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God’s Mysterious Ways, Proverbs 3:5-6

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My family had been without a dog for 1.5 years and it felt like something was missing: Nobody to joyously greet me when I returned from a stressful day at work, nobody to cuddle when I felt lonely or cold, and no one forcing me to take a walk in the rain. It was time for a dog but my heart had been set upon rescuing a Silky terrier since my beloved dog who had died, Buster, was a Silky. I’d been searching the Silky terrier rescue site for a year but no dog had been posted for Washington state. I was getting discouraged.

But after returning from an extended vacation and in a state of near exhaustion, I was using my iPad (now ancient) and accidentally hit the bookmark for the Silky terrier website. I hadn’t intended to surf to that site but it popped up.

And there was Buddy, a three-year-old rescue in Washington State. I immediately contacted them and made arrangements to meet Buddy the following weekend at the dog show at the fairgrounds up north.

An accident? Or was God answering my prayers.

I’ve recently read, (and don’t recall where), that we usually misname Divine Providence as miracles, meaning that a miracle is when God intervenes in a supernatural way that isn’t a normal and natural process, such as Jesus walking on the water or turning water into wine. Versus Divine Providence, which is God intervening and answering our prayers but through the natural processes of the world.

I believe my accidentally hitting that bookmark was God directing me, because I likely wouldn’t have my sweet little fellow if I had delayed.

I don’t know about you, but most of the time I don’t see God working in my life. He was preparing Buddy in answer to my prayers but I couldn’t see Him working. So I was getting discouraged.

“Trust in the Lord with all your heart and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge Him and He will make your paths straight.”–Proverbs 3:5-6

I usually want to lean on my own understanding and try to figure out what God is doing and how He is doing it. Or when something goes wrong, I figure He’s teaching me a lesson.

But maybe He’s really working on a blessing that takes time to arrange all of the difference aspects of the problem in a natural way and I need to trust that He’s working it out for my benefit although I see nothing happening.

Several years ago my car was leaking oil but the auto repair shop couldn’t get it to stop. I didn’t want to buy a new car, but I was starting to funnel too much money into a twelve-year-old car, so it was time to call it quits. (Another $600+ dollars and still leaking.)

Little did I know that the following summer I would be driving downtown Seattle, early on a Saturday morning, and a homeless man would walk out from in front of a moving garbage truck right before me in the middle of a street. I couldn’t see him coming, nor did I expect a pedestrian to stroll out from the front of a giant behemoth of a public vehicle in motion. Since I had a new Toyota, I was able to brake and turn quickly to the right to avoid him. If I’d had my old car with its truck-like steering and slow brakes (little did I know till I got my new car how suckie they were), I’m pretty sure I would’ve hit him. I still get scared thinking about it. (I won’t mention the car-maker of the older car as as it did serve me well many years.)

(And talk about God protecting the homeless guy, who jaywalked across the middle of a street in front of a garbage truck and automobile and didn’t get hit. He looked to be pretty hung over or still in alcohol’s iron grip of insobriety. I’m assuming the garbage truck driver nearly had a coronary too as he obviously couldn’t stop.)

“And we KNOW that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose.”–Roman 8:28

I thought having to spend money for a new car was a bad thing, but God was letting my car continue to leak oil and not be repaired to protect both me and the homeless guy. I have to remind myself of God’s promises when I start getting discouraged and focus on what I KNOW about God from His Word and not listen to my feelings, which can be erratic or manipulated.

So next time something suckie happens, trust that God will somehow bring good out of it. After all, the Bible often promises to deliver us from trouble, not to prevent us from getting into trouble. We cannot see the power of God operating in our lives if there are no situations to deliver us from.

“My eyes are continually toward the Lord, For He will pluck my feet out of the net.”–David, Psalm 25:15

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If you’re realizing you’re trapped in a net of your own devising, that you don’t have any power to deliver yourself from your own behavior, congratulations. There’s hope in Jesus for anyone humble enough to admit they need His help. Please say the below prayer:

Dear Father, I cannot meet your perfect standard of righteousness and earn my way to Heaven. Righteousness is a gift from You. Thank you for sending Jesus, Emmanuel, God in the Flesh (Matthew 1:23) to live a perfectly pleasing life and to take the punishment for my sin on His Cross. I believe He died and rose bodily, an acceptable sin sacrifice on my behalf. I invite You to come into my heart and help me to follow You. I want to change and be a better person. I trust You to answer my prayer because You love me. Thank you.

