The God of the Bible

We’re New Testament Christians – why should we read the Old Testament? What good does it do me to study old laws and rituals? Why should I learn about people so far removed from my own life? Because we don’t study the Bible to learn about laws and rituals and long-dead people – we study the Bible to learn about and draw hope from God. I am in a group that is writing through the Bible, we’ve been mired in Job for months. Lots of misery and grumbling and arguing. But by slowing down the pace and paying attention to the text, we’ve come to understand Job – and God – from a whole new perspective.

Paul said, “Everything that was written in the past was written to teach us, so that through the endurance taught in the Scriptures and the encouragement they provide we might have hope” (Romans 15:4). He’s talking about the Old Testament. When I am discouraged, I go to the stories of God’s deliverance in Exodus. When my life has fallen apart I turn to Nehemiah where God enabled His people to rebuild the broken-down walls. When I face a frightening situation Esther is my go-to book as I remember how God rescued His people. And when the world looms dark and evil, I turn to Daniel and witness God’s sovereign control over human events.

The Old Testament is filled with evidence of God’s power, purpose, love, and faithfulness. The same power, purpose, love, and faithfulness is found in the New Testament and in my life two-thousand plus years later. In the Old Testament, I find the God who delivered Israel, rebuilt Jerusalem, and rescued the Jews. In the New Testament, I see the same God who delivered mankind, broke the bonds of sin and death, and changed the world. He is the same God I call to in this present season of struggle. I know He is able to do for me today all that He did then. I put my name in those verses of rescue and promise and the God of the Hebrew people, of Nehemiah, Esther, and Daniel becomes the God of Dorcas Elizabeth. He hasn’t forgotten how to rescue and restore. His power hasn’t diminished one bit. This God is your God too if you have trusted in Jesus. Beloved, get to know the God of the whole Bible. Get to know the God of your life.

The Providence of God

I caught myself the other day thinking, “If I could change one thing about my past…” The problem is I found a lot of things. Choices. People. Places. Priorities. Desires.  I’ll bet you can finish that sentence with a few thoughts of your own. Who hasn’t lamented something in their past? For some, the choices were huge and life-altering. For others, they were moments, that while not quite as monumental, we wish we could do over. I have spent so much time living with regrets, living in the “if only’s,” and wishing I had made wiser decisions, or that circumstances had turned out differently. I have discovered that when I live in constant regret I set myself up for a very sad life.

But I am learning to trust in the sovereign providence of God. Those are words we don’t use much in our contemporary religion, but they are powerful. In the original Hebrew, the word combination has a rich and significant meaning. The word “sovereign” speaks to God’s rightful authority as Creator over nature, nations, mankind, and individual lives. Likewise, the word “providence” is speaking to God’s charge over everything He has made – including you and me.  The root word means “to pay attention, to care for, to be in charge of.” This is His tender, loving oversight as our Good Shepherd and Heavenly Father. God has pledged to pay attention to you, to care for you, and to be in charge of your life – not as a dictator – but as One who seeks always and only what is best for you. Job 10:12 expresses this duality beautifully. “You gave me life and showed me kindness, and in Your providence watched over my spirit.” The combination of terms tells us that God is always looking out on your behalf, knows what you need and He has the authority to move heaven and earth to accomplish all things for you – because He loves you.

If you have grieved over your past, know that Your sovereign, providential Father has been watching over and caring for you all along. In His hands, the very thing that caused you the most pain can be the seed for a whole new life. Beloved, God loves you too much to waste the struggles of your life. He has a plan. He has a purpose. And He has you in the palm of His great hand.

In His Hands

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“And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to His purpose” (Romans 8:28).

Yes, I know, you’ve heard this verse a thousand times. It’s an old favorite of the church and might even be a bit overused. But that’s because it is true and hopeful and if ever we needed hope, I think it’s now. It seems like the whole world has gone crazy, doesn’t it? Or perhaps the world is too big to contemplate, but your life has been crazy lately.  You find yourself asking “Why?” and wondering if God has forgotten about you. Let me take you on a ride through history to show that the Lord is still very much in control.

