034 | In Reverse It All Makes Sense

In Old Testament times before Jesus was born when someone heard a prophet speak or read from a scroll of scripture they may have found some of the information about the coming Messiah confusing. The small nuggets of information reveled about where the Messiah would come from and live probably seemed random and just a little conflicting. One prophet would say the Messiah would come from Bethlehem, then they would hear He would be a Nazarene, and then that He would come from Egypt.

As you may be aware I am journaling through the book titled The Essential Jesus: 100 Readings Through the Bible's Greatest Story written by Whitney T. Kuniholm. I am on number 34 of the 100 passages. In the last sentence of his reflection on this passage Kuniholm writes "God always knows what he is doing in our lives, even when his plan isn't so clear to us."

When he [King Herod] had called together all the people’s chief priests and teachers of the law, he asked them where the Messiah was to be born. "In Bethlehem in Judea," they replied, "for this is what the prophet has written..." (Matthew 2:4-5)
...an angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream. "Get up," he said, "take the child and his mother and escape to Egypt. Stay there until I tell you, for Herod is going to search for the child to kill him." So he got up, took the child and his mother during the night and left for Egypt, where he stayed until the death of Herod. And so was fulfilled what the Lord had said through the prophet: "Out of Egypt I called my son." (Matthew 2:13-15)
But when he [Joseph] heard that Archelaus was reigning in Judea in place of his father Herod, he was afraid to go there. Having been warned in a dream, he withdrew to the district of Galilee, and he went and lived in a town called Nazareth. So was fulfilled what was said through the prophets: "He will be called a Nazarene." (Matthew 2:23-23)
Through the course of many many years God reveled specific facts through various prophets about the coming Messiah. A small piece of the puzzle here and one there, through this person, then through that person. Small seemingly random pieces of God's master rescue plan. Without all the pieces in place it may have seemed quite confusing, even conflicting.

One may come away wondering "would the Messiah be Nazarene or a resident of Bethlehem or was the coming Messiah going to be an Egyptian?"

I often see various things in my life that seem random, confusing, and even conflicting and wonder how does this all fit together. I examine situations in my life or those close to me and question why. Why Lord? it doesn't make sense. Why am I like this or that? Why did this happen, or that? Why am I not like this, or that? How do these things work together, fit together? What is God's plan for me, for my family? How does all this stuff, my personality traits, my interests, life situations, failures, successes, friends, and family fit together in my life? How is all this stuff going to come together to be God's will for me?

My need to have all of the pieces of my life together and worked out so I understand completely simply gets in the way of my faith in God. My need to know just how it all fits together distorts my faith somewhat.

I have seen glimpses of the puzzle. I have looked back at things that have happened and seen a few of the pieces fitted together. I have seen why this or that took place and why I am have a certain personality trait. In hindsight I have seen God use my fears, and misguided words and actions to arrive at His will for me at a certain point in time. These glimpses encourage me. They remind me that God is at work.

Philip Yancey has such a way with words. He writes in his book "Disappointment with God" that "Faith means trusting in advance what will only make sense in reverse."

God is at work and instead of needing to know all the details of the plan, the pieces of the puzzle, I just need to trust Him today. Grab hold of what I know today, follow Christ, and trust God as he puts all the pieces together.
And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose. (Romans 8:28 ESV)

| More on the Essential Jesus journey. |

photo credits: The top photo in this article is titled "looking back" and was uploaded to Flickr.com by motone on January 14, 2009. The next photo in this article is titled "rompecabezas" and was uploaded to Flickr.com by condormx on May 15, 2007.

033 | Unremarkable & Authentic Growth

Real authentic growth in the Kingdom of God is mostly the result of small unremarkable everyday words and actions coming out of our response to Jesus.
In the previous Essential Jesus passage number 32 I wrote a post titled Seemingly Unremarkable Kingdom which was about just how low key the event was that brought God down from Heaven. A truly historic event that to me would call for an earth shattering mind blowing experience. But that was not how it happened. A defenseless baby born to a seemingly unimportant poor Jewish father and mother living in a small town of little apparent importance. It was a seemingly unremarkable event for most of the people living in the world at the time, even for many in the same town. In that article I pointed out a few other occasions recorded in the Bible where God also worked in seemingly unremarkable ways.

God often works in seemingly unremarkable ways with seemingly unremarkable people all to build a seemingly unremarkable Kingdom - God's Kingdom.

We read about many seemingly unremarkable people in the Bible and their response to seeing Jesus. Here in Luke's account we read about a few unnamed shepherds, a man named Simeon, and a women named Anna. What were their responses?

Shepherds near Bethlehem
So they hurried off and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby, who was lying in the manger. When they had seen him, they spread the word concerning what had been told them about this child, and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds said to them. (Luke 2:16-18)

Simeon in a Public Gathering Place
Moved by the Spirit, he went into the temple courts. When the parents brought in the child Jesus to do for him what the custom of the Law required, Simeon took him in his arms and praised God, saying:

"Sovereign Lord, as you have promised, you may now dismiss your servant in peace. For my eyes have seen your salvation, which you have prepared in the sight of all nations: a light for revelation to the Gentiles, and the glory of your people Israel." (Luke 2:27-32)

Anna in the Temple Courts
Coming up to them at that very moment, she gave thanks to God and spoke about the child to all who were looking forward to the redemption of Jerusalem. (Luke 2:38)
Tell others... When people saw Jesus their response was to tell others.