If you said this prayer, God bless you. You’re in the family of God. Please find a local, Bible-based church to fellowship with and grow as a believer. We’re in this together.

 

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Sadly, I avoid visiting Seattle as much as possible. I no longer am a season ticket holder or attend meetings like I used to. I have spoken to many persons who are telling me the same thing. If you visit Seattle as a tourist, be very watchful if you’re driving and be sure not to drive too fast. It only takes a moment for a bike to zip in front of you or a pedestrian with their nose stuck to their cellphone to step off the curb unexpectedly when you have a green light. If you don’t need to travel outside downtown, I recommend not driving yourself around and using alternative transportation, like a cab.

 

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Simplifying Idolatry, Exodus 20:4-5

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Buddy is sticking out his tongue because he’s uncomfortable with having his picture taken. (I’m disappointed in my new phone’s camera but wasn’t willing to pay $700+ for a new phone when a $200 phone does everything I need–except take great photos!)

I sometimes feel uncomfortable with some discussions in the Christian community. In my opinion, at times well-meaning Christians make Christianity too difficult and discourage sincere people. The latest focus in sermons and articles appears to be idolatry. It seems, basically, anything a person really likes is being defined as idolatry. As a result, I think people–including myself–are becoming too preoccupied with self-examination and sin-focused, rather than being Christ-focused and rejoicing in His goodness. It’s hard to be a happy, joyful Christian who attracts miserable unbelievers to your religion when you’re gloomy and self-obsessesed, perpetually worrying if this or that activity, object, pet, or person is an idol.

Now, I have no desire to deny the seriousness of sin. God takes idolatry very seriously.

“You shall not make for yourself an idol, or any likeness of what is in heaven above or on the earth beneath or in the water under the earth. You shall not worship them or serve them; for I, the Lord your God, am a jealous God,…”–Exodus 20:4-5a

But I believe the following is a much simpler and workable definition of idolatry:

Anything that, or anyone who, causes you to disobey God.

For example, a pop singer takes heroine so young people start taking drugs because it’s cool. No. God says our bodies are a temple of the Holy Spirit (1 Corinthians 6:19) and is a gift, being “fearfully and wonderfully made” (Psalm 139:14). That singer has become an idol.

Your boyfriend/girlfriend/fiance asks you to have sex with them and you say OK, knowing that God forbids extramarital sex (Hebrews 13:4). That person has become an idol to you.

You purchase a sporty red convertible, taking on enormous monthly payments and new debt, potentially straining your marriage and reducing your ability to tithe or give to those in need, knowing that your current automobile works just fine and you could live with it, but you lusted after a new car. You have made that car (or your desire for status) your idol.

A friend lures you into gossiping about a coworker or slandering someone because you care more about the opinion of that friend rather than about the potential harm you’re doing to the person you are slandering or gossiping about. You’ve made that relationship an idol.

You don’t compliment people at work or nominate them for awards because you don’t want them to look good to management and potentially jeopardize your own chance for a promotion. Your job, or your own ego, has become an idol because you aren’t trusting God to provide for your needs or to elevate you in His proper timing.

You watch an awards show because it showcases your favorite performer, knowing that there will be overtly sexual performances and profane lyrics–you’ve made entertainment an idol.

I’m pretty sure you’ve gotten the idea that I’m trying to get across. I believe this definition of idolatry as “anything that, or anyone who, causes you to disobey God” is easy to understand and takes less self-indulgent introspection to identify.

Most of God’s commands are pretty clear in the Bible.

I hope this helps simplify your Christian walk.

God bless you.

 

Falling Short of Expectations, Ephesians 2:8-10

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Do you ever feel like Buddy in this photo: There are good things in life you could enjoy if you’d just make the effort to grab onto it?

