This is a line from a story in the Jesus Storybook Bible.. a book that was read to the children every Sunday during our worship service. Yesterday at church, our pastor said that those stories from that book were the first sermon and his preaching was the second sermon. He quoted that line from the book ” He was making the sad things come untrue“.. I love that ! It makes me smile to think of everything sad becoming untrue as the kingdom of God moves ahead. What an amazing promise He has given us.
The same thing is happening here every single day.. sometimes we see it and sometimes we don’t. The truth is the truth whether we are able to see it or not. God’s invisible kingdom is real.. more real than all the sad things that happen on this earth every single day. His kingdom is more real than every single problem we face.. even the ones that seem unbearable. His kingdom is more real than our feelings, our thoughts, or our ideas. What an amazing realization that is.. if only we could hang on to that picture. There is another story.. a larger story that surrounds us and God is the author. He has written it for us and He is with us in that story.. guiding us, protecting us, comforting us, and encouraging us. We are not alone in what seems to be our small sad story.
As I am writing this I feel like I want to grab on to that big story.. to live in it fully.. to have a larger role.. to enter the Kingdom of God in a deeper way.. following Him fully.. trusting Him totally.. even when I have no answers.. even when I am hurting.. lost and sad. I want to be a part of His great work in this world as He redeems everything that was lost. I believe He is asking us all to enter in.. to seek Him and His ways.. to believe that He is totally in control.. when all we see is an out of control world … As we live in these times.. we are in the world that He entered.. something has already happened.. but there is more.. we are between the already and the not yet.. living in that very unsettled place.. He is our rock and our safe place.. there is no other.
He told us to ” Seek Him and His kingdom and all else would be added on to us” He meant it then and He means it now..
One day the Pharisees asked Jesus, “When will the Kingdom of God come?”
Jesus replied, “The Kingdom of God can’t be detected by visible signs.You won’t be able to say, ‘Here it is!’ or ‘It’s over there!’ For the Kingdom of God is already among you.“
No.. I’m not referring to the plane ride back from Maui. My bumpy landing is the one that I had coming back into my life after our vacation. It felt so good to be in another story for 10 days.. it wasn’t a perfect story.. they never are. It was a new story.. an unpredictable story that was filled with new people, places, and things. In the vacation story, there is no concern about the future because every day brings beauty, surprises, and romance. I made a deliberate attempt to live fully through each day and took lots of pictures so the memories would stay fresh after we returned.
Once we were home I struggled with the same pressures and circumstances that I was able to leave behind. I think I expected everything to change dramatically (wishful thinking!) As I continue to make the adjustment.. .I’ve started to realize that I can either choose my own small story again or the larger story that God is unfolding. The small one is dark and negative..the larger story is hopeful and faith filled. This is a choice that we all face continually and one that I have written about repeatedly.
I write about it because we have an enemy who wants us to forget the goodness of God. He wants to steal the beauty and romance that God has for us whereve we are. John Eldredge writes about this in the end of his book The Sacred Romance. ” Remembering is not mere nostalgia; it is an act of survival, our way of watching over our hearts with diligence…When I consider all that is at stake in this journey I am on, how vulnerable are my heart and the hearts of those I love, how quickly I forget, I am moved to fall on my face and cry out to God for the grace to remember.” What more can I say?..except that I landed safely in the arms of God.
” I am always with you; you hold me by my right hand. You guide me with your counsel, and afterword you will take me into glory..my flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever.” Psalm 73
An email came from one of my favorite authors.. Carolyn James. In the newsletter she included a wonderful quote from J. I. Packer… another great writer. If you have not read her book.. When Life and Beliefs Collide.. I recommend it. God has given her wonderful insights.. they were life changing for me.
Every day I am becoming more aware of the larger story. What I mean is the fact that we live our lives in a story that is much bigger than what we see when we look around. There is another story unfolding that is the one that God has written..the one that we must understand if we are going to survive all the twists and turns of this life.
It is too easy to just look at our circumstances and become immersed in what we are experiencing. It all seems so real and so intense and so difficult. We need the larger story to keep everything in context. God is in control.. He is not absent..uninvolved or too busy. He sees the whole picture of our lives and knows exactly what we need to continue..to blossom..to thrive. We may not be able to grasp it with our minds or feelings.. but if we trust Him.. He will show us glimpses of how it all makes sense.
So..for me.. I come back to Him.. asking for wisdom, insight and understanding. He comes through every single time.
