Friday, September 26, 2014

Backup Plan

Driving alone is a great time for me to think. I set off yesterday to drive to my class at Belmont University. As I started out, my thoughts turned to the fact that we haven't purchased a replacement car yet. I began to wonder what we would do if something happened to the truck. What was our backup plan? My mind spun into a lot of different mini-worries, just like always happens. And then I put the thought away.

Not a full minute later, it happened. I was sitting at an intersection, waiting to turn right. BAM! The woman behind me hit me. I got out of the truck and walked to the back, really irritated but trying not to look too menacing to an older woman. I looked at the back of the truck, looked at the bumper, and saw what had happened. She had knocked some dirt off of the chrome. Not much else. (Later I did see that it looks a little wonky but not much.)

We both got back in our vehicles and I went on my way. As I drove on to class, I stewed a little about the woman’s inattention and how thankful I was that it was only a low-speed bump. My “backup plan” thoughts drifted back into my head. Wow, something could have really happened and what would we have done? But my thoughts were different than before. God has the backup plan. If something had happened to the truck, we would have dealt with it and moved on. A peaceful feeling and a convicting feeling both came over me. Do I trust Him to handle whatever comes?

I thought about Jesus’ parable of the rich fool in Luke 12:16-21. The man had a very productive farming season and thought: “I’ll build bigger barns to store all this abundance. Then I will be set for many years. I can rely on this to enjoy myself for years to come.” But God told the man that he would die that very night. The wealth he had accumulated would benefit someone else.

Jesus’ parable warns of storing up earthly treasures and ignoring the spiritual treasures that God provides. How does that relate to my own thoughts? I was thinking of how I could secure my own future rather than thinking about what God wants me to do. And trusting Him for that future.

This doesn’t mean that God doesn’t want us to have a savings account or plan for emergencies. We do need to care for ourselves and our families. But I should not get so caught up in preparing backup plans for every contingency that I forget God. I must be reckless in my obedience and trust and faith in Him.

I find it interesting that the parable of the rich fool in Luke 12 is followed by Jesus’ teaching on anxiety.
Don’t keep striving for what you should eat and what you should drink, and don’t be anxious. For the Gentile world eagerly seeks all these things, and your Father knows that you need them. But seek His kingdom, and these things will be provided for you. (Luke 12:29-31)

Will we get a replacement car? Of course. But it will be when our lives change so that it is needed. And not because I need to orchestrate backup plans to deal with the future. God has all that in His hands; I just need to rest in Him.

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Blessing or Burden?

Do you grumble? I think of myself as a person who can roll with the punches, who takes things as they come and works to deal with them.

But I'm not. At least not always.

Recently we've had a few large "walls" loom up. One in particular has been weighing on my mind. (No regular job, no health insurance.)

We've been dealing with things and praying about things. Last week, a solution appeared. A solution that is fairly seamless with our past insurance. One that is probably the best solution I could ask for. But it cost more than I really was planning on spending. Now, the cost wasn't out of line with other options that I've looked at - those were more than I really wanted, too.

So I began to grumble - at least to myself. And then I woke up to what I was doing. Here was an answer to my prayer; here was a great solution that means we don't start over at 0 this late in the year. And the part I was complaining about? God has already shown to us His ability to provide what we need.

A Christian song from a few years ago includes the line "bearing gifts as if they're burdens." So many times I'm guilty of this. God gives me a wonderful gift or blessing - and I look at it as something to bear, as a punishment or a liability.

When I think about grumbling, and seeing blessings as burdens, I think about the Israelites journeying through the wilderness. They had not been out of Egypt and across the Red Sea for long before they began to complain. "We should have died in Egypt, where we sat beside pots of meat and ate all the bread we wanted. Now we'll die here of hunger!" So God sent manna, bread from heaven that appeared each morning. (See Exodus 16.)

Later they complained about this food. "We ate fish and cucumbers, melons, leeks, and onions when we were in Egypt. Now all we have is this manna! Give us meat." Moses even began to complain about the people to God. God sent quail for the people to eat. (See Numbers 11.)

They complained about what God sent them to sustain them. They grumbled and wanted something different. They even longed to go back to where they had it so good - Egypt. ( really wasn't so good; they were slaves who were being systematically killed.)

That's what I was doing, too. Looking at the answer God provided - that would be covered by the resources He provided - and grumbled that I had to use those resources for that answer. Hmm. Not really a burden, huh? More like seeing God's hand continuing to work - giving resources and answering prayers in ways only He can. Sustaining us through a time that could be very trying and yet isn't. Being the God who leads, the God who provides, the God who sustains.