In 332 BC, the nation of Israel, along with much of the known world was conquered by Alexander the Great, a Greek warrior and king. Alexander’s conquests were not meant for destruction, but rather for assimilation into the Greek empire. All nations were educated in the Greek language for unification. Alexander ordered the ancient Hebrew Scriptures to be translated into Greek, a work that was accomplished in 70 days.

In 63 BC, the Roman Empire conquered Israel. Though known for their cruelty and harsh rule, they were also known for establishing strong infrastructure wherever they went to enable swift transport for their military. Roads were laid by the Romans throughout the European and Asian continents.

After the death and resurrection of Jesus persecution drove His followers from Jerusalem into Judea and Samaria and throughout the region. As they went, they walked along Roman-built roads and shared the Gospel of Jesus Christ in the unified Greek language. The story of God was read and taught everywhere they went because the language was the same wherever they went.

While all these events seemed to be unconnected, harsh circumstances, it’s clear that the God of heaven and earth was “working all things together” for the spread of the Gospel. Now, don’t you think this same sovereign God is able to manage the circumstances of your life? Not only has He not forgotten about you, but He is “perfecting that which concerns you” (Psalm 138:8). He’s got the whole world in His hands – and that includes you Beloved.

When You Wonder “What Happened?”

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Ruth’s story in the Bible is a romance for the ages. Widowed and devoted to her grieving mother-in-law, Ruth, a Moabitess accompanied Naomi back to Judah. She left home to go to an unknown place and an unknown people (who traditionally hated the Moabites) and faced an unknown future. She encountered many challenges in Judah, and it is in Judah that she found love. Oh, yeah, she met this Boaz guy, but that’s not the love I mean. The love she discovered in a land far from home was the love of the God of the heavens and the earth.  The God who moved heaven and earth for her and the nation of Israel.

As Naomi and Ruth settled in Bethlehem, the barley harvest was beginning. The law commanded that the poor in a community should be allowed to glean from the fields for their survival, going behind the harvesters and gathering what remained. We pick up Ruth’s story in chapter two as she takes to the fields to gather food for herself and Naomi.  Verse 3 says: “She went out and began to glean in the fields behind the harvesters.  As it turned out, she found herself working in a field belonging to Boaz, who was from the clan of Elimelech.” As it turned out. Do you think for a moment that she was working in Boaz’s field by happenstance? No, my friend. God was directing Ruth’s path. He guided her to the very one who could redeem her and give her a home and a family and love. And a place in the lineage of King David (her great-grandson) and Jesus (her true and eternal Redeemer). God gave Ruth a future and a hope beyond her wildest imagination.

As it happened.  Beloved, where do you “happen” to be right now? Somewhere you never expected? Somewhere that feels far from home? Somewhere that is strange, maybe a little scary, and possibly even painful? You’re not there by happenstance. God’s people don’t wander aimlessly. In His providence and sovereignty, He guides us where He wants us to be. Whether it’s a physical place or a season in life, you are where you are by His good and gracious hand. So put your hand to the work before you and keep watch for what God will do.  What “happens” next will be amazing

Guest Blogging Today

I am guest blogging today on the website “All Mom Does.”  Check out my Thanksgiving devotional, “Giving Thanks in the Desert.”

https://www.allmomdoes.com/2018/11/21/giving-thanks-in-the-desert/

 

If I Could Do It All Again

“In Him we were also chosen, having been predestined according to the plan of Him works out everything in conformity with the purpose of His will.”               Ephesians 2:13

I caught myself the other day thinking, “If I could change one thing about my past…”

I’ll bet you can finish that sentence with a few thoughts of your own.  “I would have gone to college.” “I would have chosen a different career.”  “I would have (or wouldn’t have) gotten married.”  It doesn’t always have to be choices as big as those.  “I wouldn’t have said that.” “I wouldn’t have eaten that.” “I wouldn’t have made that purchase.”   Who hasn’t lamented something in their past.  For some, the choices were huge and life altering.  For others, they were moments, that while not quite as monumental, still, things we wish we could do over.  I have spent so much time living with regrets, living in the “if onlys,” and wishing I had made wiser decisions, or that circumstances had turned out differently.   I have discovered that when I live in constant regret I set myself up for a very sad life.  But I am learning some things that I would like to share with you.

