This isn’t working out

Confession: I’m a man who likes a plan. I read instruction manuals. I’m type A. I tend to be a perfectionist. Get the picture? Here’s another confession: things don’t always work out as planned. I’m learning to live with that… learning to make adjustments, to be patient, to accept less than perfection. I’m learning that things don’t always go the way I expected them to. And that’s okay. Because God has a lens that is way more wide-angle than mine.

God had a plan for Moses and the Israelites, too. He told Moses the plan. But when Moses went to Pharaoh, it didn’t go exactly like he thought it would. He was supposed to be really convincing and Pharaoh was going to listen to him. That’s not what happened; in fact, the opposite happened. Pharaoh decided to make life more miserable for the Israelites.

Exodus 5:22-23 Moses returned to the LORD and said, “Why, Lord, why have you brought trouble on this people? Is this why you sent me? Ever since I went to Pharaoh to speak in your name, he has brought trouble on this people, and you have not rescued your people at all.”

not as plannedYou call THIS a rescue, God?! I mean, you said if I went to Pharaoh it would work out. You said you were going to free the people. Some rescuer you are! Do you blame Moses? I don’t. This whole situation must have been confusing. Things weren’t making sense. The people he was trying to help were now mad at him. This isn’t working out.

Here’s the thing: even though it didn’t seem to be working out, God was still at work. He was about to put on a pretty epic show in the land of Egypt that would be undeniable. It would be clear that God was the one doing the rescuing, not Moses. It was going to be awesome, but it was going to be in His timing.

We tend to miss seeing what God is doing, too – especially when we have stuck in our head a particular way in which we think God should be working. We think He missed it, that He’s too late. He must not understand what’s at stake. How could He not know what’s going on? Maybe we are the one who don’t know what’s going on. Maybe we are looking at life through our microscopic lens rather than God’s wide-angle one. Because I guarantee you that He has a better perspective than we do.

So the next time you feel like this just isn’t working out, consider that in the big scheme of things, it just might be turn out okay in the end.

 

 

We can’t have church today…too cloudy

1 Kings 8:10-11  10 When the priests withdrew from the Holy Place, the cloud filled the temple of the LORD. 11 And the priests could not perform their service because of the cloud, for the glory of the LORD filled his temple.

I love this! Solomon finished building the temple and brings the ark (presence) of the Lord into it.  The presence of the Lord descends onto the temple physically in a cloud.  It was so thick, they couldn’t have church!  Imagine their surprise as they tried to perform the ceremonial duties as required by the Lord.  They wanted to make the sacrifices, say the prayers, and read the scriptures.  But the presence of the Lord was too thick!

Today, most churches have a plan as to what their Sunday service is going to be like.  There is a planned out worship set and a planned out sermon.  Don’t get me wrong, I am not saying that those things are not inspired and anointed by God.  Worship and the Word are good things!  But what would happen if the presence of God came so strong that it began to mess up the plans?  What if His presence was so great, we couldn’t have church?

Would we forge ahead with our structure and plans, or would we allow the presence of God to put us in awe of Him?  Sometimes, I think churches administrate God right out of their services.  Yet He is what they are supposed to be about.  David wrote that better was one day in His courts than a thousand elsewhere.  And I say that better is one day at church basking in the presence of God than a thousand days at church where He doesn’t show up!  

If the church (and the church service) is going to be effective, He needs to show up!  This should be our main concern: that the glory of the Lord fills the temple.  I love it when God ruins the plan on Sunday mornings.  It’s His church, His people, and His plans… not mine.   As a pastor, I must keep this perspective.  As His people, we must pursue the same in our own lives.  Invite His presence to live each day in you.  Plan for a cloudy forecast and cancel your religion.  It will change everything!

Time for a haircut

2 Samuel 18:9 Now Absalom happened to meet David’s men. He was riding his mule, and as the mule went under the thick branches of a large oak, Absalom’s head got caught in the tree. He was left hanging in midair, while the mule he was riding kept on going.

“Young man, you need a haircut!”  Ever hear you mom say that to you?  I wonder if Absalom’s mom ever told him the same thing, because short hair really would have been advantageous to him in this moment.  Here he is, in the midst of battle, and his hair gets caught in some tree branches.  That’s unfortunate.

The whole scenario is a little Jerry Springer if you ask me.  Absalom was the king’s son who took over the throne from his dad.  Then he slept with all his dad’s concubines.  That’s just getting a little weird.  And now, here he is –riding a… wait for it… mule.  What in the world is the new king of Israel doing riding a mule?  Is that the best he could come up with?

So there he is, left hanging by his hair while his mule keeps going.  He’s just hanging there by his hair.  I can hardly imagine how painful that must have been, yet alone picture his struggle to get loose.  I wonder if he was trying to cut his hair with his sword when Joab approached.  I wonder what was going through his mind when Joab stabbed him to death.

He was just hanging out there, completely vulnerable.  That’s what happens when we choose to follow our own selfish plans, rather than the Lord’s.  You see, Absalom wasn’t anointed by God to be king.  David was.  Absalom set his own course and determined his own future.  In the end, it left him hanging out there and resulted in his death.  Whose plans will you follow today?  Choose the Lord’s and walk in His protection!

Looking for donkeys

I Samuel 9:5-8  5 When they reached the district of Zuph, Saul said to the servant who was with him, “Come, let’s go back, or my father will stop thinking about the donkeys and start worrying about us.” 6 But the servant replied, “Look, in this town there is a man of God; he is highly respected, and everything he says comes true. Let’s go there now. Perhaps he will tell us what way to take.” 7 Saul said to his servant, “If we go, what can we give the man? The food in our sacks is gone. We have no gift to take to the man of God. What do we have?”  8 The servant answered him again. “Look,” he said, “I have a quarter of a shekel of silver. I will give it to the man of God so that he will tell us what way to take.” 

Here in 1 Samuel chapter 9, we find Saul and his servant out on an expedition to find daddy’s donkeys.  Or so he thought.  In verse 5, we pick up at the part in which Saul is ready to give up.  He thinks dad might get worried so he should turn back.  But his servant suggests they go find Samuel and ask him for some advice.  Do you get that?  The servant is the one who recommends going to see Samuel.  And it is the servant who comes up with the quarter of a shekel of silver which makes this plan acceptable to Saul.

So as it seems, this visit to Samuel is a side trip to the journey.  In practical terms, Samuel is going to be the gas station where they stop and ask for directions.  It turns out, however, that Samuel was really God’s intended destination all along.  He used lost donkeys to get Saul there; He used a servant to get him there.  So when Saul meets Samuel, he is in for quite the surprise.  He was out looking for donkeys and found the throne. 

It strikes me as I read this that we so often don’t go look for the donkeys because we have put God’s vision for our lives in a box.   We say things like, “I’ve got a plan of royalty prepared for me.  My God has great plans for me!  I don’t have time to go out looking for donkeys.”  All the while, looking for donkeys may be the path God has for our future.  This is the way of God, isn’t it?  He wants us to go out on the journey set before us and leave the destination up to Him.  You may be on a road you didn’t plan on.  You may be following God on a donkey finding expedition.  But will you trust that His perfect plan for you has not been lost?  Saul’s journey didn’t end the way he expected it to when he first set out, but it resulted in him finding the calling on his life.