Expect the Unexpected

Ecclesiastes 7:13-14  Consider the work of God: for who can make that straight, which he hath made crooked?  14  In the day of prosperity be joyful, but in the day of adversity consider: God also hath set the one over against the other, to the end that man should find nothing after him.

I read this scripture at several times and it was one of those that did not make sense to me. I even read it using multiple versions. Here is a basic explanation of this verse: If God has made something crooked we are not going to be able make it straight. We have been instructed to be joyful when prosperity lands in our life and we have been instructed to learn during moments of adversity. Prosperity and adversity operate within the same realm. God has set them beside each other in order for us to realize that both have a purpose and that we will learn to realize life is filled with uncertainty.

We want like it when things operate in a certain pattern. We like routine and we like things to go as expected. We need to expect the unexpected. God uses the uncertainty throughout life to build our faith. The crazy things we endure and the unusual blessings we receive keep us on our toes. One day you are expecting a blessing and you receive adversity. The next day you are expecting adversity and you receive a blessing. There are so many times we can look back on certain life events and actually say “that did not go like I had envisioned it to go. God does these things so that we can set our minds on His will and His work in our lives. The unexpected brings us to a place where we have to totally trust God. We have to use faith in order to maneuver through adversity and we have to use faith in order to rejoice over prosperity.

God operates the scales. From our end things may not seem very balanced. I, for one have wondered if God why God decided to send adversity in my life and prosperity in another person’s life. I have also wondered why God has chosen to bless me while allowing others to be born with such adversity. Our perspective does not see God operating fairly. Honestly, I have wondered if God even knows what balance truly means. Sometimes I think God’s prosperity channel is stuck on someone else and someone’s adversity channel is stuck on me. Through this I have to learn to have faith that God knows the balance. Would it not be great if it were all prosperity? If that was the case we would not know how to be joyful during moments of prosperity because we would not even know adversity. It is through adversity that we learn to appreciate prosperity. It is through prosperity we learn to appreciate adversity. There is no great blessing than to know you have endured adversity in order to experience a blessing at the finish line.

Lesson: Seasons are simply seasons. They are both uncertain and unpredictable. Every seasons is tempered with prosperity and adversity. The balance is in God’s hands. We must expect the unexpected and just trust God.

Great Things = God Things

1 Samuel 12:24  Only fear the LORD, and serve him in truth with all your heart: for consider how great things he hath done for you.

When was the last time you looked back in your life to consider all the things God has done for you? Honestly, it has been a while for me. It truly makes sense to take time to consider the great things God has done for us while trying to run our race for the Lord. Considering these things will help motivate us to keep running when it becomes so painful that we want to stop running and walk away. Today I want to take a moment and consider some of the great things God has done.

  1. Salvation: I know it sounds real cliché but that’s where it all starts. The sad thing is that I fail to spend time considering just how great of an act that was in my life. God literally takes a lost sinner and converts him/her into a saint, all while placing them into His family. It is truly the greatest miracle we will ever witness or experience. I think we take for granted the experience of salvation and forget what a miracle it actually is within our lives. The reason we grow cold and complacent may be because we have failed to consider the great work of salvation within our lives.
  2. Provision: I do not live an extravagant life by any means. My family and I spend a lot of time pinching pennies. I have to take a moment and consider the provision the Lord has given within my life. Every move toward the Lord I have made over the past 20 years has come at a financial sacrifice. There have been two moves that cut our salaries back over $20,000 a year. It is hard to create budgets for something like that. To date, I have not missed one meal that was not intended to be missed, and we have never been late on a bill. God’s provisions have been nothing short of miraculous. He has provided for me in so many ways. God’s provisions, while drawing closer to Him, has been truly something to consider.
  3. Protection: My favorite part of the song “Amazing Grace” is “Through many dangers, toils, and snares I have already come. T’was grace that brought us safe thus far and grace will lead us home.” I just wander if when we get to heaven, God is going to show us all the places where it could have been bad, but it wasn’t because He protected us with His unseen hand. I think about all the times I could have died and probably should have died (some of them before becoming a Christian), and it sends such a sense of thankfulness into my life. Keeping me safe to this point is truly a great thing I must consider.

