our lives are in God’s hands

Now listen, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go to this or that city, spend a year there, carry on business and make money.” Why, you do not even know what will happen tomorrow. What is your life? You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes. Instead, you ought to say, “If it is the Lord’s will, we will live and do this or that.” As it is, you boast in your arrogant schemes. All such boasting is evil. If anyone, then, knows the good they ought to do and doesn’t do it, it is sin for them.

James 4:13-17

James was a pastor, but he could be blunt and was certainly to the point. This is a good example of that. And it’s the kind of word we often need. It seems like if we hear something that comes across to us as only a nice suggestion, we easily slough it off, and forget it. But this is a word that braces us for our full attention, and doesn’t leave an out, another option.

If we can get it into our heads that we’re only a mist, our lives are here one day, and gone the next. That’s hard for us at any age, although as one gets into their senior years, there’s no escape from the realization that our bodies are slowing down, and that we’re indeed aging. Sadly anyone’s life can be snuffed out in an instant, in a car accident, or over a short time with an unexpected illness.

James’s words don’t exclude planning. It’s fine and good to plan, even important, but always with the contingency that all depends on the Lord and his will. Our lives are in God’s hands, not in our own, thankfully. So we can rest assured in that, submitting our plans to God, indeed our very lives, that he might direct us and give us wisdom in everything according to his good will. In and through Jesus.

what carries us away?

Do not be carried away by all kinds of strange teachings.

Hebrews 13:9a

“What are we carried away by?” is a good question. I don’t like to take a passage out of context (click link to see full context). What is referred to here is a fascination it seems over teachings from their old religion, which seemed to have a power in themselves. It’s important for us to consider how that thought might apply and have a hold on us today.

But what I’m thinking of here is whatever we might get taken in by, whatever might get a hold on us and essentially choke out the seed of God’s word in our lives. It can be a fascination over all kinds of things, be it sports, politics, gaming, whatever. It’s not like these things can’t have their place in terms of importance and pleasure, although some to be sure would obviously be wrong. It’s just that we have to always seek to have hearts in tune with God’s will, minds set on submitting to that will, and feet (lives) that follow.

It isn’t easy to avoid being swept off our feet by this or that, especially when we’ve more or less lived there for years. But whatever engagement we have with such needs to be tempered by God’s word in our lives, so that we remain grounded in what really matters: God’s good will for us. In and through Jesus.

the negative condition of humanity: lost

If there’s one word I would use to sum up the condition humanity is in, I might say lost. Like most things in life it’s more complicated than that. There’s something wonderfully good about humankind. Each person is indeed a gift. But not all is well. There’s something fundamentally wrong.

Lost is the condition humanity is in biblically speaking due to sin. Sin is that which is in violation of God’s will, contrary to God himself, and actually against humanity itself, since we humans are made in God’s image. Because of that, we’re lost from God’s good intention for us.

We remember the biblical account of Adam and Eve being driven from the Garden of Eden into a condition where life would be hard. The ground would be cursed because of sin, everything cursed actually, including humankind itself. Curse in Scripture is the opposite of bless. Its end result is condemnation and death, whereas blessing comes through redemption which brings life.

We are lost on our own. Being made in God’s image, we are left to thinking that there must be more, much more. But we’re at a loss to find it, indeed we can’t find it ourselves. That is why the Bible speaks of the Good Shepherd finding the lost sheep, the woman finding the lost coin, the father rejoicing over the return of his lost, wayward son. We are lost, pure and simple. No rocket science. That’s just the way it is, and the sooner we come to acknowledge that, the better off we’ll be.

God seeks us before we seek God. In fact it’s only because God seeks us in God’s grace in Christ that we would ever turn a glance his way, and hopefully surrender and come running into the arms of the Father. It’s because Jesus himself was willing to be cursed, and lost for us so to speak, feeling forsaken of God on the cross, that we can be found in him, through simple faith in him, and God’s word: that good news. In and through Jesus.

straight paths

Trust in the Lord with all your heart
and lean not on your own understanding;
in all your ways submit to him,
and he will make your paths straight.