One of the most important lessons about regret is to learn to trust in the sovereign providence of God.  That is a really old-fashioned term, but in the original Hebrew, the word combination has a rich and significant meaning.  The word “sovereign” speaks to God’s rightful authority; an authority that extends over nature, nations, mankind, and individual lives.  It is the thought behind Psalm 33:9: “[The Lord] spoke, and it came to be; He commanded and it stood firm.” God spoke, “Let there be…” (Genesis1) and it was so, because God said it must be. If God has spoken a promise through His word, it is as good as done. And if He has spoken a word over your life, it is as sure as His Name. “Sovereign” is addressing God’s rightful authority and majesty as Lord.

Likewise, the word “providence” is speaking to God’s charge over you; the root word is so precious to me, it means “to pay attention, to care for, to be in charge of.”  Here is God’s tender, loving care that shows Him as “the Good Shepherd” and as our Heavenly Father.  By this word, God has pledged to pay attention to you, to care for you, and to be in charge of your life – not as a dictator – but as One who seeks always and only what is best for you.  Job 10:12 expresses this beautifully. “You gave me life and showed me kindness, and in Your providence watched over my spirit.”

The combination of terms tells us that God is always looking out on your behalf, knows what you need, and has the authority to move heaven and earth to accomplish all things for you – because He loves you.

If you study the Scriptures you will find, over and over again, the sovereign and providential hand of God.  In John 4, a woman with a very tainted past decides to go fetch water from a well at mid-day.  There she meets Jesus, who changes her life and the lives of her neighbors.  Every day choices become life-altering, even community-altering.  What often seems to be a devastating situation, in God’s hands, turns into deliverance for an entire nation. Genesis 37-50 tells the story of Joseph, who is sold into slavery by his brothers, and imprisoned under false accusation.  But under the sovereign hand of God, Joseph becomes the second in command in Egypt and saves millions of people, including his own family, from starvation during a seven-year famine. Listen to his testimony from Genesis 50:20, “You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives.” In God’s hands, even our sin can be turned around, as David and Bathsheba found out.  After an affair, a murder and a pregnancy that ends with the death of a child; God blessed these two sinners, as well as the nation of Israel through their son, Solomon.  2 Samuel 12:24 tells us that “the Lord loved Solomon,” and made him the wisest and wealthiest king ever (1 Kings 3:12-13).  During Solomon’s reign the people of Israel built the Temple of the Lord, became a powerful nation and enjoyed forty years of peace and prosperity

Lest you think God has ceased His sovereign and providential activity in our day, I have countless times I can look back and see God at work in the most unexpected ways.  He has rescued me time and time again through circumstances and situations that should have crushed me – but by His hand I emerged stronger and more confident in His love and care.  I have seen His hand at work in so many other lives as well.  He is for His children, He watches over us, protects and cares for us, and moves mountains on our behalf.

Another important lesson I am learning I call, “Look ahead, not behind.”  God spoke through the prophet Isaiah and said, “Forget the former things; do not dwell on the past.  See, I am doing a new thing!  Now it springs up; do you not perceive it?  I am making a way in the desert and streams in the wasteland.  (Isaiah 43:18-19)  On the other side of these difficult seasons, is the promise that God will bring us out of the darkness and into the light of a fresh new day.  God is able to give you a fresh start. More than a do-over; Isaiah proclaimed the genesis of “a new thing.”  He has and continues to do that for me.  This writing ministry is “a stream in the wasteland.”  And He had made a way for me to return to school, a dream I thought had died ten years ago.  Surely He has made “a way in the desert” of my life.  But if I choose to sit in the ashes of my past, I will not see the new things God wants to do.

If you have grieved choices in your past, know that Your sovereign, providential Father has been watching over and caring for you all along.  In His hands the very thing that caused you the most pain can be the growing point for a whole new future.  Dear friend, God loves you too much to waste the struggles of your life.  He has a plan.  He has a purpose. And He has you in the palm of His great hand. 

Holy, sovereign God, please work all these hard things in my life to good, as I will in Your providence and love.   Amen