I'm thankful for a God who hears whatever grumbles (or "concerns") we have and provides a way for us. I am thankful for the answer - the blessing - He has sent to us. And we will lean on Him to continue to provide for our needs.

I pray that I see each blessing that God gives with a truly thankful heart.

Tuesday, September 9, 2014


Sometimes I wonder why things take time. Why sometimes we need to wait. God is sovereign and powerful. God is able to accomplish it all. Why do we need to wait for an answer or for something to happen?

This makes me think about the Israelites and Jericho (Joshua 6). Jericho was a heavily fortified city, with high walls and soldiers. Since the Israelites had moved into the land, the city was closed up, no one entering or leaving.

Joshua and the Israelites knew that God had promised the land to them. God had already been leading them into the land and giving them victories. Now here was Jericho. The people were probably ready to defeat it and move on.

What did God say to do? He told Joshua to march around the city once. And do this each day for six days. Joshua told the people to walk around the city without speaking. (See Joshua 6:10.) So the people marched around the city, silently. They walked around those tall and thick walls, saying and doing nothing.

On the seventh day, they marched around seven times. After the seventh time, the trumpets were blown and Joshua told the people to shout. They shouted and the walls collapsed. The people moved into the city and conquered it.

As I think about this story, I wonder about the people. I wonder what they were thinking as they marched around each day. Why did God tell them to do it this way? Why didn't God collapse the walls when they first arrived?

I think maybe the people looked at those walls, seeing the formidable city for what it was. They could see how difficult conquering this city would be. By walking around silently, they could think...think about how little they could do to defeat Jericho. They could also focus on God, who He is and what He does.

When they shouted, they saw God at work. They knew that they could do nothing to take down the walls. They realized that only God could fight for them. When the walls fell, they knew that, as Joshua said, God had given them the city.

Now maybe I'm reading a lot into this story. That's a risk when you start thinking about biblical stories beyond what's written on the pages. But this makes me think about us, too.

Our faith and trust needs to be completely on God. When I see formidable tasks (and we've run into a few lately), we must not rely on our own way and our own strength. God will accomplish His will in ways He sees fit, in His time. Also, this "marching around" time helps us defeat our pride and self-reliance. It helps us to remember to whom the glory belongs (and it's not us).

Are you walking around some formidable walls? Focus on God's strength and His leadership. The walls may fall down. They may not. But God's will must be our focus.

This past week, one of my favorite verses keeps coming to mind:
I am the LORD, the God of all flesh. Is anything too difficult for Me? (Jeremiah 32:27)

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Glory for Whom?

By its very nature, a blog is self-promotion. The author writes his thoughts. People comment about the ideas or the writing or the insight - giving attention back to the author. Pride and focus on self lurk underneath the very idea of writing a blog about anything.

This past week our pastor preached about humility. He said that humility is one of the defining marks of a true Christian. Our world, our society, our country focuses on the individual and the advancement of self. We as Christians should seek to bring out the best in others, live and act in ways that help others grow and shine. We live to reflect and magnify God. We should not bring the attention back to ourselves.

Earlier last week I saw something that made me think about these things. I saw a video of Victoria Osteen speaking to her church. You may have seen it, too. (I'm not going to link to it; search for it and you can find it.) She said, in part: "Just do good for your own self. Do good because God wants you to be happy. When you come to church, when you worship Him, you're not doing it for God, really. You're doing it for yourself because that's what makes God happy." I was astounded when I saw that clip.

We worship God because He is God. He is worthy of worship. Worshiping God, and "doing good," may benefit me; I may feel happy or fulfilled. But that should not be the reason I do it. The things we do, the worship we give, are to bring glory to God. Because He is God.

As I thought about that clip (and later heard that sermon), I kept thinking about our current life adventure. And this blog. It's easy to say, "Look at what we're doing. Aren't we 'spiritual'? What great people we are." And that's the last thing I want to do. Nothing that has happened in the past months or years can be attributed to me. It's all about God.

All glory goes to God. Any success or insight or triumph or praise goes to God. We want to glorify Him. The main thing that has been emphasized in our lives through our current experiences - God is Sovereign. God is great. God is faithful. God is worthy of praise and glory, no matter what happens. It's about Him not about us.

As I reflected this past week, John 3:30 kept coming to mind.
He must increase, but I must decrease.
If this blog ever becomes more about us and less about Him, you must tell me. God, we praise You.
Our Lord and God,
You are worthy to receive
glory and honor and power,
because You have created all things,
and because of Your will
they exist and were created. (Revelation 3:11)