Archive for January, 2014

The Old Testament clearly portrays the Messiah as both a suffering servant and a conquering King, but the concept of the Messiah coming as a suffering servant was so beyond anything the Israelites could embrace, they were looking only for the conquering King.

What happens when Jesus is not who you expect Him to be?

The Pharisees and Saducees took offense. They allowed their pride to take the lead, blinding them to the real Messiah because He didn’t come as the conquering King. Instead of pausing, listening, watching and – most importantly – praying for discernment, the assumed they were right so anything or anyone who didn’t match their expectations was wrong. And they missed the miracle of the Messiah.

I don’t want to miss the miracle because I allow my pride to overshadow God’s messenger and message.

You know, the disciples were also expecting a conquering Messiah. Yet they watched as Jesus was killed by their fellow Jews. I can only imagine how devastated they felt. Then, hearing that He was alive – how very confused they must have been! I’m sure they were devastated by the week’s events, but trying desperately to hold onto hope. Then, suddenly, Jesus came into the room where they had locked themselves away because they were so afraid of the Jews. But Thomas was not among them, and upon hearing about it, he chose not to believe the men he had walked beside for the previous three years.

25So the other disciples were saying to him, “We have seen the Lord!”

But he said to them, “Unless I see in His hands the imprint of the nails, and put my finger into the place of the nails, and put my hand into His side, I will not believe.”
John 20:25 (NASB)

Jesus did the unexpected and Thomas doubted. I don’t know, but I wonder if it was bitterness that caused Thomas to react as he did – bitterness born out of shattered hopes and dreams. The Messiah had been crucified. He had made them so many promises. Then God allowed Him to be crucified. Thomas had given up everything to follow Jesus. Now Jesus had abandoned Him. He had believed Jesus when Jesus proclaimed to be God. How could he have been such a fool?!

Shattered hopes have a way of worming their way into our thinking and turning everything upside down. Bitterness is often the byproduct of such upside down thinking.

26A week later his disciples were in the house again, and Thomas was with them. Though the doors were locked, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you!”

27Then he said to Thomas, “Put your finger here; see my hands. Reach out your hand and put it into my side. Stop doubting and believe.”

28Thomas said to him, “My Lord and my God!”
John 20:26-28 (NIV)

Jesus can cut through upside down thinking, and upon seeing Jesus, Thomas let go of his bitterness and doubt. He immediately humbled himself before the King. It no longer mattered whether Jesus came as a conquering King or a humble one – He was still worthy of being “my Lord and my God!”

How do you respond when Jesus is not as you expect Him to be? Do you “require” Him to prove himself before you believe? Thomas did and Jesus was gracious and merciful enough to do so. Jesus went on to say that those who believe without requiring such proof are supremely blessed.

Yet how do we keep from being deceived? That’s the question that pops into my mind as I write about believing even when we don’t have full understanding. I think the key is in staying close to Jesus. What should happen when Jesus is not as we expect Him to be? It should drive us to our knees in prayer and into our Bibles in study. When He’s not what we expect, perhaps we need to get to know Him better.

Finally, remember that you are seeing just a glimpse of the whole picture. The story of the conversion of the Ethiopian Eunuch teaches us this is (Acts 8:31-34).

What’s interesting is that the Ethiopian Eunuch was reading about the suffering servant and Philip came along and “began with that very passage of Scripture and told him the good news about Jesus.” (Acts 8:35, NIV)

Philip taught the Ethiopian the good news about Jesus from a passage Isaiah 53:7-8, which includes phrases like “He was led like a sheep to the slaughter” and “In his humiliation he was deprived of justice…For his life was taken from the earth.”

What happens when Jesus is not who you expect Him to be? Remember that you are seeing only a small part of His plan. Remember that He is the author of bringing good out of bad.

Jesus was not who the Jews expected. They expected the Jesus who is still to come, the One who will be a conquering King. But their pride caused them to miss the first King – the One who would forgive them and be merciful to them.

What Happens When Jesus is Not Who You Expect Him to Be? Sometimes you just have to love Him in spite of your limited understanding.

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“[Quit] worrying about the outcome, just honoring the process.”

That’s what Jeff Goins suggests we ought to be doing – not worrying about the outcome but honoring the process. He penned this statement in a blog about writing. (You can find it here.)

The statement didn’t speak to me so much about writing as about living for the Lord. And it was a confirmation of what God has been speaking to me about my own life lately.

A few weeks ago as I was thinking about changes I might like to make in my life in 2014. A single thought came to mind…a particular pattern that I’ve developed lately that is driving me crazy. Some time in 2013 – I’m not sure exactly when – I started angsting over decisions, even minor ones. I’ve fallen into the habit of pouring over the same facts again and again before making a decision.

That smacks of fear or lack of trust in God.

I don’t want those qualities to define me.

