, I am writing about the same God who told Noah to build an ark to save who he could. I am writing about the same God who promised Abraham that he would be a great nation. I am writing about the same God who turned a little shepherd boy into the greatest king Israel had ever known. The same God who heard the cries of the people who were seeking Him, the same God who made everything, the same God who send Christ to die for us, is same now as He was then.

And in a world that refuses to stop changing no matter how hard we try to hold on to what was, having that constant is awfully nice. Because we can trust that no matter how topsy-turvy everything in our lives gets, God is still working things out. He promised He would. And if God has kept His promises for all these thousands of years, He isn’t going to stop now.

So don’t despair when things change. Don’t worry and don’t shut down because God’s not changing, and He still has the power to take any situation (especially the ugly ones we’ve screwed up) and make it beautiful. We just have to let Him.

Otter at the Sedgwick County Zoo, Wichita, KS

How strong is your hope?

Do you have hope that bounces back when it gets dropped? To really answer that question, I think we need to understand a little bit about hope in general. Hope isn’t some ethereal insubstantial concept that’s just floating around in the void; hope is a real, solid thing. Granted, you can’t touch it, and you can’t see it, but that doesn’t make it any less real.

Hope is something we experience when someone we trust makes us a promise. When someone promises us something we don’t yet have, we trust that they will keep their word, and we have hope that one day that promise will come true.

I’m working on a trilogy of books at the moment. The first one is pretty much about hope. The second one is about promises. The third one is about trust. And in my studying and researching and praying about this series, I learned something about all three. They’re all connected.

 

Otter at the Sedgwick County Zoo, Wichita, KS

Otter at the Sedgwick County Zoo, Wichita, KS

Today’s verse is Hebrews 10:23.

Let us hold tightly without wavering to the hope we affirm, for God can be trusted to keep his promise.

Hope is only as strong (and as resilient) as the character of the person who makes the promise. If someone you don’t trust at all makes you a promise, you won’t have any hope that it will happen. Even if that person is sincere in their desire to do something good for you, even if that person means well, if they are untrustworthy, you have no reason to hope that they will do what they say.

But what about someone you trust? What about someone who has proven themselves over and over again? If they make you a promise, would you hope that they would keep it? Well, I would. But the real test comes when it doesn’t look like they’re keeping their word. Right?

Life gets in the way. People let us down, and it’s easy to believe that God will too. But God isn’t like people. God is God. And because of Scripture and because of God’s work in our lives, we know we can trust Him. It’s just that He doesn’t work the way we usually expect Him to.

Honestly, the question isn’t really about how strong your hope is; the question is really about how much you trust God. Hope is an extension of trust; hope is a response to trust. So if you trust God, you will hope in Him, and when it looks like (and feels like) He is going back on His word, your level of trust in Him will determine how long your hope will endure.

So if you feel hopeless this morning, especially this week before Christmas when it seems everyone is depressed about something, stop asking why your hope is gone and start looking at who you’re trusting. Are you trusting the current economy to solve your problems? Are you trusting your finances to answer your questions? Do you trust the talking heads on television to explain why your life isn’t working? Are you trusting your friends to identify you and provide you with self-worth? I don’t suppose there’s anything wrong with any of those, but if you put your trust in any of those things, that’s where your hope is centered.

The economy isn’t stable. Neither are your finances. They’ll be good one moment and gone the next. And people are fluid and foolish, especially the ones on television. Even your friends will let you down, including the ones you trust because no one is perfect. Where will your hope be then?

That’s where God comes in because He never lets His people down. He never abandons His people. He never forgets His people. And though we may feel like He’s not around or like He’s not working, most of the time that’s because we’re not really looking for Him. Or if we are looking for Him, our attitudes need an adjustment, like a near-sighted person wearing glasses for farsightedness.

Think about it. How strong is your hope? If it’s not strong at all, you might want to consider re-evaluating who you trust.

