Sometimes finding favor with God makes life much harder. You know the story. Gabriel informed Mary she would give birth to the Son of God. Many thoughts ran through her mind, not the least of which was how she, a virgin, could conceive.
What’s more, Mary knew the social and biblical fallout that occurs for a pregnant woman without a husband. How could she possibly explain that her pregnancy was an of God and not an act of passion?
Finding favor with God meant that she faced disfavor from people. Maybe finding favor with God isn’t all it’s cracked up to be?
Christmas usually causes us to marvel at the virgin conception—and at the love of our God who would become Man so that He could die for our sins. But there’s another part of the Christmas story that amazes me just as much.
It comes from this amazing young woman.
Dawdling service at restaurants gets under my skin. (The only thing worse is fast food at a slow drive through.) At lunch not long ago we got dawdling service from our server. Here’s what happened.
I never let on to the waiter that I was miffed, yet inside my fuse was burning. Here’s why:
- The table next to us ate and left before we did, though we arrived at the same time.
- Our water glasses were often empty and the food order came out wrong.
- The waiter fouled up the bill.
- I was late getting back to work.
But then, just before we left, I felt like a complete idiot. The waiter made mention that it was his first day. You see, the problem wasn’t his incompetence.
It was my impatience.
Life hands us a line of slow servers. God shows us the best way to disarm our short fuse.
I had to smile when I read what Jason Kidd said after the Dallas Mavericks drafted him years ago: “We’re going to turn this team around 360 degrees!”
Life often feels like that, doesn’t it? A lot of effort with nothing gained.
At times, the Bible seems like a history book in which God makes and fulfills promises to the ancients, but the words somehow lack immediacy to our struggling lives. And yet, it’s funny how the anxieties that overwhelm our lives seem identical to those that biblical people struggled against.
Even though Scripture provides assurance of God’s promises, assurance doesn’t negate the stressful circumstances that force us to trust God.
Truth doesn’t make the hard parts of life go away. We still have to trust God with that truth.
As a teenager, I knew everything. You could even say I was omniscient. I marveled at the incompetence of adults on the simplest issues. They just didn’t get it.
And then I grew up, and something strange happened. I discovered that as an omniscient person, I still had a lot to learn.
So many times I stood so sure of myself only to discover how woefully ignorant I was.
- I knew a lot about the Bible until I went to seminary. It turns out, the more I learned, the less I knew.
- I knew everything about marriage until I got married. But matrimony is course in art, not science. I’ll be learning for the rest of my life.
- I was an expert on parenting until I had kids. Parenting offers a long course of study on your own selfishness.
I’ve learned a lot since I became omniscient. But you know where that omniscient teenager resurfaces the most in my life? The same place it shows itself in your life.
When we’re talking to God.
Whenever I have a doctor’s appointment, I always request the first appointment of the day. I figure the earlier my appointment, the less time I sit in the waiting room counting fish in the aquarium.
But it isn’t so. I may have a time scheduled, but it’s entirely the doctor’s discretion when I see him. I find the same true with Dr. God.
Dr. God fills our lives with waiting rooms:
- Your car in a traffic jam.
- Your office when five o’clock is slow to come.
- The grocery store when the line is long, it’s the cashier’s first day, and she’s out of receipt tape. (Ask me how I know.)
Inconveniences cause delays and frustrations. But there are other moments of waiting far more difficult and confusing.
You have plans. This appointment should be over by now. You’re ready to move on the next event, the next step in the grand plan.
But you wait because God has plans for you.
Not long ago, my jaw dropped as I calculated how much I had spent on tolls that year.
This painful revelation forced me to reexamine my commute. I decided to take the access road to work each morning instead of the highway.
But I discovered I pay either way.
I pay in time or in money. In angst or in cash. Unfortunately, I seem to have more of time.
So I pay my time at stoplights.
After two years of navigating stoplights and memorizing their patterns, I have concluded that someone, somewhere, is smiling at me behind some camera.
Maybe it’s God. (He’s smiling at you too.)
Where God places us is no accident.
Throughout biblical history, the land of Israel sat in an amazingly strategic position as the only intercontinental land bridge between the superpowers of the ancient world.
The most important international highway of the Fertile Crescent ran the length of the land of Israel.
Some call this international highway the Via Maris, or the “Way of the Sea.”
Any nation coming to or from Egypt, or traveling from the Mediterranean to the Gulf of Aqaba, had to go through Israel. For many years, Israel remained the crossroads for international imperialism, war, and trade.
It’s hard to believe at first, but this highway offers a practical principle for our daily lives.
It’s all about influence.
Tough circumstances of life always change our minds about God.
They either tempt us to doubt what He’s promised, or they draw us closer to Him in faith. But we never stay the same.
God’s plan for your life is revealed and tested in times of struggle.
If you’re struggling today, don’t miss the opportunity to gain a greater understanding of God’s plan for you.
Joseph shows you how.
Most people live for dreams. It’s a quest, really.
Clinging to ideals of how life could and “should” be, they chase those dreams like a carrot on a stick. Always within reach, but never gotten.
I guess we’re all wired to pursue the ideal. The world calls it following “your heart,” and we Christians refer to it as “the will of God.”
But in truth, we generally settle for nothing less than our version of how life ought to be.
Any search for the ideal needs only to look at the Garden of Eden to see the futility of that pursuit.
God points us a different direction.
My dad used to have an old pickup truck I would borrow for odd jobs.
It wasn’t a good-looking truck, but it was faithful. The only glitch in the deal was the gas gauge. It read “almost empty” no matter how much gas you had.
If you had just filled up, it read “almost empty.” If you had half a tank, it read “almost empty.” The gauge only worked when you were out of gas! It would immediately move from “almost empty” to “empty.” I remember once I coasted into a gas station on fumes and a prayer.
I have found one thing in life that cuts the cable from the gas tank to the gas gauge quicker than anything else.
- It drains your relationships with people and dries up your walk with God.
- It blurs your vision, exaggerates your emotions, and takes a healthy, balanced perspective of life and twists it of proportion.
I’m talking about the pervasive and infectious attitude of bitterness.
You can be riding along with a full tank, but bitterness will show you a gauge “almost empty.”