When Life Doesn’t Go as Planned

Understanding the will of God isn’t just a twenty-first century issue we’re experiencing because of a certain white noise called social media. Or the outpouring of too many years’ post crucifixion. Nor is it a matter of recent debate. I think it’s safe to say it’s been a topic of discussion since God marched Adam and Eve outside the luscious landscape of the garden.


Devotional Scripture: Exodus 2:11-22
Key Verse: “He supposed that his brothers would understand that God was giving them salvation by his hand, but they did not understand.” Acts 7:25


For God’s thoughts are not our thoughts, nor are his ways our ways (Isaiah 55:8), so the whole wrapping our minds around his sovereign plan thing, a bit baffling at times. But waiting for it to unfold – a different story altogether.

Especially when we’re passionate and have great intentions. A plan to bring glory to God. Desires that match his own. And a small sliver of an idea of how God might use us in this great big world.

Yet day after day nothing happens. No, this-is-what-I’ve-been-waiting-for phone calls come. No doors burst open. No new path is carved. And it’s hard to wait on God. To sit back and relax. To trust and believe and not take matters into our own hands.

As Moses did forty years in. He’d grown up Egyptian, yet understood his Hebrew heritage and had a heart for his people. According to Acts 7:25 he also had an idea God intended to use him to free the Israelites. He just didn’t know when or how.

And to his credit, he was willing. The problem? It wasn’t time. The motive was right but not the moment. The four hundred years God mentioned to Abraham had yet to be completed, the people’s suffering unfinished, and Moses, well, he was far from the faith filled leader Israel would need.

But as is often the case when we let desire cloud discretion, Moses moved ahead of God. Filled with compassion for his brethren he went to see them “and looked on their burdens” (v. 11). But it wasn’t just a quick glance or a little “I wonder what they’re up to” once-over. The Hebrew verb for looked means “to see with emotion.” It was a gut twisting gaze. The heart-breaking kind.

So when Moses saw an Egyptian beating a Hebrew (probably to death), he couldn’t help himself. “He looked this way and that, and seeing no one, he struck down the Egyptian and hid him in the sand.” (v. 12)

His sense of justice not totally out of place. Nor his rights as prince of the land. Yet it was wrong because it wasn’t necessary. God didn’t plan to save his people through the works of Moses. He planned to save them through glorifying works of his own. Just as he saves us. By grace though faith in his power and provision.

So the LORD waited until Moses was an old man (relatively speaking). Until his power was stripped. Until he had nothing left to offer but the words of God – to redeem the Israelites from the hand of slavery. Because it’s not us who deserves the glory, it’s God.

Though at the time, Moses had no idea what God was up to. (I think we’ve all been there.) Yet filled with undeterred passion for his people he couldn’t stay away. So he went again the very next day to visit the people but this time found two Hebrews fighting. And said to him, “Why do you strike your companion?” To which the man replied “Who made you prince and a judge over us? Do you mean to kill me as you killed the Egyptian?” (v. 14)

Not exactly the response Moses was planning on. He figured the Israelite’s “understood that God was giving them salvation by his hand” (Acts 7:25). Upon realizing not everyone was on the same page, Moses was afraid.

And rightly so because when Pharaoh got wind of it, he tried to kill him. Not because Moses had committed murder, but because he had joined the hot civil rights movement and was no longer one of them.

So Moses fled to the land of Midian where he came to the rescue of seven unwed sisters, found himself invited for dinner, and ended up marrying one of them. My favorite part? Though he’d made a mistake he was still snug in the hand God. A lovely reassurance for us who struggle with GAGS (Getting Ahead of God Syndrome). (You’re welcome for the acronym.)

Moses met four decades in the wilderness. God was in no hurry. But the problem is, we often are. Leading us to assume God’s moved on, decided on someone else, or had an entirely different plan altogether. A plan we were never meant to be a part of.

Think Moses struggled with any doubts his forty years in Midian? I think anyone would have. But God hadn’t set Moses. He hadn’t changed his mind. Moses hadn’t misunderstood. Nor was he being punished. He was being prepared. A reality I need to sit close with.

Little did Moses realize the land he dwelt in and learned and grew comfortable exploring was the very land he would lead the Israelites around on for forty adventurous years. He also learned to be a shepherd, keeping watch over his father-in-law’s flocks. A skill he’d later use shepherding God’s unruly people (Ps. 77:20).

Not to mention the lessons in unconditional love he gained by having a wife and two boys, along with the experience of patiently disciplining, encouraging, and raising children. Skills he’d not doubt put to good use.

Consequently, it’s possible his father-in-law, who just happened to be a priest, taught him valuable insights about the LORD. As a descendant of Abraham through his wife Keturah it’s feasible Reuel served the true God.

Though Moses couldn’t see it, God was working. The same God that lead Abraham’s servant to the well Rebecca was at, and Jacob to the well Rachel was at, is the same God that lead Moses to the well his wife was at.

The same God that used the Midianites to carry Joseph to Egypt is the same God that now used the Midianites to prepare Moses to bring them out of Egypt.