 

Apricot buds in spring - Safe Haven Farm, Haven, KS

Psalm 105

God keeps His promises. He made promises to people in the Old Testament, and though many of them died before they saw the realization of the larger promises, God never failed them in any way. And now, in heaven with Him, they can understand that better than they ever could down here.

I needed this today, a reminder that God keeps His promises. I know that He does, but it’s easy to forget when it feels like nothing is going right. But even when things go wrong, God is still working out His plan for all of us.

Apricot buds in spring - Safe Haven Farm, Haven, KS

Apricot buds in spring – Safe Haven Farm, Haven, KS

Psalm 105

Give thanks to the Lord and proclaim his greatness.
    Let the whole world know what he has done.
Sing to him; yes, sing his praises.
    Tell everyone about his wonderful deeds.
Exult in his holy name;
    rejoice, you who worship the Lord.
Search for the Lord and for his strength;
    continually seek him.
Remember the wonders he has performed,
    his miracles, and the rulings he has given,
you children of his servant Abraham,
    you descendants of Jacob, his chosen ones.

He is the Lord our God.
    His justice is seen throughout the land.
He always stands by his covenant—
    the commitment he made to a thousand generations.
This is the covenant he made with Abraham
    and the oath he swore to Isaac.
He confirmed it to Jacob as a decree,
    and to the people of Israel as a never-ending covenant:
“I will give you the land of Canaan
    as your special possession.”

He said this when they were few in number,
    a tiny group of strangers in Canaan.
They wandered from nation to nation,
    from one kingdom to another.
Yet he did not let anyone oppress them.
    He warned kings on their behalf:
“Do not touch my chosen people,
    and do not hurt my prophets.”

He called for a famine on the land of Canaan,
    cutting off its food supply.
Then he sent someone to Egypt ahead of them—
    Joseph, who was sold as a slave.
They bruised his feet with fetters
    and placed his neck in an iron collar.
Until the time came to fulfill his dreams,
    the Lord tested Joseph’s character.
Then Pharaoh sent for him and set him free;
    the ruler of the nation opened his prison door.
Joseph was put in charge of all the king’s household;
    he became ruler over all the king’s possessions.
He could instruct the king’s aides as he pleased
    and teach the king’s advisers.

Then Israel arrived in Egypt;
    Jacob lived as a foreigner in the land of Ham.
And the Lord multiplied the people of Israel
    until they became too mighty for their enemies.
Then he turned the Egyptians against the Israelites,
    and they plotted against the Lord’s servants.

But the Lord sent his servant Moses,
    along with Aaron, whom he had chosen.
They performed miraculous signs among the Egyptians,
    and wonders in the land of Ham.
The Lord blanketed Egypt in darkness,
    for they had defied his commands to let his people go.
He turned their water into blood,
    poisoning all the fish.
Then frogs overran the land
    and even invaded the king’s bedrooms.
When the Lord spoke, flies descended on the Egyptians,
    and gnats swarmed across Egypt.
He sent them hail instead of rain,
    and lightning flashed over the land.
He ruined their grapevines and fig trees
    and shattered all the trees.
He spoke, and hordes of locusts came—
    young locusts beyond number.
They ate up everything green in the land,
    destroying all the crops in their fields.
Then he killed the oldest son in each Egyptian home,
    the pride and joy of each family.

The Lord brought his people out of Egypt, loaded with silver and gold;
    and not one among the tribes of Israel even stumbled.
Egypt was glad when they were gone,
    for they feared them greatly.
The Lord spread a cloud above them as a covering
    and gave them a great fire to light the darkness.
They asked for meat, and he sent them quail;
    he satisfied their hunger with manna—bread from heaven.
He split open a rock, and water gushed out
    to form a river through the dry wasteland.
For he remembered his sacred promise
    to his servant Abraham.
So he brought his people out of Egypt with joy,
    his chosen ones with rejoicing.
He gave his people the lands of pagan nations,
    and they harvested crops that others had planted.
All this happened so they would follow his decrees
    and obey his instructions.

Praise the Lord!