Thursday, February 28, 2013

here and there

“Somehow I lost my way
And now it’s clear to me
All that I fought so hard to keep
Is all I had to leave.”
(Project 86, Hollow Again)


Just some excerpts from here and there in my journaling for Shadows & Scars. My apologies for thoughts/transitions that haven't been smoothed out yet. :-)


I think I understand the cursing of the barren fig tree (better) now. It wasn't the season for figs, so nothing was expected of all the other empty trees. They were supposed to be fruitless. But this particular tree had leaves showing. So from a distance this indicated that the tree would also have fruit. By all initial indications, the tree promised fruit. Yet it, too, was barren. It was an empty promise; merely an outward show. Like the Jewish religion. Like so many of us.

How often we live our lives as such.

How often we wait for and pursue that which, like the tree, will never bear fruit for us.


And this seems to happen frequently in the Bible and in life.  Those things which seem to contain and promise life to us are often empty.

And, conversely, those things which seem empty are sometimes the sources of life.

Like the fig tree… everything seemed to promise fruit, but there was none. Just like the Jewish nation. But, on the other hand, it was actually the Gentiles who were to carry on the gospel, even though they seemed far from it.

Recently I read about Jericho in 2 Kings 2:

“Then the men of the city said to Elisha, ‘Even though our lord can see that the city’s location is good, the water is bad and the land unfruitful.’”

But God transformed it. Brought life out of the empty.

And in 2 Kings 3. The three kingdoms going to war against Moab. In the wilderness with no water.

“This is what the Lord says: ‘Dig ditch after ditch in this wadi.’ For the Lord says, ‘You will not see wind or rain, but the wadi will be filled with water, and you will drink. … This is easy in the Lord’s sight.’”

Again, something out of nothing.

And, at the same time, a command to destroy that which might seem good:

“Then you must attack every fortified city and every choice city. You must cut down every good tree and stop up very spring of water. You must ruin every good piece of land with stones.”

It seems that God frequently makes commands like this, which seem foolish to us, even harmful, but are actually designed to save us. We see something that we think will bring us life, happiness, peace, but our sight is short. God sees that it will actually be empty for us… or worse.

So instead God turns us to where and how we least expect. To show us that He can see more than we can. To show us that it is only He who can bring something out of nothing. To banish any thought that it was our own efforts, rather than His gracious love which brought us blessings.

I'm not saying that everything that seems good is bad, or everything that seems bad is actually good. But there are times when we get it wrong, when our vision falls short.

Just think of the ultimate example. Israel wanted to crown Jesus as temporal king. They thought an earthly kingdom would be their salvation. But in reality, what they wanted would have doomed not just themselves, but the whole world. And what actually brought life was Christ’s death.

So we must be willing to trust in the vision of God… in what He can see, though we are blind to it.  In our eyes it may be impossible. But in the Lord’s sight, it is easy.

It is hard to let go of what seems good… to put away and aside forever that which we’ve thought would bring us life. But like Samuel, we need to open our ears to hear God say, “How long are you going to mourn for Saul, since I have rejected Him as king over Israel?” And open our minds to the path He has chosen, unlikely and impossible as it may seem.

We may even rationalize that the thing is not bad in of itself, and that may be true, but is it good for you? That is the question. And because I know Jesus loves me, I can trust His answer, even if I can’t understand it.

Friday, February 1, 2013

even in the waiting

“If they do not listen to Moses and the Prophets, they will not be convinced even if someone rises from the dead.” (Luke 16:31)

*  *  *  *  *  *  *

I spend too much time tapping my fingers on the table, waiting for God do a little magic trick and prove Himself to me.  Like, “I will believe You are truly loving when You _________” and “When You finally _________, then I will know that I can trust You.” But until then, I just can’t say for sure…

It seems I am not alone in demanding miraculous proof in order to believe.  I am part of a multitude who feels that if God will just show Himself in an obvious way, then our doubt will be removed… that if we can just have that one experience, it will change everything.  Yet experience itself teaches us otherwise.  Those moments can come powerfully and yet when they go, we are still left grasping at thin air.

The Pharisees are my forefathers in this.  With an abundance of miracles piling up all around them, they demanded more.  Jesus spoke with prophetic precision when He said, “They will not be convinced even if someone rises from the dead.”

So what is the solution? Jesus pointed to the Word.  He said that they must first listen to Moses and the Prophets.  They could have all the proof in the world right in front of their eyes, but if they did not open their ears to hear the truth of the Scriptures about Jesus, then all would be in vain.

I hear Jesus speaking the same thing to my heart today.  He tells me to listen. To trust in the Word, in what it says about Him and what His life tells us about God. To trust in the promises of His love, in the guarantee that such trust is not misplaced.  Even though my eyes may not see a thing, I need to open my ears to hear:

“The Lord, the Lord, the compassionate and gracious God, slow to anger, abounding in love and faithfulness.”
(Exodus 34:5) 
“You are precious in My sight and honored, and I love you.”
(Isaiah 43:4) 
“I have loved you with an everlasting love;
Therefore, I have continued to extend faithful love to you.”
(Jeremiah 31:3) 
“God proves His own love for us in this: while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.”
(Romans 5:8) 
“How great is the love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are!”
(1 John 3:1)

These are words I can put my trust in.  These are the proofs I need of God’s love.  Jesus is proof that God does show up and does come through for us.

Painting by James Tissot

So does God show up in miraculous ways?  Absolutely.  Is it worth waiting for those powerful moments?  Definitely.  But in the meantime, don’t take the absence of God or the presence of suffering as proof against God’s unconditional love.  You can still put your trust in God even in the waiting.

God will come through.  But maybe we spend too much time looking around for those moments, thinking we need them in order to rest in God’s love, expecting them to prop up our faith.  But “faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see” (Hebrews 11:1).  We can rest in His love now, no matter what do or don’t see.

So instead of looking around, maybe try this: close your eyes… and listen.