We all need to remember these blessings God bestows upon us are accomplished through His amazing grace. It truly is amazing. It causes me to reverence God, repent, and keep running. Today, consider some great things God has done in your life.

God Considered Me

Psalms 8:3-4  When I consider thy heavens, the work of thy fingers, the moon and the stars, which thou hast ordained;  4  What is man, that thou art mindful of him? and the son of man, that thou visitest him?

Considering God and his creation brings us to a place of complete amazement considering the fact that the heavens, the earth, the moon, and the stars were created with His spoken voice. The vastness of earth speaks of His power, ability, and glory. The heavens truly declare the glory of God.

Take just a moment and look outside at the creation of God. Just look around. The trees, the grass, and the sky all have a beauty that speaks of the Creator. They declare and demonstrate the power, the abilities, and the magnificence of God. God’s creation has a beauty that is hard to put into words. Consider the size of our sun. One million earths can fit within the surface area of the sun. Then consider the galaxy itself. Not one piece is out of place. The earth sits in a perfect tilt and operates at the precise speed around the Sun. Everything is held in place by the design and power of God.

When those things are put into perspective, then we just stand back and agree with the Psalmist by saying, “who am I”? According to Psalm 139 the Lord has thought about me so much that his thoughts are more in number than the grains of sand upon the earth. The God who I just considered, considers me? How humbling is that? The God who created the sun and the moon and who spoke the heavens into existence would send His only Son on my behalf? That is love that Webster himself could not describe.

Today, I must consider God and his creation. While considering God, I must consider the fact that God considered me. WOW!

Considering God? Consider His Word!

Psalms 119:105  Thy word is a lamp unto my feet, and a light unto my path.

The Bible should be very precious to us. The Bible is God’s heart and mind on paper. I truly believe it is the ultimate way God speaks to his children. The Bible guides us to His will, it protects us from harm, and it corrects us when we do wrong. It is our sword through spiritual warfare. Going through life without God’s Word is like going on a journey without a map.

This week the focus has been on “considering” Jesus. It is the idea of involving Jesus in our decisions, our desires, and our daily activities. The concept of considering Jesus means we look toward his character and attitude during difficulty. If we were honest we would all agree that life gets really challenging. The race mentioned in Hebrews 12:1-2 can become grueling. The instructions we are given through this race is that we keep our eyes, minds, and hearts set on Jesus. When we consider Jesus it reminds us that Jesus was able to do what He did for us (with Joy), so therefore, we should continue running our race.

It is going to be really hard to run our race while considering Jesus without God’s Word being a major factor throughout this race. If we are to maintain the mind of Christ and create an environment that brings a desire for God’s presence in our lives then the Bible must play a major role in this process. In other words, it is impossible to consider Jesus without allowing God’s Word to be our source of knowledge. There is no way we can know the mind of Christ outside the Word of God. We must go to God’s Word, get God’s mind, and run our race. The key to continuing is knowing God intimately. We cannot know God apart from His Word.

We are running this race in a world of darkness. Yes, it is like a night run. Without light we will stumble and fall. Without light we will lose our direction. God’s Word is that light. Today, we need to turn on the light by opening His Word and doing what it commands us to do. Today, we need to be doers and not just hearers.

Pray Without Ceasing

1 Thessalonians 5:17  Pray without ceasing.

If we are not careful we will make this verse more complex than what God is telling us to do. The believer that truly understands prayer will understand the application of this piece of scripture. Praying without ceasing seems to be impossible, but when we understand the nature of prayer it becomes a moment by moment pursuit in our lives.

Prayer is the foundation of our relationship with Lord. Praying without ceasing is a state of constantly being aware of God’s presence in our lives. Prayer is not just a conversation, it is much deeper than this. We isolate prayer to just speaking and having a conversation (much of the time we are the only ones allowed to talk). A relationship is much more than just communication, but it is the desire to be near one another. Let me illustrate this: Right now as I write, my wife and kids are visiting family in another town. It is extremely quiet, there is no conversation but my mind, my thoughts, and every step throughout my house has caused me to desire their presence. I want to talk to them, hug them, and hold them, but at the same time I really just want to feel their presence. My entire house causes me to desire their presence. At this point I have been awake over 2 hours and my thoughts, desires, and wants have went toward my wife and kids so many times I cannot even count. Now, have we created this kind of spiritual environment within our lives. It is not just about being able to talk to Him, but it is having an environment that causes me to desire his presence to the point that I cannot stop thinking about Him.

