“Declaring the end from the beginning, and from ancient times things that are not yet done, saying “My counsel shall stand and I will do My pleasure,” – Isaiah 46:10
I was watching a movie: It was an elaborate set up designed to convince a traitor – and the audience – he was safe and successful. And it looked real. It looked like a bank robbery, looked like the agents died, looked like he had gotten the money. Then POOF. The agents come back from the dead – with the bad guys who robbed the place – to arrest him. And, oh, he doesn’t have the money – in fact, he never did.
The traitor thought he understood the situation. Seen it all. Knew what was going on. And was one step ahead of everyone else: But he didn’t and he wasn’t. The agents knew the situation and understood what was truly happening. Like me and God.
In life, I often think I see the whole situation and have got it sorted. Only to find out, I don’t and never did. In my limited perspective, I only see what my mind is prepared to see and nothing more. Unless God chooses to reveal it to me, I can’t see His underlying purposes or even glimpse His master plan. This is why Paul says we walk by faith not by sight (2 Corinthians 5:7). In other words, we chose to live in humble trust of God. Because even when I think I see clearly, God has ways of showing me just how little I truly understand.
But I do get one thing: The bad guys always lose.
Though the fig tree may not blossom, nor fruit be on the vine; though the labor of the olive may fail, and the fields yield no food; though the flock may be cut off from the fold, and there be no herd in the stalls — Yet I will rejoice in the Lord, I will joy in the God of my salvation.
~ Habakkuk 3:17-18
There are a lot of dead branches under a pinon tree – like my life, a lot of dead dreams. Even in a live pinon, the trunk and undercarriage look dried beyond redemption. That is what I was seeing Monday – a life with a bunch of dead ends. I even drew a picture of a tree with all its branches broken off with a bunch of jagged splinters left pointing up into the air. It had no possibilities left – all the branches were destroyed.
But in a pinon, if you look up, passed the brittle, brown branches, the outer, upper branches are robust and green. But in order to see them you have to stop focusing on what is right in front of your face and look beyond what is near to what is farther away.
This time of year, spring, a pinon is not simply green and alive but flourishing. The tree God used to instruct me was putting out hundreds of tiny cones. Silently, that tree was stalwartly claiming its right not only to a future but a bountiful one.
Sitting there under this odd combination of death and life, made me think life is like that. In order for something new, something else has to end, to “die”. Everything new in life, good or bad, is there because something else ceased to be. A particular branch exemplified this as it appeared to abruptly end, like it was unnaturally chopped off. Then it shot off in another direction, looping in an odd fashion around the road block and becoming a sizable branch. Just like me, if I will let God do His work.
Things don’t always come to fruition the way I think they should. They can be amputated before their time (or maybe better said, before my selected time). But...God. And that’s what I was learning Tuesday...doors are made out of dead branches.
It was a Christian movie. But it seemed that they only got half the point. The one character asked, if God is really there, why doesn’t He do a miracle and ‘poof’ no more evil? And everyone kind of ignored her. Just like now as I watch an old TV show that is the epitome of empty religion – follow these rules and take part in these rituals and maybe you will get into heaven, everything in me was screaming: He did do a miracle! He sent Jesus. The greatest miracle.
The easy thing to do would be say ‘poof’ no evil. And for our Great God -- that is all it would take: one word. We conveniently forget such a thing would snuff out our lives; for we are evil, sinful sons of our father, Adam. But for some reason, He loves us. (For me this is more unexplainable than the problem of suffering.) And because He does, He chose the hard way. Jesus Christ laid down His glory and majesty and came to earth as a man like us; the greatest miracle God has ever given to man. He was:
And fully man.
Born of woman.
And born of God.
Tempted yet perfect.
The Lion to reign supreme.
And the Lamb to suffer for the sins of the world.
The fulfillment of Scripture
And the only hope of eternal life.
Jesus still is and always will be the focus of faith. The Wellspring of life. The Way to heaven. And we still we look for a miracle while missing the miracle of Jesus.
The Lord is my chosen portion and my cup... Psalms 16:5
I like caves. Ones where you can crawl around on your hands and knees are the best. All cave visitors are completely equal when they drive up. But the choices they make at tour desk will change how they experience the cave. All the tours are different. They are different lengths. They vary in difficulty. Some of the surfaces are as smooth as a level can make them. Others as rough as the flood left them. Some tours stay to shallow levels of the cave. Others explore deeper, neglected tunnels. They vary in their costs of money, time, and personal comfort. But every tour requires something of the tour-taker – a sacrifice. Most tours are popular but a few take the paths that are rarely seen.
Most patrons of the cave will “experience” the cave only in the most cursory way possible. In under an hour they will see, not touch, the dark recesses of the cave from a distance. They will never venture any further than the safety of the paved, railed, concrete path, And many do not even ever wish to go deeper. No dirt on their hands. No mud on their shoes. They made a small investment, a minuscule sacrifice, and reaped a corresponding return.
But some will invest the money and the time to delve into the cave – off trail. They will touch, bump, and slide through the cave. No safety net, they will bruise. They will push themselves to go further. Covered in dirt. Mud on their shoes. This is the wild tour. She is the most extreme tour offered but in life, in faith, in service we can dive much deeper into God.
All Christians come to salvation equally. Sinners. Saved. Secure. That is the starting gun. How long we search is up to us. How intensely we seek is our decision. We choose how deeply we immerse. The safe, low road or the risky, high one, we decide. What we will sacrifice, we determine. The extent we deny ourselves to love God is our prerogative.
Lord, help me reach with Your hands and touch with Your love. Let me leave the safety net behind to venture farther into You. Let the dirt on my hands show the love of my Lord. Let the mud on my shoes demonstrate my sincerity of heart. Father, let me hurt with Your pain. Help me go further in my resolve, deeper into the recesses of You, and seek You harder than others would say is permissible. Lord, I seek a life-long trek into the treasures of Who You are!
Come with me as we grow in fellowship with each other and our Savior to whom belongs the Amazing Escape from sin and death and the Amazing Journey into glorious life.