God’s ways are not our ways

In the midst of the quietness of this blog God has been at work including within the life of this writer. The center point of the growth lessons comes down to some simple words that have great depth. 

 God’s ways are not my ways.

God states the fact that His thoughts are not our thoughts and His ways are not our ways in Isaiah 55:8.  He establishes that there are differing perceptions and directions. God says he does what He does with His intent and purpose and that it differs from our own.  We can be convinced of something and pursue a direction. We can do what we think is right. We can have best intentions. Yet, God can have something else going on. In this writer’s life there was a moment where convinced that a small group of post college young adults could be turned into a ministry. It went the other way.  Perceptions differed and God worked as he did in that moment of time but not to create some bigger ministry.  In this writer’s life there have been ideas of going to “Christian graduate school” or work in “Christian environments” that did not happen, or at least not happen as thought. Yet, in it all God had  His ways and His thoughts and His intent.

 Now here is a piece of reality. Our own thoughts and ways are self-focused.  We get  wrapped up in our own thoughts and ways, in how we think things should be.  Even when following God and trusting his promises we get sidetracked by the ways of self.  If you read the Bible you will find countless stories of people going about their own way and having their own thoughts and not trusting God or trying to bring about God’s seemingly too long delayed promises on their own. See we turn to our own ways because we think we know best or think we have the best understanding of what is best for ourselves. We have time frames on when it should be accomplished. We often live in the moment of what is happening now without the full recognition of God doing what He intends.

See God always accomplishes what He intends. In Isaiah 55:11 it is made clear that God’s words, what He puts into being always accomplishes what He desires. God’s words do not return void, ever. What he sets in motion will not be stopped, ever.  Now sometimes it may take a long time. Sometimes it may appear differently than it is. We may not always see or understand how God is accomplishing His word and His way, but what God sets out to accomplish, He accomplishes.

Yet, we often miss those facts as we are focused on what we think is good for self. He have our plans or ideas. Even in following God we can try and achieve what God put forward by our own efforts and ideas.  Our ways and thoughts need to grow each day in aligning with God’s ways and thoughts. We need to trust God always does what He says. Always.  What is best for us in spite our own ways and thoughts and the leanings of our evil hearts is growing ever more in line with God’s ways and thoughts. Now, that is the truly difficult part because it involves giving up of self, of our ways and thoughts. We want to grasp on to what we think we need tightly. God tells us even the result of a grasping.  Luke 9:24 (ESV) For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will save it.  What then is needed is the giving up, the letting go of our preferred directions and thoughts about the way things should go. We needs to simply look to be each day more in line with God’s ways and thoughts. This is ongoing, day to day, letting go of self.

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Superbowl Sunday Musing: True Victory

The day of this commentary is Superbowl Sunday. The day the “big game” is played. The games serves as the end of the football season where one team comes out on top and achieves victory. It is the cultural apex not only in the United States of America, but the world as well. No other contest, no other game gets the attention and the notoriety worldwide.

This game and the ultimate victor is one of many such contests, with one gaining the victory and coming out on top over all others. It is really a contest to determine who is the best and is the essence to how things function in the ways of the world. It is all about “reaching the top.” Be it career, politics, athletics, games, contests, and so on, in the world it is all about rising above the rest. Then once that is achieved, the contest starts all over. The victory is temporary and fleeting, lasing but moments.

There is a victory though that is not about “rising above” others. This victory is not fleeting or temporary but endures. This victory is that which occurs when one enters in to the Kingdom of God and recognizes Jesus as both Savior and Lord. For the true victory was already won, already declared when Jesus cried “IT IS FINISHED!” This victory is about victory over sin and the return to relating and depending on God. It is the setting in motion that of untwisting what was twisted when life apart from God was chosen. In this victory the least are the greatest and loss is gain. It is contrary to the world system and the constant striving to come out on top. It is simply victory through right relationship with God and having a place in His Kingdom. No granted, this victory is one that does not appear sound to the normal eye.

If I let go of that which is of self and look to God alone, how gain I gain. This because all we know of victory is the crawling, scratching, and fighting to come out on top. But see, the worlds way, the fighting to be on “top” there can only be “one” victor. In the way of God, the way of Jesus, there are many winners, yet it is hard to grasp. This victory is called the narrow way for many will choose the road that appears right with confidence they will make it through on top. It is a way of self-effort and self-determination. It is a way of losing. God’s way, the way found in Jesus and the victory established of the cross is the way of surrender. It is the way of growing up in righteousness while both transformed and renewed. It is the way of letting go and giving up of self. The cross started things moving and the course is set, victory is assured for all those who accept Jesus as both Savoir and Lord.