Praying without ceasing is not just about desire, but it is about love. We pursue what we love. The stronger our love for God grows the easier this scripture can become a reality. What if our love for God is measured by the amount of times we “consider” Him throughout our day? A love for someone consumes our thoughts. When they are not around it goes noticed, and we start seeking out ways to know they are still there.

It is my prayer that I can make this a reality. We need to have that closet time. We need corporate prayer. We need moments while driving to talk to the Lord. What we need the most is a love and desire that causes Him to constantly be within our thoughts and decisions. We need a love and desire for God so deep that we recognize it when He is not near and do whatever possible to make sure we feel His presence again.

Today, pray without ceasing.

Consider Jesus

Philippians 2:5  Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus:

Hebrews 12:3 tells us to “consider” Jesus while running the race that is set before us.   The word “consider” means to contemplate and think over.  The verse goes on to tell us that our minds can grow weary and tired when we fail to consider Jesus.   Christianity can be difficult and painful.  When we fail to keep Jesus at the forefront of our minds we will grow weary and tired which will lead to a desire to quit.  Basically, we are to live our lives making sure Jesus is involved in every aspect of our lives.

Considering Jesus requires having the mind of Jesus.  It is not enough to just have our minds on Jesus, but we need to have the same mindset as Jesus.  The mind of Christ is one of selflessness, sacrifice, and surrender.  Christ gave up everything to endure the cross.  He left His glorious throne, robed himself in flesh, and sacrificed His life on the cross so that all of us could have a relationship with Him.   How do I have the mind of Christ?  Having the mind of Christ requires us to have our minds on Christ.  In order to consider Jesus we must take all that Christ is and apply it to our current circumstance.  This means we need to consider his attributes, character, and actions, and then hold those up in the backdrop of our lives.

Considering Jesus keeps us from giving up, quitting, and submitting to carnality.  Considering Jesus is our avenue to victory over sin.   Considering Jesus will energize and motivate us to keep moving forward.   Considering Jesus will keep us in the will of our Father.

Today, let us take our walk with God to a new level.  Our challenge is not to just think about Jesus but also to think like Jesus.

Remember or Forget?

Isaiah 43:18  Remember ye not the former things, neither consider the things of old.

1 Chronicles 16:12  Remember his marvellous works that he hath done, his wonders, and the judgments of his mouth;

Reading these two verses seem a little confusing.  Does God want me to remember, or does God want me to forget what he did in the past?  One verse tells me to forget former things, and the other verse tells me to remember His marvelous works.  Is this a contradiction?  Which one does God want me to do?

I have spent the week thinking about these two verses a lot; thinking about the balance and the battle between forgetting and remembering.  First of all, I approach the scripture  knowing God does not contradict himself.  So here is the answer I believe the Lord has given me:  He wants me to do both.  Yes, I know it seems even more confusing now than before but let me explain.

The key to studying scripture is understanding the context.  I also believe the key to applying scripture is understanding the context of our current circumstances.  In one case we see a people that are so caught up on what God has done in the past that they put God into this box where he must operate like before in order for them to recognize a work of God.  It is a matter of putting barriers on the work of God based on the works he has performed in the past.  In this case, God tells us to forget about the former methods of the past and allow Him the freedom to operate in new ways today.   The second case  is one that people are struggling with through life and seemed to have forgotten what God is truly capable of doing.  God tells His people not to forget what he is capable of doing.  When we look back at miracles God performed it reminds us of what he is capable of doing in our lives today.  A person that is struggling with a current situation would be well advised to look back at the road markers of God’s miracles in their life.  It reminds them that if God did it then, He can do it right now.  At the same time the same person must realize that God will not do a new thing in a new manner.   It is good to look and be able to remember “God can”.  It is bad to look back and define a miracle by God’s past processes.

