Posts Tagged ‘God’s providence’

1 Samuel 12:1-25
Samuel’s Farewell Address

Since about 2009, all the music that I listen to on the radio is Christian contemporary. Rarely, if ever, do I listen to mainstream popular music today. I know I sound like an old fart when I say this but today’s secular music is a far cry from the great rock ‘n’ roll music that we had back in the 80’s and early 90’s. Back then, we had songs about sex but they were highly veiled references to sex that you had to figure out. But most music then told stories of tragedy, triumph, injustice and victory and just everyday life. The music from those days is just hands down better than anything in the marketplace today. Name a popular song from 5 years ago that you still remember today? Now, think of music from the 80’s and early 90’s and you could come up with at least a dozen great songs that are still receiving air play today on alternative stations or are still downloaded at Apple iTunes.

Fast forward to today’s popular music, it’s for the most part blatantly and opening about sexual conquests and songs seem now to be more about the bass beats and dancing than it about the words of a song. A definition of a great song is whether it still gets air play on the radio twenty years from now and you remember exactly what was going on in your life when that song comes on the radio twenty years from now. Today’s music is just so lacking in greatness that there are few songs that I will crossover on the radio to hear. There are few songs in popular culture now that I feel disappointed for not having heard before. Maybe, I have just become old. But I think that there are many who will agree with me, even as young people. Music often reflects the values of the culture. Our culture has degenerated into how many people you can have sex with. Our culture has degenerated into meaningless sexual relationships. Our culture has degenerated into sex being a recreation sport. And our music reflects and reinforces the culture’s values. It’s not that I am old in my ways. I love good music when I hear it even if it comes from today’s world. I wish that I COULD like the popular music of today. I really do. I mean I am a kid at heart (my wife says I am a 15 year old boy in a 55 year old body) so I enjoy new, fresh things and love new ideas and considering things from different and new ways. But today’s music horrifies me for the most part for the values that it is instilling particularly in young girls. I fear for what popular music will be like when my granddaughter, Ralyn, becomes aware of popular music and what it will teach her.

Having said all that there are occasionally songs that come out of today’s world that I just love. Right now, one of my favorite songs is Thunder by Imagine Dragons. I just love that song. It has been out there for a couple of months now but I still stop what I am doing to listen to it. The lyrics go something like this:

Just a young gun with a quick fuse
I was uptight, wanna let loose
I was dreaming of bigger things
And wanna leave my own life behind
Not a yes sir, not a follower
Fit the box, fit the mold
Have a seat in the foyer, take a number
I was lightning before the thunder

Thunder, thunder
Thunder, thun’, thunder
Thun-thun-thunder, thunder, thunder
Thunder, thun’, thunder
Thun-thun-thunder, thunder

Thunder, feel the thunder
Lightning and the thunder
Thunder, feel the thunder
Lightning and the thunder
Thunder, thunder
Thunder

Kids were laughing in my classes
While I was scheming for the masses
Who do you think you are?
Dreaming ’bout being a big star
You say you’re basic, you say you’re easy
You’re always riding in the back seat
Now I’m smiling from the stage while
You were clapping in the nose bleeds

Thunder
Thunder, thun’, thunder
Thun-thun-thunder, thunder, thunder
Thunder, thun’, thunder
Thun-thun-thunder, thunder

Thunder, feel the thunder
Lightning and the thunder
Thunder, feel the thunder
Lightning and the thunder
Thunder

Thunder, feel the thunder
Lightning and the thunder, thunder

Thunder, feel the thunder
Lightning and the thunder, thunder
Thunder, feel the thunder
Lightning and the thunder, thunder
Thunder, feel the thunder
Lightning and the thunder, thunder
Thunder, feel the thunder
Lightning and the thunder, thunder

Thunder, thunder, thunder
Thun-thun-thunder, thunder
Thunder, thunder, thunder
Thun-thun-thunder, thunder
Thunder, thunder, thunder
Thun-thun-thunder, thunder
Thunder, thunder, thunder
Thun-thun-thunder, thunder

Here’s the link to the video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fKopy74weus

I just love this song. It is fresh. It is different. It is not about banging women. It is about striving to be more than who you are right now. It is about dreaming of bigger things. It is also, to me, about the miracles that happen that make someone great and others not. It is often by the grace of God that we become great. Lightening and thunder remind us that God is in control and not us. Maybe, I misread the real meaning of the lyrics and the authors of the song may tell different, but to me, this song reminds us that we are not in control. God is. He is the lightning and the thunder under which all things operate. We should be grateful to him when fame and fortune come our way as all things are subject to the lightning and the thunder of God.

That’s the thing I thought of this morning when I read this passage, 1 Samuel 12 – how even kings are subject to God. As evidence of this fact, Samuel calls down the lightning and the thunder and the rain to prove that Saul and any and all kings are subject to God. The rain in the dry season proves it. Let’s read the passage now.