The same God who allowed Moses’ life to mirror that of Christ’s by causing him to be rejected by his own people so he would turn to the gentiles, marry a gentile wife, and then later appear again to the Israelites as their deliverer and be accepted by them the second time, is the same God who’s allowed my life and yours to mirror the redemption Israel received.

And this same God, is still in charge today. So if you’ve made your home in the wilderness, if you’re not where you thought you’d be this time last year, if you’re waiting on God to move, to work, to open a door either here or there – think of Moses and his season of preparation. God’s working my friend, even when we can’t see it. Just be faithful and follow Him.

Contemplate and Evaluate:
What are you waiting on God to do? Are you trusting in his plan and purpose or have you moved ahead because it’s taking too long?
How might your current circumstances be preparing you for the works God has ahead?

design

When the Place We’re in Makes No Sense

A testament to God’s sovereignty often includes two words: perfect timing. A check arrived in the mail the day before rent was due. A friend showed up at the exact moment needed. A phone call seconds before it was too late. A stranger who asks if they can pray for you. A note of encouragement when you needed one most. A verse at just the right time.


Devotional Scripture: Exodus 2:5-10
Key Verse: “The LORD of hosts has sworn: “As I have planned, so shall it be, and as I have purposed, so shall it stand.” Isaiah 14:24


And we think “Wow. That was either a crazy coincidence or that was God.” But based on the Scripture before us, I’m going to say it was God. The LORD of heaven and earth, who is before all things, and through whom all things hold together (Col. 1:17).

He alone holds wisdom in his hand – giving it to those who ask (James 1:5). He alone changes the seasons and removes kings from leadership and sets up new ones (Daniel 2:20-21). He alone laid the foundation of the earth, marked off it’s measurements, and prescribed limits to the ocean saying, “Thus far shall you come, and no farther, and here shall your proud waves be stayed” (Job 38:4-11).

He doesn’t just orchestrate events here and there – He orchestrates life. As he did in countless stories of the Bible – including this one. The account of Moses birth, his nail biting jaunt down the river, his adoption by Pharaoh’s daughter, and his upbringing in the palace.

It wasn’t an accident the princess walked down to the Nile to bathe when she did. It wasn’t just perfect timing, though the timing was indeed perfect. Nor was it luck that she felt compassion for Moses.

It was God.

She knew her father’s orders. She knew the baby was to die, yet without hesitation the princess set in motion a plan to keep the child for herself. In all honesty, it makes no sense. If she had wanted a child, I’m sure she could have found an Egyptian baby. One of noble status. After all, she was daughter of Pharaoh, say the word and it was hers.

Yet she found a circumcised slave child, in a basket, in the river, and chose him.

Did she find it odd that a young Hebrew girl was close at hand, privy to the entire scene? After all, the princess was either bathing or about to. She could have been mad. “What are you doing here?” She could have ordered the young girl questioned. But instead she listened to her and allowed her to fetch a wet nurse for the hungry child. Another coincidence? I don’t think so.

But the sovereign hand of God did not stop there. Giving Jochebed the opportunity to nurse her son, gave Moses connection with his people. We aren’t told how often he got to visit his mama, or at what point he understood his story. But according to Exodus 2:11 when he grew up, he knew who his people were, despite his Egyptian upbringing.

Which we know little about, other than the fact he was instructed in all things Egypt and “mighty in his words and deeds” (Acts 7:22). In other words, he went to school. He learned to read and write and communicate and be a leader. All things that would come in handy for the man God planned to use to write the first 187 chapters of the Bible and lead his people out of Egypt (see Num. 33:2; Joshua 8:31; John 5:46; 2 Cor. 3:15)

But my favorite part is that Pharaoh housed, fed, nurtured, provided, taught, and educated the very man God would use to bring about the very thing Pharaoh was trying to prevent – a massive Israelite escape. An awesome display of God’s sovereign hand at work!

It wasn’t by accident or chance or consequence that Moses ended up in the palace. It was God’s plan, to prepare Moses for the works he prepared in advance for him to do. Sound familiar? Ephesians 2:10 says it works the same way for us too!

So when we end up in a place we didn’t expect or a situation we hadn’t anticipated, we can relax knowing God’s got a plan. And maybe, just maybe that thing that’s taking forever, that issue we never expected, that fork in the road, that mishap or misfortune is the very thing God’s going to use to prepare us for a ministry, a life, an impact far more fulfilling than we ever could have imagined.

Beloved, with God on the throne, the place we’re in has purpose.

Proverbs 16:9 says, “The heart of man plans his way, but the Lord establishes his steps.” If this is true (and we know it is because it’s the living breathing word of God) then we can relax. Apart from sin, the place we’re in has purpose. And even then God can use our mess ups. (Can I get an amen?)

Nothing happens without God’s eye upon it. Without his knowing. His purpose always prevails. “The LORD of hosts has sworn: “As I have planned, so shall it be, and as I have purposed, so shall it stand” (Isaiah 14:24).

What probably felt like terrible timing to Jochebed – a baby boy born under a death sentence, was actually God’s perfect timing.

So take heart, lean not on your own understanding and trust the LORD. Because the same sovereign God who ruled then, still rules today. Therefore, we can know, the place we’re in has purpose.

