The Crooked Path – Ecclesiastes 7:13-14

“Consider God’s work! Who can straighten what God has made crooked? When times are good, enjoy the good; when times are bad, consider: God has made the former as well as the latter so that people can’t discover anything that will come to be after them” (Ecclesiastes 7:13-14, CEB).

How great is God’s work in His Creation. God knows exactly how He has made us and what we need to live fulfilling lives.

These verses notify us that although God is sovereign, our lives aren’t predetermined. Good times and bad times are both part of life. They make life a crooked path.

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When Sadness Turns to Joy – Ezra 3:10-13

HopeHope“No one could distinguish the sound of the joyful shout from the sound of the people’s weeping because the people rejoiced very loudly. The sound was heard at a great distance” (Ezra 3:13, CEB).

When Cyrus the Great, king of Persia, took over a vast territory from the Babylonians in 539 BC, he allowed the Jewish exiles from the Babylonian captivity to begin return to their ancestral land of Judah and rebuild the Temple in Jerusalem that had been destroyed by the Babylonians in 586 BC. They returned in several waves beginning in 538 BC.

The returning exiles encountered opposition to the rebuilding of the Temple from the nobles who had taken control of Judea after the exile that were closely related to the aristocracy of Samaria. So, reconstruction came to a halt.

The rebuilding of the Temple was resumed during the reign of Darius. Despite continued harassment by their neighbors, the Judeans persevered in their work. The construction was completed in 515 BC and the re-dedication of the Temple was celebrated with great ceremony.

During the celebration some of the priests, Levites and heads of families who had seen the First Temple wept aloud mourning the First Temple’s destruction. Yet, others shouted with joy at the completion of the construction of the Second Temple.

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Wait Training, Part 3: Wait Watchers – Isaiah 40:31

HawkWatching&WaitingBut they that wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings as eagles; they shall run, and not be weary; and they shall walk, and not faint” (Isaiah 40:31, KJV).

When we wait upon the Lord, our faith is actually strengthened because the act of waiting develops God’s perspective in us. In other words, it’s Wait Training!

So, wouldn’t you rather be having faith for what you know God wants to do and wants you to do instead of hoping that what you want to do is what God wants you to do?

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Wait Training, Part 2: The Inscrutability of God – Isaiah 40:28-29

Waiting_For_God“Do you not know? Have you not heard? The Everlasting God, the Lord, the Creator of the ends of the earth does not become weary or tired. His understanding is inscrutable. He gives strength to the weary, and to him who lacks might He increases power” (Isaiah 40:28-29, NASB).

When we wait upon the Lord, our faith is actually strengthened because the act of waiting develops God’s perspective in us. In other words, it’s Wait Training!

“Waiting upon the Lord” causes you to rise above your present circumstances to get a higher view, a more objective view, a God-view of them. From that vantage point, you can gain perspective about what it is that you are hoping and trusting God to do and thereby develop a better understanding of God’s plans and purposes for you.

When you follow the advice to “wait upon the Lord” (vs. 31), it’s easy to see why you must wait on God to act and to perform His will when you consider it within the context of the previous verses. God is the Everlasting Creator of the universe. Time and space exist only within His Infinite realm (vs. 28). So, He proceeds about the business of performing His will at the perfect pace!

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Wait Training, Part 1: Strengthening Your Faith – Isaiah 40:31

wait-trainingBut they that wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings as eagles; they shall run, and not be weary; and they shall walk, and not faint” (Isaiah 40:31, KJV).

When I was younger, we often sang this verse at prayer meetings or Bible studies as a song. Then, at the end of the verse we added this refrain to the song: “Teach me Lord, teach me Lord, to wait.”

The Hebrew word that is translated “they that wait upon” in the KJV finds its root in another Hebrew word that means to wait or look for, to hope for or expect. The sense of the waiting in this verse is eager expectation or anticipation. So, the NIV translates it as “those who hope” and the HCSB translates it as “those who trust.”

Unfortunately, when we talk about “waiting upon the Lord,” it’s not necessarily waiting with hopeful anticipation, but more like waiting with dreaded apprehension! For us, waiting upon the Lord is exceedingly distressful and practically unbearable. Instead of eagerly waiting upon the Lord, we impatiently wait upon the Lord.

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Living Life from the Bottom – Psalm 42

“Why am I so depressed? Why this turmoil within me? Put your hope in God, for I will still praise Him, my Savior and my God” (vs. 5).

Do you ever think you’ve got it all figured out?

Life is treating you well so you must be in God’s will because you are so blessed.

Then the bottom falls out of your life and all that “blessedness” seems to go away.

