1 Samuel 16:7: “But the Lord said to Samuel, “Don’t judge by his appearance or height, for I have rejected him. The Lord doesn’t see things the way you see them. People judge by outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.”

When God created humankind, He created them in His own image.  One of God’s trademarks is His creativity. Mankind, too, was born to create, not the least of which is to procreate. But besides procreation God wired men with an innate curiosity to discover, invent, develop, and bring something new to the table. How else could you explain all the discoveries and inventions in the history of mankind? The creative spark inside of us pushes us forward.

However, unfortunately, besides the upward trend of progress there’s also a noticeable self-destructive downward spiral, coming with Adam and Eve’s emancipation from God. Here is the key encounter leading to a very bad decision (Genesis 3:5):

“The serpent said to the woman, ‘you most assuredly won’t die! For God knows that when you eat of it [the forbidden fruit], your eyes will be opened and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.’”

Mankind’s emancipation from God was based on the delusional promise that our eyes will be opened. Our innate curiosity got the better of us when we decided to go for the unknown while leaving our innocence behind. And so it happened that we don’t see eye to eye with our Creator anymore. Prophet Isaiah put it this way (Isaiah 55:8):

“‘For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways,’ declares the Lord.”

We are mistaken to assume that God wants to hold us back and does not have our best interest at heart. That big fat lie originated in the Garden of Eden and is still alive and well today. Quite the opposite is true though: God has good plans for us. He is for us, not against us. His thoughts and inclinations are for our benefit, not to make things worse. While God has all eternity to work things out, we are stuck in the here and now and have no way of understanding the extent of God’s redemptive power. We need an X-ray to check out our skeleton, and we definitely are no mind readers, however, God is able to see what is going on inside any human being, physically, mentally, and emotionally. God’s perspective easily trumps ours.

If we connect to our Creator, we have a better chance of judging a situation correctly and making sane decisions. It all starts with trusting Him that He got this – whatever it is we’re struggling with: God has us covered! Let’s keep that in mind, especially when we seem to be running against closed doors. God may have already opened another door, and we just don’t see it. When in doubt, we can do what Adam and Eve failed to do: All we have to do is ask.

Jeremiah 29:11: “For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future”

1 Timothy 2:5-6: “For, There is one God and one Mediator who can reconcile God and humanity—the man Christ Jesus. He gave his life to purchase freedom for everyone. This is the message God gave to the world at just the right time.”

God’s uncanny timing! Not at any given time, but at just the right time Jesus was born in Bethlehem – even though he came while His parents were on a trip away from home and the circumstances of His delivery were less than accommodating.  His birth place was a stable. Yet, it was God’s timing. God’s timing definitely veers from human timing. Humans run things by the clock and by seasons.  Our days are usually dictated by work and school schedules while the spring, summer, fall, and winter season of our lives represent our maturing process with its unique challenges:

1)      Spring: the challenge to grow

2)      Summer: the challenge to produce

3)      Fall: the challenge to harvest

4)      Winter: the challenge to accept that life has come to a full circle

God is not subject to any human season or time clock, but He is certainly aware of it.  We on the other hand have no way of understanding God’s timing.  We just have to roll with it and trust Him that He is always on time. This is tough for many people, especially in times when we feel our world is falling apart and answers to our prayers are needed yesterday. Suffice to say that in hindsight we can sometimes put the puzzle together and understand why things didn’t happen yesterday but today. But even if we don’t understand the sequence of our life events, let’s remember that Jesus came at just the right time to save the world; this also means that God will always come through for you and me – at just the right time! We have to trust Him on that.

Psalm 131: 1-4: “I look up to the mountains—does my help come from there? My help comes from the Lord, who made heaven and earth! He will not let you stumble; the one who watches over you will not slumber. Indeed, he who watches over Israel never slumbers or sleeps.”

Genesis 41:51-52: “Joseph named his older son Manasseh, for he said, ‘God has made me forget all my troubles and everyone in my father’s family.’ Joseph named his second son Ephraim, for he said, ‘God has made me fruitful in this land of my grief.’”

The other day Joseph’s son accidentally ran into a stranger as he was running backwards to catch a ball. The stranger, clearly annoyed, yelled at him: “Hey you! What’s your name?” “I Forget” “No really! What’s your name?” “My name’s I forget” “You’re weird! How can you forget your own name?”