Contemplate and Evaluate
What does the fact that God is sovereign mean for you today?
How might God be preparing you or using you, as you wait or walk the path you’re on right now?

image

Photo provided by Pixabay

The Most Important Thing We Can Teach Our Kids

Do you have any goals? What about for your kids or grand kids – have any hopes or dreams for them? Of course you do. I do too. And we should. Without dreams that grow into goals and goals that beseech us to try we wouldn’t have things like indoor plumbing or best selling novels or the Olympics or HGTV. That’s right we’d be living in a world without books and Olympians and Chip and Joanna Gaines. And to make matters worse – we’d be going to the bathroom outside.


Scripture: Genesis 48
Key Verse: “So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.” (1 Corinthians 10:31)


So don’t get me wrong. We need dreamers and thinkers and doers and tryer-outers. We need people willing to fail and try again, people willing to pave the way for the rest of us who avoid science like it’s a bad plague.

But passion doesn’t need prompting. It will come naturally. God makes each of us with unique abilities and gifts and talents and loves. What needs prompting is purpose.

The motive behind the drive. Is it for my own glory or God’s? This is what our little loves and big loves and in between loves need help understanding. Because we don’t naturally seek to glorify God. If we did, well, then every pastor would be out of a job and we parents could hang out at the beach. But from my vantage point no pastors or parents are going to be out of a job any time soon.

We seek fulfillment. We seek pleasure. We seek after success and accomplishments and money and fame, but we don’t naturally seek God. It’s He that seeks us (John 6:44).

So it’s of grave importance we nudge and teach and at times push in the direction of purpose. As Joseph plainly did with his two boys. When Joseph heard that his dad had taken ill, he found his sons and took them to see grandpa.

At the mere sight of them, Jacob rallied, and sat up to do what he’d probably been praying about for quite some time – the blessing and adoption of Joseph’s boys – Manasseh and Ephraim.

Now I can’t help but wonder if he’d already run the idea by Joseph, or if it was a complete surprise. “Oh by the way Joseph, those two sons of yours – I plan to adopt them as my own.” “Oh, well that’s nice dad. But I tell ya what,  why don’t you give me a few days to run that one by Asenath, my wife. Remember her? And then I’ll give back with ya.”

But there is seemingly no hesitation on Joseph’s part. In fact when it was time for the official blessing Joseph urged his boys forward. “It’s ok guys go see grandpa.” So they did and Jacob kissed them and embraced them. Then Jacob stretched out his arms crossing them to place his right hand on Ephraim (the younger) and his left hand on Manasseh (the older).

Joseph thinking his dad had just gotten a little confused correct him, “Not this way, my father; since this one is the firstborn, put your right hand on his head” (v. 18). But Jacob assured he knew what he was doing. Manasseh would be great but “his younger brother shall be greater than he” (v.19). A common theme we’ve seen throughout the book of Genesis.

And in a matter of moments it was over. With the ceremony concluded, the boys adopted, and the blessing given, Ephraim and Manasseh were forever sealed as Israelite’s. Their children and their children’s children would not be Egyptian, they would be Hebrew. Why? Because Joseph pushed his boys in the direction of purpose.

Instead of teaching them the family business to ensure their financial well being; instead of encouraging them to stick close with their mother’s family for their social well being; instead of  discouraging them from the abominable lifestyle of shepherding to ensure their political well being; Joseph emphasized purpose, to ensure their spiritual well being.

Teaching them that there’s no greater honor than being part of the family of God. There’s no greater privilege than serving the Almighty God. There’s no greater task than bringing glory to God. Because He alone is God and does great and marvelous things (Ps. 86:10). It’s He who gives and takes away. To Him belong greatness and power and glory and majesty. All that is in the earth is his. Therefore riches and honor come from God alone. (1 Chron. 29:11-12)

How do I know Joseph taught them such things? Because their dad was second in command of the most powerful nation in the world at that time. They had wealth and prestige and immense popularity among the Egyptian people and the surrounding kingdoms. It would have been natural and completely acceptable for Joseph to one day pass the position to Manasseh.

Not to mention their mama was Egyptian with an Egyptian family and an Egyptian heritage. It was what they knew until their dad came home one day to announce an entourage of Hebrew uncles had arrived.

But they walked away from all of it. They left behind the financial, social, and political security Egypt had to offer, for the eternal security God had to offer. Knowing full well the riches of this world do not compare to the riches of God’s kindness.

My dear friend, are we teaching our kids the same? Do they have any idea they’re here to glorify God? Do they understand that there’s no greater privilege than being a part of God’s people? Do they know there’s no greater honor than serving the LORD God Almighty?

As they grow and learn and gain independence, let’s not just support their passions, let’s also be sure to teach them their purpose. That they might leave behind the riches of this world for the immeasurable riches of God’s great and loving kindness. “So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God” (1 Cor. 10:31).

Contemplate and Evaluate:
As followers of Jesus Christ, what is our purpose? How are you living out that purpose and how are you promoting it to the next generation?
Do your kids know why they’re here? Do they understand there’s no greater accomplishment than learning to live heart, soul, and mind for God? What can you do today to encourage them in the right direction?