Sometimes I get discouraged when I read about the great heroes of the Bible: Job, Esther, Daniel, Nehemiah, Noah and Joseph. They seem so perfect, so heroic. Job who suffered so greatly yet would not curse God nor lose his faith in God’s goodness; Esther, who was willing to sacrifice her life to save the Jewish people; Daniel, who was such a good person that his enemies could find nothing to accuse him of to get him into trouble with the king; Nehemiah, who had the wisdom to pray on the spot for God’s help in a precarious moment and to ask the king to assist him in a great and mighty task; Noah, who spent over a hundred years building a boat with absolutely no evidence there would be a flood yet believed God anyway; and Joseph, who didn’t grumble and complain no matter how unfairly he had been treated and maintained his faith in God, despite his adverse circumstances.

Sometimes I feel that being of use to God in furthering His kingdom is just beyond my grasp. I want to pick up that bone and run with it and be faithful and a good Christian. But I grumble and complain when work sucks or life doesn’t go my way; I get discouraged when I don’t see God answering my prayers; I forget to pray when under stress; and people could easily find fault with me. Despite my best efforts to serve God, I feel like I fall short every day.

Way, way short of God’s standards of how I should behave.

And then, when I start to look upward and not at myself, I remember what God says in Ephesians 2:10:

“For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; not as a result of works, so that no one may boast. For we are HIS WORKMANSHIP, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we would walk in them.” (NASB, CAPS my emphasis)

  1. God didn’t choose to save me because he thought I was so wonderful. But I am HIS creation. He chose to make me and save me because He loves me. And He is the one who accepted me. He’s totally 100% good and kind, yet He chose this sinful person to be in communion with Him and His Holy Spirit indwells me.
  2. “There is no condemnation in Christ Jesus.”–Romans 8:1 God knows I cannot live up to His righteous standards. That’s why Christ had to die and take the penalty for my sin, because there’s no way I can earn God’s favor. He freely chooses to love me, despite my faults, flaws and failures.
  3. Because I’m so flawed, I can boast in a good and loving God.
  4. God loves variety. I’m different from other people because God designed me that way. I’m unique and my job to do on this earth is, therefore, unique to me.
  5. God chose what works I am supposed to accomplish in my lifetime. His plan for me is not the same as the pastor’s or my friends or my fellow Christian believers. “He who began a good work in (me) will perfect it until the day of Christ Jesus.”–Philippians 1:6  I can trust that God, as my good Shepherd Who leads me in the paths of righteousness for His namesake” (Psalm 23:3) will guide Me into accomplishing the deeds/works He wants me to accomplish.

Sometimes we feel bad because we don’t have the gifts or the accomplishments that other “Super Christians” seem to have and we don’t win those great battles. Yet one man led Billie Graham to Christ and because of that one man’s faithfulness, Mr. Graham accomplished great things for God. (I was saved through Billie Graham’s TV ministry in 1989.)

As my dad has often told me, “There’ll always be someone greater or lesser than yourself.” If I compare myself to the superstars, I’ll feel discouraged.

I have to remind myself that my relationship with God is a personal relationship and that “I am fearfully and wonderfully made” (Psalm 139:14a); God didn’t make a mistake when He made me and chose me.

“Cease striving and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth.”–Psalm 46:10

So I need to stop striving and trust that God will accomplish His good purposes in my life, and when I’ve completed my God-assigned tasks, He’ll call me home to eternal joy.

God bless you, my dear reader.

***PS. If you follow my site regularly, thank you. I try to follow your site back, but sometimes I have trouble finding the follow button.

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If you aren’t born-again, you’re missing out on a wonderful love relationship. Becoming a Christian doesn’t mean that life becomes gravy street, but God will give you strength to face life. You’ll no longer be alone. You were born with a piece of your inner life puzzle missing, and only He can complete it. Please say this prayer below to begin your faith journey.

“Lord, I’ve offended you by my sin and fallen short of your standards. I accept that I can never be good enough to atone for my sins so that Jesus was punished on the Cross on my behalf. Please forgive me and save me from myself. Change me by sending the Holy Spirit to live Your life through Me.”

“Your heavenly Father (will) give the Holy Spirit to those who ask Him”–Luke 11:13

Congratulations, brother or sister on becoming born-again. Please begin to read your Bible and pray that God will lead you to a Bible-based church where you can grow and fellowship with other believers. God bless you richly. Love you, my fellow believer, Dawn