So in thinking about what changes I’d like to make, it became clear that my focus should be…not angsting over decisions – trusting God through the process and with the outcome. When faced with any decision – big or small – I want to look at the factors that play into it, pray, consider the factors one more time, then make a decision. Period. Decision made. I’ll pray again, telling God my intent and asking Him to make it clear to me if I should make a different choice or take a different approach. But unless He gives me a clear indication otherwise, I’m going to trust that God is leading the decision-making process and the results rest with Him (which they do, anyway, of course).

Enter Jeff Goin’s statement. I got my attention because it goes beyond my new anti-angsting policy. It also speaks of how we’re to live our lives.

“[Quit] worrying about the outcome, just honoring the process.”

As pursuers of God, lovers of God and committed disciples, there will be many times when making the right choice also means some kind of hardship for us. That hardship might be as minor as losing a bit sleep or as significant as losing your job or an important relationship. When faced with those decisions, I often close my eyes and repeat this mantra:

“Do the right thing and leave the results to God.”

Then I let it go. If I find myself worrying the issue, I go back to my mantra.

The right thing is the choice that is consistent with God’s Word and His ways. Find that and do it. Then leave the results to God.

You see, God cannot bless us when we make choices that go against His Word. The only “blessing” we can receive from such a decision is any earthly benefit that might come from it…and earthly benefits have a way of disappearing when not under the blessing of God. When we do the right thing, however He will bless those right choices.

“Do the right thing and leave the results to God.”

“[Quit] worrying about the outcome, just honoring the process.”

Do what is right as a sacrifice to the LORD and trust the LORD.
Psalm 4:5 (NCV)

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Woman Reflecting by the WaterThis afternoon I was reading about the many tensions that exist in planning a typical worship service — competing values and goals that those of us sitting in the pews are happily ignorant about. Tensions like planning for both a personal and a corporate worship experience, honoring the heritage of the past while still meeting the needs of the present, and balancing the teaching of objective truth with every believer’s need for a subjective experience of God are just a few of the challenges that make planning any service much more difficult than most of us realize.

As I pondered these issues, I began to think about the Christian life in general. As we begin to walk with the Lord, we become aware of how short we fall of the glory of God. Walking a little further, we begin to get a glimpse of who He wants us to be and how He might want to use us. Even further down the path, that glimpse comes into sharper focus until at some point we have a picture with some definition to it. We can see that He wants to shape us and mold us into an image of His Son that is still uniquely us.

But we’re not there yet. So we begin to live our life in the dynamic tension of being one person while we’re becoming another person; of seeing both the present and the future and remaining both “content” and “discontent” with the present while we look and work toward the future. That tension can cause guilt and frustration or excitement and joy.

Sometimes I get so excited about the person God is slowly changing me into. That person is so very much better than the person I am today. And yet, I can also see that the person I am today is at least a little better than the one I was ten years ago. And she’s definitely much better than the person I was twenty years ago! The difference between living my life in guilt and frustration or excitement and joy is a result of which of these three “people” I’m focusing on.

Focusing on the person I am today generally leads to a discontented Sandy. I periodically say to Phil “If I were really a good daughter, I’d _________________” (I can fill in the blank with any of a number of things that I’m apt to feel guilty about not doing for my parents). That’s focusing on the incomplete person I am today. And that person isn’t doing all those hundreds of things I sometimes think I “should” be doing. That person is tired, frustrated and guilty. She is just one step away from being ashamed and defeated. That person doesn’t see God at work in her life; she just sees her life as it is here and now – falling far short of the glory of God.

Focusing on the person I was twenty years ago can lead to either totally inappropriate shame or the very dangerous emotion of pride. I’m not the person I was ten or twenty years ago, so it isn’t appropriate for me to be burdened with guilt for my shortcomings in the past. God has already changed me. My sins of the past are forgiven. If I compare my “twenty-years-ago self” to my current self, however, I might easily exaggerate my improvements in my mind and say “Wow, look how much better I am today.” I pray that when that happens, the Holy Spirit reminds me loudly and clearly that “Pride goes before destruction, a haughty spirit before a fall.” (Prov. 16:18)

The best place to be is focusing on the person God is changing me into. When my focus is on that person, I have hope. I have excitement in my life, because I can begin to see how He is using even my failures to move me closer to becoming that person. When my focus is on that person, life is more fun because I can enjoy the process of growing. I can view my maturation process as an adventure with God instead of Him pounding me into shape. It is this view that actually transfers my focus from myself to God and His work in me.

I’m not denying that life is difficult at times; in fact, I’m going through one of those “difficult seasons” now. Aging parents and increasing responsibilities can be a heavy load at times. But I can see, and others have told me that they can see, how God is using this to soften some of my sharp edges. And that is good, because the person God is molding me to be (and has shown me glimpses of) needs softer edges. So we’re working on softer edges right now. Next week (month, year?) we might be working on something else. I don’t know. I’m just along for the adventure! And the joy. And the relationship with Him.