It is amazing to me that not only does God desire to come to earth in such a seemingly unremarkable way he desires to use unremarkable people to spread his vital and life changing message to every person of every time. In a world and time where we have such remarkable and very high tech methods to communicate with other people the primary method God desires to use is our seemingly unremarkable words and actions, our personal response to His Son Jesus. When we look at Jesus, learn about his life, study the words he spoke, we will have a response. The response can't help but come directly from our soul. We need to share that response with others. Not in a necessarily big, fancy, media savvy way, but in a stripped down and honest way. This sharing will probably be some of the smallest things said and done in our everyday lives, but have very large and momentous impacts on people and their lives. Also we probably will not really see the impact of our unremarkable words and actions directly. Real authentic growth in the Kingdom of God is mostly the result of small unremarkable everyday words and actions coming out of our response to Jesus.

| More on the Essential Jesus journey. |

photo credit: Photo in this post is titled Another Time and was wploaded to flickr.com on December 23, 2007 by _marmota

Why do I Freak Out?

SpringThe lyrics to a Jon Foreman song written with Matthew Chapter 6 in mind have really struck a cord with me lately. I am not a person who freaks out much. At least on the outside. But lately, given the lack of financial security in my life right now, I have been freaking out on the inside. Perhaps more than I have been letting on, I don't know. It comes in waves, sometimes I am at peace with the insecurity, but other times it just seems scary when I look into the near future.
Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more important than food, and the body more important than clothes? Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life? (Matthew 6:25-27)
Give us today our daily bread. (Matthew 6:11)
I simply need to stop worrying and live one day at a time. God provides daily and I know I just need to narrow my focus down to one day, thank God for what he has blessed us with that day, and then wake up and do it all over. Day by Day.

These lyrics are my prayer...

Heavenly Father
You always amaze me
Let your kingdom come
In my world and in my life
You give me the food I need
To live through the day
And forgive me as I forgive
The people that wronged me
Lead me far from temptation
Deliver me from the evil one

I look out the window
The birds are composing
Not a note is out of tune
Or out of place
I look at the meadow
And stare at the flowers
Better dressed than any girl
On her wedding day

So why do I worry?
Why do I freak out?
God knows what I need
You know what I need

Your love is
Your love is
Your love is strong

The kingdom of the heavens
Is now advancing
Invade my heart
Invade this broken town
The kingdom of the heavens
Is buried treasure
Will you sell yourself
To buy the one you've found?

Two things you told me
That you are strong
And you love me
Yes, you love me

Your love is
Your love is
Your love is strong

Our God in heaven
Hallowed be
Thy name above all names
Your kingdom come
Your will be done
On earth as it is in heaven
Give us today our daily bread
Forgive us wicked sinners
Lead us far away from our vices
And deliver us from these prisons

These are the lyrics from Jon Foreman's song "Your Love is Strong" which is on his album titled "Spring". Jon is the lead singer and song writer for the group Switchfoot. Last year he released 4 albums on his own titled after the four seasons. He has quickly become one of my all time favorite artist. He has a gift of stripping down his songs to very honest expressions of his life and faith in God. Here is what the song sounds like.

Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own. (Matthew 6:34)
Lord help me to focus on today, to see your blessings TODAY and let tomorrow be for tomorrow.


Sick of the status quo
Looking for change
Tired of lies
Want gloom to turn to joy
Need a new direction
Tired of death
Wishing for joy
Desiring a switch
Striving for celebration
Seeking more from life
Looking for answers
Wanting something new
Need move from empty to full
Want a new life
Want hope
Need truth
I want a brand new start ...
Give praise to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. In his great mercy he has given us a new birth and a hope that is alive. It is alive because Jesus Christ rose from the dead. He has given us new birth so that we might share in what belongs to him. It is a gift that can never be destroyed. It can never spoil or even fade away. It is kept in heaven for you. (1 Peter 1:3-4, NIRV)
Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here! (2 Corinthians 5:17)
Then I saw "a new heaven and a new earth," ... And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, "Look! God's dwelling place is now among the people, and he will dwell with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God. 'He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death' or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away."

He who was seated on the throne said, "I am making everything new!"... (Revelation 21:1-5)
Jesus is all about change. Jesus went from being dead to being alive. He was put in a grave buried dead and then came out of the tomb and was alive. Once dead but now alive. The greatest change ever, all for us! A reason to Celebrate!

photo credit: Duplicity by denn, on Flickr.

A Guilty Murderer Set Free

Take a few minutes to check out this video. It takes a look at the events leading up to the death of Jesus through the eyes of Barabbas who was waiting in prison for his own execution for the crimes he committed.
And among the rebels in prison, who had committed murder in the insurrection, there was a man called Barabbas. (Mark 15:7, ESV)

"A guilty man set free on account of another ...is that Justice?"

Something to think about as we approach the day many refer to as Good Friday. A day that has been set aside to remember the execution and death of Jesus.

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