Here’s the quote:
“We are cruel to ourselves if we try to live in this world without knowing about the God whose world it is and who runs it. The world becomes a strange, mad, painful place, and life in it a disappointing and unpleasant business, for those who do not know about God. Disregard the study of God, and you sentence yourself to stumble and blunder through life, blindfolded, as it were, with no sense of direction and no understanding of what surrounds you. This way you can waste your life and lose your soul.”
I am in that state right now. We are taking a trip in a few weeks and I have been looking forward to it for months. The time is near. I enjoy looking ahead.. sometimes I wish that I was wired so it did not matter, but I’m not. I need to look forward even though I know that living each day is the goal. Are you the same way? I don’t think it is a conflict..we can enjoy the day and at the same time look ahead to the future.
The key for me is trust. If I envision the future on the basis of the past or if I am writing my own small story.. the future can look bleak or scary. If I look ahead with my eyes on God’s goodness and His faithfulness over my lifetime.. I can see only a future designed by Him..a future that is part of the larger story. So every day I make the choice to choose His way and not mine. Not always easy.. but part of the life.
The year is almost half over.. what will the rest of it hold? We don’t know and yet we can anticipate..looking ahead with confidence that prayers will be answered..desires will be fulfilled..life will unfold in just the right way. God is in control and His heart is for us.
“Trust in the Lord and do good. Then you will live safely in the land and prosper. Take delight in the Lord, and he will give you your heart’s desires.”
It’s really the bigger picture. Since I am a big picture person, my heart longs for this. I’m always looking for patterns and signs that more is going on than what meets the eye. God never fails to give me what I am longing for. He is more than willing to expand our vision..to reveal things that we could never see without Him.
A key for me is being alone and being quiet. Sometimes I wake up at night and suddenly I see a situation in a new way. God is always looking for those windows in our lives that will allow Him to communicate truth to us. Our world is addicted to activity..God is not. If you look at the gospels, Jesus often found solitary places away from the crowds..time to receive from His Father. He modeled something important for us..something very counter-cultural.
The Holy Spirit speaks to our hearts in a quiet voice..it doesn’t take much to miss it. At the same time He is eager to reach us..it doesn’t take much to receive from Him. Setting aside time.. with no agenda..no preconceived ideas.. an open heart..a quiet place..a willingness to wait. Try this on a regular basis and you will be surprised at how much bigger the story gets. It is an antidote to worry and anxiety. Our small stories are often filled with fear and unhappy endings. His story is filled with good desires, hope, promises, and an amazing ending!
“With many stories like these, he presented his message to them, fitting the stories to their experience and maturity. He was never without a story when he spoke. When he was alone with his disciples, he went over everything, sorting out the tangles, untying the knots.”
Yes..this post is for you! Remember to rest. What exactly is this rest I am talking about? It is intentional, not incidental. It doesn’t just happen because it is Saturday or Sunday or whatever day you may have without scheduled activities. The rest I am writing about is learning to be still and rest in His goodness. It is an inner rest..one that happens in our emotions, spirits, and bodies. This is the rest that God promises to His people.
How many of us experience it? I’m afraid the answer is sad..not many. We live in our busy demanding culture..often there is not even time to think about resting. Technological advances help make us more and more available to anyone at any time. We are plugged in..waiting for the next text, phone call, email.. whatever. Maybe it is time to take a break and look at the condition of our hearts. Is your heart heavy? Filled with anxiety or worry? Fearful? Tired?
All of these are signs that you need to rest. Corrie ten Boom wrote a little book about forty years ago .. the title is ” Don’t Wrestle, Just Nestle.” I love the title and today I pulled it off my shelf. I used to read this book over and over and I remember the reason. Her faith is so solid, so pure and so practical. She reminds her readers of the joy and peace that God has for us as we trust Him. Her life was filled with incredible trials..time spent in a concentration camp where she watched her sister die. She did not have it easy.. that was not the point. She learned to rest in Him.
The book is full of quotes.. I wish I could read it to you right now. One that jumped out at me says.” To worry is the same as saying to God ‘ I don’t believe you’.” Wow!
When we rest in God, we are telling Him that we believe Him, that we know that He is good and that we will lay down our own agenda in exchange for the abundant life He offers us. As we stop striving and trying to write our own stories, He will unfold each new chapter of our lives at just the right moment. He carries us in His arms and takes us forward..protecting and providing for us.
“Today is yesterday’s tomorrow you worried about, and all is well.”
” Fear knocked at the door. Faith answered. No one was there.”