Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Skipping to the Good Part

Do I pick the sweetest option?
This morning I read how Jeremiah prophesied, but no one wanted to listen. His message was too negative – exiled to Babylon for 70 years?! Jeremiah warned that God was greatly disappointed, hurt and angry that His people would worship other gods. If only they would repent and come back to Him, things could turn out much differently. But, they wanted to keep doing things their own way. And they chose to believe the (false) prophets who said that Israel would break the yoke of Babylon and be restored within two years.

Do I do that? Do I believe what I want to believe instead of making the extra effort to discern the truth? Do I ask advice and choose the option that seems sweetest to me? Or am I willing to go with my gut and do the hard thing, if necessary?

I continued reading the book of Jeremiah and came to the familiar verse we all love to quote: “For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord. “Plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you a hope and a future.” (Jer. 29:11)

It’s interesting how we skip to the good part, wanting to believe this scripture is a word for us. It can be... but realize that God spoke that word to tell His people He still loved them, even though He would have to discipline them. He gave them hope, promising it would all be good in the long run. He would restore them after 70 years of exile – a long period of discipline. The next two verses are essential: “Then you will call on me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you. You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart.” (Jer. 29:12-13).

Yes, God does have good planned for us, but it may first require some discipline on our parts. If we do what is right, then He can do what He longs to do in our lives. We can’t just keep doing things our own way and waiting for everything to fall into place because God has plans to prosper us. We need to be calling on Him, praying to Him, wholeheartedly seeking Him. We need to be listening to Him and doing what He has told us.

I admit I sometimes lack discipline. I could be exercising more self control at times. I want to be doing what He has already told me, things I already know I should be doing. Whether it is controlling my tongue, my tone or my portion size, wisely using my talents, or jumping in and doing something I have been procrastinating about, there are certainly ways I could practice more discipline.

God has good plans. He sees our future, our potential, and He is longing to bring it about.

 Are we willing to do the hard thing? Will we put in the required discipline?

Dear God, I want to do my part so that you can do all that you want to do. Tune my ears to the truth, even when it is not as positive as what I might like to hear. Help me to be disciplined in doing the things you’ve already made clear to me.

Sunday, June 10, 2012

The Eyes of the Lord

He sees our potential, like this fern in its infancy.
I’ve been fascinated reading through the Bible chronologically, especially when comparing the stories in Kings and Chronicles. Scholars say the books of 1 & 2 Kings are written from man’s perspective and the books of 1 & 2 Chronicles tell those same stories from God’s perspective. The life of a king was often summarized in one of two ways: “he did right in the eyes of the lord” or “he did evil in the eyes of the Lord.”

As I read both the stories side by side, I noticed how King Abijah is portrayed negatively in 1 Kings 15 (“he committed all the sins…; his heart was not fully devoted”) – but in 2 Chronicles 13, the content is three times longer and there are many positives (“the Lord is our God and we have not forsaken Him”).

Another example is the account of King Manasseh in 2 Kings 21: “he did more evil…, caused Judah to sin…, and he shed so much innocent blood…” But, in 2 Chronicles 33, the account tells of how the Lord got his attention, how God then heard his humble prayer and was moved to restore him and “Manasseh knew the Lord is God.”

These examples show that when a human relays a series of events, he may focus on the negatives – but not so with God. He looks for the good, remembers the positives and focuses on the potential!

Regarding the One who sees all and knows all, 2 Chronicles 16:9 says, “The eyes of the Lord range throughout the earth to strengthen those whose hearts are fully committed to him.”

God is for us. He longs to see us persevere and to succeed. How different would our own stories look if we saw them through “the eyes of the Lord”? Instead of phrases like “missed the mark,” “stubborn” or “fell short,” we might see words like “adapted,” “faithfully pursued,” or “patiently trusted.”

How might God be seeing your life differently than you do?

God, thank you that you have a plan for my success. When I see the negatives, I will remember that you work all things together for good. When the wait is long, I will be patient and remember your timing is perfect. When the road is hard, I will listen for your voice to direct my next step. If God is for us, who can be against us?