Then you get all conflicted and begin to question everything you think you knew about what is God’s will.

In fact, it may even seem as though God is hardly speaking to you any more.

These are some of the emotions the psalmist is expressing in this Psalm. He asks himself why he is so depressed when God is his hope and his Savior? He knows God is there and yet he yearns for fellowship with God: “As a deer longs for streams of water, so I long for you, God. I thirst for God, the living God” (vs. 1-2).

But life has him at a disadvantage; he is down and out and looking for a way up to God.

It’s as if he is living life from the bottom!

So, my fellow bottom-dwellers, when you live life from the bottom, what’s important to you is not so much that you get to the top, but simply that your cry for help is heard and heeded by God…to know that God hears you from the bottom!

There’s a passion (or desperation) for God that comes from being at the bottom that’s really not there when you’re at the top of your game.

You see, God’s Kingdom is the abode of desperate people: “The poor in spirit are blessed, for the kingdom of heaven is theirs” (Matthew 5:3).

We trust and hope in God the most when we have to, not when we want to.

It’s hope sustained by desperation!

God knows how we work and so this is the way He works on us, from the bottom up!

“We also rejoice in our afflictions, because we know that affliction produces endurance, endurance produces proven character, and proven character produces hope” (Romans 5:3-4, NLT).

When Futility Gives Way To Hope – Psalm 39:6-7

“Certainly, man walks about like a mere shadow. Indeed, they frantically rush around in vain, gathering possessions without knowing who will get them. Now, Lord, what do I wait for? My hope is in You” (Psalm 39:6-7, HCSB).

The psalmist realized that in the grand scheme of things his life was fleeting and short-lived, like a vapor or shadow.

People try to find meaning for their lives by gathering possessions as if more stuff will give more significance to their lives.

But, all our accomplishments, all our wealth, all our possessions fade away and are forgotten over time.

If our life in this world is to have any meaning, it must be that it is a preparation for eternal life.

For when we trust in God, we are trusting in God for eternal life.

And, if there’s nothing more than the span of our life on Earth, then our lives are lived in futility and our whole existence is meaningless.

But, when we trust in God, futility gives way to hope. And hope gives our lives meaning.

For those whose hope and trust is in God, life is meaningful and significant because it is not tied to earthly achievements but rather to a heavenly existence!

“Don’t collect for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal. But collect for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys, and where thieves don’t break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also” (Matthew 6:19-21, HCSB).

Faith-Confidently Looking Forward – Hebrews 11:8-10

“Abraham was confidently looking forward to a city with eternal foundations, a city designed and built by God.”Hebrews 11:8-10

In Hebrews 11, the “faith” chapter, the Hebrews writer defines faith and provides several biblical examples.

One outstanding example of faith the Hebrews writer describes is Abraham. The Hebrews writer reminds us how Abraham left his native land in obedience to God’s calling and went to Canaan where the nation of Israel was ultimately settled.

While Abraham traveled the full extent of the “promised” land, he never settled in one of the Canaanite cities but lived as a nomadic herdsman. Abraham’s son, Isaac, and grandson, Jacob, both lived the same way.

Since Abraham was promised the land of Canaan by God but never possessed it, the Hebrew writer says Isaac and Jacob inherited the promise of the land (vs. 9). Of course, we know that Abraham’s descendants never actually possessed the land of Canaan until after being a slave nation of Egypt for hundreds of years.

So what do we learn about faith from Abraham’s example? Faith is a confidence based on: (1) hope–confidence in a promise that has a future fulfillment, and (2) obedience–confident action in response to what God has made known.

Faith gives life purpose and meaning because faith allows us to live our lives confidently looking forward to what God has promised us in Christ regardless of present circumstances or events.

Hope, Faith’s Main Ingredient – Hebrews 11:13

“These all died in faith, not having received the things promised, but having seen them and greeted them from afar, and having acknowledged that they were strangers and exiles on the earth.” The presence of faith requires the existence of hope. In fact, hope is the main ingredient in faith: “Faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen” (vs. 1). All the great examples of faith in Hebrews 11 are characterized by having a hope for something beyond what this present life offers: “They desire a better country, that is, a heavenly one”(vs. 16). For example, if Abraham was looking for an earthly homeland, he could have returned to his hometown of Haran. Instead, he persisted in following God’s leading and focusing on the promise God made to him. So people who have faith in God are hopeful people and, conversely, people who do not have faith in God are hopeless people. When you are a Christian, you have joined the ranks of the hopeful. Like Abraham and the other great pillars of our faith, you have acknowledged that this world doesn’t offer what you are looking for because you are “looking forward to the city that has foundations, whose designer and builder is God” (vs. 10).