The time of victory is coming closer every day. The day is coming when all will be made right. It will appear for a time that the powers of darkness win and the schemes of the devil prevail. But the time is but limited and soon all will be made right, not by our efforts or strength but in surrender to Jesus and bringing all things under His authority. It is not done by our striving or effort, but will happen upon His return. True victory is assured. Victory over death. Victory over suffering. Victory over all that ails all of creation. Those entangled and engrossed in the twisted things of self and darkness will be death with and true life will be known. When Jesus does return and claim victory, the war cry will be sure “HIS LOVE ENDURES FOR EVER!” For it is by His love alone that all is made right. It was His love alone that established the way. It is His love alone that assures the victory. Imagine if you knew today the outcome of the game ahead of time. This is what it is like in terms of the true and eternal victory. We know the outcome, we know Victory is assures. So no matter what the struggle of the day is, as long as you remain in Him, remain true to the Kingdom of God and continue to surrender to Jesus as both Savior and Lord, then Victory is assured. So stand firm, endure, and surrender to him. Then rejoice in the Lord, for Victory is Won for it is HIS LOVE THAT ENDURES FOREVER!

Labor Day Musing: True rest for those labored and burdened

This past weekend was Labor Day weekend with Monday being Labor Day in the United States. This is a time set aside to rest from our toiling at being productive members of the workforce and taking a day of ease and rest. For me today the verse Matthew 11:28 (ESV) has come to mind:

“Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.”

This simple statement is profound.  Jesus is giving and invitation to a difficulty many experience.  The statement contains three elements; the invitation, the invitee, and the result of accepting the invitation.  Those elements are worth more specific examination.

First, there is the invitation: Come to me. It is a simple request and formed in an imperative tone that is very direct and certain.  Jesus directs the invitee to come to him.  The word come is not a passive word. It sets a firm direction.  It takes an act of moving from one location to another. Here that direction is toward Jesus. Wherever one is, they need to change and move toward Jesus. Now it is interesting that the word in the Greek translated as me is μέ that encompasses all elements of self, I, me, and my. So in essence, Jesus is requesting and directing others to set their direction toward all of Him.  It is a request of a directed action, not a passive response. It is a movement away from whatever direction one is on, which in most cases would be that of a self-chosen direction, and a move toward Jesus.

Now the second element is the invitees. Here Jesus addresses a particular group.  The group he is addressing are those that are tired from the work they have engaged in and are weighed down with burdens they cannot bear on their own.  He is directing any that have come to the limits of their own effort and feel unable to go further to set their direction to him.  It is a call to cease the striving of self that drains energy and adds weight and to look and move toward one that can provide aid.  If one is at a place in life where there daily refrain is “I’m tired” or “I cannot take much more” Jesus invites to turn your direction to him and cease the striving. Jesus answer is quite different from that of the world.  The world points to need for constant effort and striving followed by momentary periods of relief in the varied offerings of momentary relief and pleasure.  Jesus rather, calls to actively head in a different direction. He does not direct toward the numbing actions of pleasure and distraction but an active turn in direction.

Jesus invitation comes with an exact and defined benefit.  Jesus states that the benefit of coming to him is rest.  He offers the opposite of the state of the invitees.  Those that are “tired” and “cannot take any more” can find rest by moving toward Jesus. The act of turning toward Jesus that brings the rest, rather it is what Jesus gives.  He gives the rest if you come to Him. Now, it is worth noting that the concept of rest here is far beyond what we consider rest.  It is not just a recharging of energy, but complete refreshment at deep levels.  The rest Jesus offers is more than a good nap or a good night sleep. It is even more than an extended vacation. It is a rest that brings one alive.  What Jesus has to give is beyond anything we can do for self. It is beyond our comprehension and what we experience in the short term is only but a taste of the rest that is to come, where there is no strife and no need to be tired or heavy laden.  And everyone does reach a point of being tired and burdened. Everyone needs rest. Even God himself rested. And by coming to Jesus, we are given God’s rest.

Coming to Jesus is not a onetime action.   Yes, we all need to come to Jesus to receive salvation, which is the starting point and initial gift of rest.  A ceasing of the striving of self.  We  need to continue coming to Jesus.  In this world, much is difficult and hard.  We can become labored and burdened without physical exertion.  Some of being labored and heavy laden comes in the looking out for self, in our own affairs. We get hurt, we have desires that go unmet, we struggle.  In fact, we all experience daily the impact of sin as the whole of creation has been impacted by sin.  The very act of coming to Jesus is at heart a turn from self-focus.  When you focus on being tired or burdened, it actually adds to the drain.  The more you focus on the state of self, the harder it becomes.  The very act of coming to Jesus changes focus.  Then when we actually surrender to Jesus and accept what He offers each of us, we are uplifted and refreshed.  Now the reader may state  “well tried that and there was no immediate relief.”  This can be true, for as Jesus will give us rest when we come, perceiving the rest is not always immediate but know that Jesus always keeps His word.  When you come to Jesus you will receive rest, in His time. He will give the rest if you come. This is fact. When you do not see or perceive it, trust this truth, for He who promised is faithful. When you come, He will give rest. Place you faith in this for it is assured!