Of course I made this up, but couldn’t a conversation like this potentially happen if you apply names to your children that mean a lot to you but maybe not so much to your children? The names of the two brothers Ephraim and Manasseh represent his father Joseph’s life experience. And what a life experience he has had! A roller coaster of events one might say: from favorite son of his father Jacob back home to slave in a foreign country; from a no-name slave in Egypt to Potiphar’s Personal Attendant; from Potiphar’s Personal Attendant to a forgotten prisoner in an Egyptian dungeon; from a forgotten prisoner to the Prison Warden‘s Assistant Manager; from the Prison Warden’s Assistant Manager to Pharaoh’s Second in Command. That’s Joseph’s story, and so he named his kids “Forget” and “Fruitful” because God made him forget the past and made him fruitful in a foreign country. His own name was changed from Joseph to Zaphenath-paneah as if to make the transition into his new life complete. A different name, a different life, a different identity!

Well, not quite! Joseph’s past would catch up to him when a worldwide famine brought his brothers to his doorsteps – the same brothers who sold him to the Midianites as a slave to teach him a lesson. The lesson they tried to get across to Joseph: “You may be Dad’s favorite but you’re not better than we are!” As it turned out, they too had to learn a lesson or two. Lesson #1: You will be treated just the same way you’ve been treating others.  Lesson#2: Lies will eventually catch up to you. More than two decades went by when a time of testing came for both parties: Would Joseph bear a grudge? Would his brothers finally get real? The story fortunately ends on a happy note: his brothers confessed the ugly details of what they have kept secret for so long and Joseph completely forgave them. As a result the family was reunited, a dead relationship rekindled and his family saved from starvation in a seven-year drought. Joseph lived up to his new name Zaphenath-paneah. Zaphenath-paneah means, “He who calls is life” or “God speaks life”, and Joseph certainly spoke life into a very bad situation.

The question on my mind today is: what kind of words do I speak over my bad situation? Do I assess it, call it “bad” and be overcome with grief or do I assess the situation and pray to God who might see some potential? When God speaks, life flourishes.  That’s His very nature.  We see the world around us as living proof. Connected with Him we can become His Life agents. We see someone struggling with addiction, and we speak life into the situation.  We struggle with unemployment, our health, our finances, and we find that God is navigating us through very confusing times – if we dare to look up. Joseph put his trust in God when people meant to harm him, and we need to do the same. We need to stop obsessing and start confessing that we do not need to be in control. Even though it’s quite unsettling to let things go, at the same time I have to say it’s a huge relief for me. And the lesson in trust can be quite rewarding if we look into Joseph’s life. The same God Joseph believed in we believe in today. Your faith transforms into your very own life’s story, and you’ll encourage more people than you’ll ever know!

Isaiah 43:2; “When you go through deep waters, I will be with you. When you go through rivers of difficulty, you will not drown. When you walk through the fire of oppression, you will not be burned up; the flames will not consume you.”

 

 

 

Micah 6:8: “No, O people, the Lord has told you what is good, and this is what he requires of you: to do what is right, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with your God.”

One question was weighing down on the people in Micah’s days: They kept asking (Micah 5:6-7):

“What can we bring to the Lord?
    Should we bring him burnt offerings?
Should we bow before God Most High
    with offerings of yearling calves?
Should we offer him thousands of rams
    and ten thousand rivers of olive oil?
Should we sacrifice our firstborn children
    to pay for our sins?”

The people were willing to go as far as sacrificing their own children to restore precious innocence, lost in the Garden of Eden so long ago.  They were desperate, but their thinking was desperately wrong, and God says so.  He responds with a resounding: “No”.  In other words:  “You will never be able to sufficiently pay your way back to the Garden of Eden, and sacrificing your firstborn children is certainly not the way.”

Speaking of sacrificing children, Abraham comes to mind and with it, a lesson in trust.  We read in chapter 22 of the book of Genesis that Abraham’s son Isaac was supposed to be sacrificed on Mount Moriah. For centuries the ritualistic killing of children used to be an everyday occurrence among the nations. And while human sacrifices were the norm worldwide, Abraham did not intend to sacrifice his first and only son he and his wife Sarah had together.  Nevertheless, he followed God’s lead, brought his son to the designated location, laid him on a pile of wood, and was just about to kill him when God restrained him with the following words: “Don’t lay a hand on the boy!”  When Abraham looked up he saw a ram caught in a thicket.  He took the ram and sacrificed it in place of his son.  Abraham named the place where the sacrifice took place “Yahweh-Yireh”, which translated means: “The Lord will provide.”

Instead of coming up with a sacrifice of our own, the Lord Himself provides the sacrifice. This goes to show that the Lord does not withhold any blessings from us.  Centuries later God’s Son was sacrificed on Mount Golgotha, outside Jerusalem, representing complete restitution.  What part do we play in this restitution?  The answer is hard to swallow for any independent-minded person, because God obviously does not want us to play any part in it.  We pay nothing, and neither do we contribute to the restitution, not even a small portion. God completely pays the price.  And by accepting this truth we can step back into that circle of trust and walk with Him day by day.

John 3:16: “For this is how God loved the world: He gave his one and only Son, so that everyone who believes in him will not perish but have eternal life.”