We are going to face troubled times.  We are going to walk through fiery trials.  We are going to experience life in ways that are overwhelming. We have to remember two things:  God is with us, and He is God, and there is no one like Him.  Remembering those two principles will allow God the opportunity to do something new and fresh in our lives.

Therefore, these verses do not contradict themselves.  Depending on how we are struggling will dictate which verse we need to apply.  If we are struggling trying to see God operating in this new season then we most likely need to develop some amnesia of the past in order to see the new thing God is doing right now.  If we are struggling with the impossibility of our current situation to the point where our faith is being stretched then we need to look back and remember what God is capable of doing.  God has, God can, and God will!

A New Thing

Isaiah 42:9  Behold, the former things are come to pass, and new things do I declare: before they spring forth I tell you of them.

Defining a “new thing” is not easy to do.   When God speaks about “new things” within our lives he is describing something that has not already occurred.  A new thing is a new work or fresh word being applied to our lives.  One of the ways that God helps us identify a new work is by preparing us through His Word.   A fresh word is not some new revelation that exists outside the realm of scripture.  A fresh word is a deeper application to a truth we may or may not have seen.  There are many times the new work God is doing in our lives gives us a new perspective on scripture.  It is essential to realize that God’s new work being done in our lives is God taking us to new levels of our relationship with Him.

Preparing for a new thing can be extremely difficult.  The first thing we must do is be prepared to be real uncomfortable.  The new works are always going to take us out of our comfort zone.  Sometimes, God doing something new and fresh in our lives will even look like punishment.  This is why God’s word is so vital in the process.  Without the truths of God’s word we will misunderstand the work that God is wanting to perform in our lives.  The second thing we must do is surrender.  We have to surrender understanding, logic, and will.  We literally have to allow the spirit of God to take us to place where our trust is without borders.  The third thing we must do is obey.  The obedience to God’s word is the essential ingredient to a new thing being done in our lives.  God is not going to force this onto us.  We have to walk in the work that He is doing.  We cannot ask God to fit into our will; we have to obey God’s will.  If we are prepared for God to do a new thing in our lives then it will make it easier to identify it.

Learning how to identify a new thing being done in our lives can be the difference between whether a person continues or quits.  If we are not careful we will get so frustrated with the season God places us in that we fail to realize the new work God is wanting to perform.  It may take some time to identify what God is doing within our lives because new things move us to new levels that are beyond our understanding.  How do we identify new things?  First, realize a new thing will never contradict God’s word.  Second, realize a new thing will never contradict God’s character.  Third, acknowledge that every situation is a learning opportunity.  Finally, maintain an open mind and open heart to what is currently happening around you and within you.

It is my prayer that we will be prepared for new seasons, new works, and a fresh word from the Lord.

Forgetting the Past

Isaiah 43:18-19  Remember ye not the former things, neither consider the things of old.  19  Behold, I will do a new thing; now it shall spring forth; shall ye not know it? I will even make a way in the wilderness, and rivers in the desert.

Preparing for God to do a new thing in our lives requires forgetting what God has done in the past.  Forgetting past mistakes is something that I will gladly implement.  Forgetting past miracles is something that I really do no want to do. Does God really want me to forget about past miracles?  Do past miracles serve as road markers in our lives?  How do I utilize the works of God throughout my past and prepare myself for God to do a new thing in my life?

Honestly, we have a hard time forgetting the mistakes and the miracles in our lives.  It is not that God wants us to completely develop amnesia.  I think God is telling us that if we hold on to past miracles within our lives then we have a tendency to confine ourselves to the method by which God operated in the past rather than allowing God the freedom to do something new. Just because God did something one way in the past does not mean he will do it the same way in the future.  If we are not careful we will get discouraged by the work of God in our lives because we expected yesterday’s miracle to happen in the same manner.

It is okay to rejoice over past miracles, but it is vital that we do not allow the works of God in our past to create barriers that hinder God’s desire to do new things in our future.  The greatest thing we need to remember is the fact that God is with us.  It is my prayer that we allow God the freedom to operate in our lives without being confined by the works He has performed in the past.