Perhaps this is some of what Paul was feeling when he wrote to the Philippians:

Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already been made perfect, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me. Brothers, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.
Philippians 3:12-14 (NIV)

Of course the ultimate prize is Christ Himself. Along the way, though, there are many preliminary rounds with prizes to the winners. Prizes like softer edges and the wonderful adventure of becoming the person God already sees. What a God we serve! Let’s serve Him well in 2014.

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Treasure Seeking in God's Word

1 Blessed is the man
who does not walk in the counsel of the wicked
or stand in the way of sinners
or sit in the seat of mockers.
2 But his delight is in the law of the LORD,
and on his law he meditates day and night.
3 He is like a tree planted by streams of water,
which yields its fruit in season
and whose leaf does not wither.
Whatever he does prospers.
Psalm 1:1-3 (NIV)

The man or woman who delights in the Word of the Lord is blessed – because God has hidden precious treasures in His Word. They’re just waiting for you and me to find. Even if we’ve read it many, many times before, there are new treasures to find. That’s why we provide a new reading schedule to encourage you to read through the Bible and to help you stay on track.

You can download each of them below.

Treasure Seeking in God’s Word – Bookmarks Treasure Seeking in God’s Word – Large Print Bookmarks Treasure Seeking in God’s Word – Excel Spreadsheet

“How can anyone read through the Bible in a year? I could never do that!”
This is an objection I hear often. In fact, I’m sure there was a time when I also believed I could never read through the Bible in a year. It’s such a huge book! And some of it is quite confusing!

But it’s really not that hard. It is easily do-able. Reading through the Bible requires reading just four to five chapters five days a week. If we scheduled readings for every day, it would only be 3.25 chapters a day! Everyone can find time to read 3.25 chapters a day. Reading four to five chapters is about a twenty minute commitment for most people. Add ten minutes of prayer and reflection and you’ve spent a wonderful half hour with the Lord, Creator of the Universe, King of Kings, Abba Father.

So, hey — you can do it! At the very least you deserve to try! So what happens when you get off track after a few months (or weeks or days)? No problems. Don’t beat yourself up. Just continue reading. You may not finish the whole Bible in a year, but you’ll read a whole more than if you never started.

God’s Word is full of treasures just waiting to be found. Each day before you read, ask Him to reveal them to you. Then just go for it!

This year’s schedule has three columns:

  • The Pentateuch (first five books of the Bible) and history books.
  • The New Testament. – Follow the readings in this column and you will read through the New Testament in 2014.
  • The poetry and books and books by the prophets

If you read through the selections in all columns, you will read through the entire Bible in 2014.

We’ve scheduled readings only Monday through Friday. It’s not that we don’t intend you to read on the weekend — please do! It’s just that we live in the real world and recognize that it’s always nice to have “catch-up days” to make up for those times when life is hectic — which seems to occur nearly every week!

You’ll find that many of my blogs relate to the daily readings – because that’s when God “speaks” to me, giving me messages to share. Follow the reading schedule, then join our conversation!

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/ApprehendingGrace/

E-mail:  Sandy@ApprehendingGrace.com

How to Get the Schedule
We’re providing three different versions of the Schedule:

  • Bookmarks with normal size print (in PDF format)
  • Bookmarks with large print (in PDF format)
  • A Microsoft® Excel® file

You can download each of them below.

Treasure Seeking in God’s Word – Bookmarks Treasure Seeking in God’s Word – Large Print Bookmarks Treasure Seeking in God’s Word – Excel Spreadsheet

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God’s Word holds the treasures of life. That’s why we’ve named our program for reading through the Bible in 2014 Treasure Seeking in God’s Word.

The only problem is I’ve fallen a bit behind…I expected to post the full schedule yesterday but about noon I got what I am hoping is a 24 hour bug. I feel much better today, but not quite good enough to get the schedule up. So I wanted to give those of you who will join us a glimpse at the first few days.

I’m breaking the readings into three columns: The Old Testament (minus what’s in the third column), the New Testament and the Poetry books and minor prophets. If you read all the readings for each day you’ll read through the entire Bible in 2014.

Here’s the scheduled readings for the rest of this week, January 1-3, 2014:

  • Genesis 1-8 (chapters 1-3 on Wednesday, 4-5 on Thursday and 6-8 on Friday)
  • John 1-3
  • Psalm 1-4

That might look like a lot of reading, but it’s only 15 chapters in 3 days…with two days to catch up if you fall behind. You’ll read the creation story and about the fall of Adam and Even (and all of mankind) as well as Cain and Able and Noah. As you read the creation story, you’ll read John’s description of it.

I hope you’ll decide to join us as we read through the Bible this year. Stay tuned for bookmarks that provide the schedule for the whole month and the rest of 2014.

Blessings, friends. May God reveal Himself to each of us as we seek the greatest treasure – knowing Him – in 2014.

 

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