Proverbs 3:5-6

I think the note on making our paths straight from the NET Bible is helpful:

The verb יָשָׁר (yashar) means “to make smooth; to make straight” (BDB 444 s.v.). This phrase means “to make the way free from obstacles,” that is, to make it successful (e.g., Isa 40:3). The straight, even road is the right road; God will make the way smooth for the believer.

God is for us humans. That is unequivocally demonstrated in the Word becoming flesh, God becoming one of us in the Person of the Son and in that, God becoming human. And of course the life, and the death and resurrection, and all that followed and follows that.

We too often seem to equate God’s will with misery. But actually it’s just the opposite. Yes, we won’t always be happy since there is so much brokenness and tragedy in this world. But we’ll still be blessed and have God’s peace.

And God will make the way straight and yes, successful, in his will. Not success as the world would see it, though there may be some overlap since the good of God in creation touches all. God gives us what we need to live in his will as we trust and obey.

God will certainly make the way when there’s no way, what only God can do. Not just for our blessing, but that we might be a blessing. In and through Jesus.

 

worldliness or transformation

Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.

Romans 12:2

From this passage of Scripture, it seems like we’re either conformed to this world, or transformed by the renewing of our minds. There’s nothing in between.

There’s myriads of ways to be conformed to this world, actually no end to it. Anything apart from God’s will is of this world, meaning a world system set as a substitute for God. I wish it was as simple as that. Something of God’s will can break through into the world, but by and large sin is like a gravitational pull, which eventually seems to win out. Not to say good isn’t found. But goodness only flourishes in the transformation spoken of here.

We need nothing less than the renewing of our minds. Unless we are receiving that, then in one way or another we’re being conformed “to the pattern of this world.” The world again is happy to get along as well as it can apart from God and God’s will. We shouldn’t expect much better, except where the light and truth in Jesus make a difference through God’s believing, faithful people. Who themselves are being transformed to know that “good, pleasing and perfect will.” In and through Jesus.

 

the prayer that God always affirms

This is the confidence we have in approaching God: that if we ask anything according to his will, he hears us. And if we know that he hears us—whatever we ask—we know that we have what we asked of him.

1 John 5:14-15

Very truly I tell you, whoever believes in me will do the works I have been doing, and they will do even greater things than these, because I am going to the Father. And I will do whatever you ask in my name, so that the Father may be glorified in the Son. You may ask me for anything in my name, and I will do it.

John 14:12-14

Very truly I tell you, my Father will give you whatever you ask in my name. Until now you have not asked for anything in my name. Ask and you will receive, and your joy will be complete.

John 16:23b-24

It’s amazing, the promise in God’s word that should encourage us in our prayer life in Jesus. The challenge is to seek to pray according to God’s will. We find that will in Scripture. Our expectations though have to take in the full scope of God’s revealed will to us found there, and none of us can completely understand that, even if we know Scripture well. But even if we don’t know much, we can start praying with the faith of a little child. As God’s children, God’s Spirit will help us. God’s answer will come, but in God’s own good time and way.

This is a great encouragement to me, and something I want to think of more as I pray, whatever I’m praying about. As we seek to be a blessing to others. In and through Jesus.

 

 

no strength left?

Even youths grow tired and weary,
and young men stumble and fall;
but those who hope in the LORD
will renew their strength.
They will soar on wings like eagles;
they will run and not grow weary,
they will walk and not be faint.

Isaiah 40:30-31

This passage was a game changer for me recently. I was more than tired, bone weary. But then I thought of this passage, or I would say, the Lord mercifully brought it to mind. And that made all the difference.

The idea of hoping in God is about attitude, not merely some psychological ploy. Faith in God in terms of expectation. It’s like right then and there God gave me renewed strength to carry on and do what I needed to do.

This isn’t just about physical strength, but it’s all the strength necessary for us to carry on, including spiritual strength. The strength needed to do God’s will.

Of course this isn’t just a one time thing, you do it once and you’re good to go forever. No. We have to keep looking to God time and time again for needed strength.

We must beware of thinking this will make us super human. We need our rest. But just the same, the promise is for us whenever we feel depleted and in need, which for me is every day. In and through Jesus.