Chapter 12
1 Then Samuel addressed all Israel: “I have done as you asked and given you a king. 2 Your king is now your leader. I stand here before you—an old, gray-haired man—and my sons serve you. I have served as your leader from the time I was a boy to this very day. 3 Now testify against me in the presence of the Lord and before his anointed one. Whose ox or donkey have I stolen? Have I ever cheated any of you? Have I ever oppressed you? Have I ever taken a bribe and perverted justice? Tell me and I will make right whatever I have done wrong.”

4 “No,” they replied, “you have never cheated or oppressed us, and you have never taken even a single bribe.”

5 “The Lord and his anointed one are my witnesses today,” Samuel declared, “that my hands are clean.”

“Yes, he is a witness,” they replied.

6 “It was the Lord who appointed Moses and Aaron,” Samuel continued. “He brought your ancestors out of the land of Egypt. 7 Now stand here quietly before the Lord as I remind you of all the great things the Lord has done for you and your ancestors.

8 “When the Israelites were[a] in Egypt and cried out to the Lord, he sent Moses and Aaron to rescue them from Egypt and to bring them into this land. 9 But the people soon forgot about the Lord their God, so he handed them over to Sisera, the commander of Hazor’s army, and also to the Philistines and to the king of Moab, who fought against them.

10 “Then they cried to the Lord again and confessed, ‘We have sinned by turning away from the Lord and worshiping the images of Baal and Ashtoreth. But we will worship you and you alone if you will rescue us from our enemies.’ 11 Then the Lord sent Gideon,[b] Bedan,[c] Jephthah, and Samuel[d] to save you, and you lived in safety.

12 “But when you were afraid of Nahash, the king of Ammon, you came to me and said that you wanted a king to reign over you, even though the Lord your God was already your king. 13 All right, here is the king you have chosen. You asked for him, and the Lord has granted your request.

14 “Now if you fear and worship the Lord and listen to his voice, and if you do not rebel against the Lord’s commands, then both you and your king will show that you recognize the Lord as your God. 15 But if you rebel against the Lord’s commands and refuse to listen to him, then his hand will be as heavy upon you as it was upon your ancestors.

16 “Now stand here and see the great thing the Lord is about to do. 17 You know that it does not rain at this time of the year during the wheat harvest. I will ask the Lord to send thunder and rain today. Then you will realize how wicked you have been in asking the Lord for a king!”

18 So Samuel called to the Lord, and the Lord sent thunder and rain that day. And all the people were terrified of the Lord and of Samuel. 19 “Pray to the Lord your God for us, or we will die!” they all said to Samuel. “For now we have added to our sins by asking for a king.”

20 “Don’t be afraid,” Samuel reassured them. “You have certainly done wrong, but make sure now that you worship the Lord with all your heart, and don’t turn your back on him. 21 Don’t go back to worshiping worthless idols that cannot help or rescue you—they are totally useless! 22 The Lord will not abandon his people, because that would dishonor his great name. For it has pleased the Lord to make you his very own people.

23 “As for me, I will certainly not sin against the Lord by ending my prayers for you. And I will continue to teach you what is good and right. 24 But be sure to fear the Lord and faithfully serve him. Think of all the wonderful things he has done for you. 25 But if you continue to sin, you and your king will be swept away.”

In this passage, we see that God granted Israel’s request for a king, but His commands and requirements remained the same. God was to continue to be their true King. Both Saul and the people were to continue to be subject to God’s laws and His rule. Nothing had changed. No person is ever exempt from God’s laws. No human action is outside his jurisdiction. God is the true King of every area of life. It is not us that is in control. It is He. We must recognize His kingship and pattern every area of our life according to His principles and to show daily gratitude for the grace and provision that God has shown us.

Here, God reminds and reinforces this fact by sending the lightning and the thunder. Thunder. Feel the thunder….sorry…that song is stuck in my head again…God sent the rain to remind the Israelites who is God and who is not. He reminds them that they did not earn their place as God’s chosen people. He chose them out of no merit of their own. Let us be reminded too that our salvation was not earned. It was a gift from God. We did not earn our salvation. We also are not the ones who are in charge of our lives. It is God and we should live lives of gratitude for His grace given to us and for His guidance to our lives.

Feel the thunder. The lightning and the thunder. Lightning and the thunder. Feel the thunder. God is in control. Live subject to Him. Obedience to His Word brings joy and peace. Lightning and the thunder. Feel the thunder.

Amen and Amen.

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1 Samuel 7:3-17 (Part 1 of 3)
Samuel Leads Israel to Victory

Have you ever thought what would have happened in your life if a certain event had not happened? Those moments may have not even seemed significant at the time but when you have time later on down the line, you look back and go “Oh wow! That moment right there was truly pivotal in my life.” Well, Elena and I have one of those moments in a string of oh wow moments back in 2007-2010. There were a series of events back in that time period that are truly pivotal in our relationship with each other and with our respective relationships with the Lord. God’s guiding hand was there. We see it now when looking back. But for today, I want to talk about the last of that pivotal string of events. It has to do with license plates and closed post offices.

License plate and closed post offices? Mark, what are you talking about? Well, you will see why this moment was a pivotal moment. Prior to moving to the Duncan-Lyman-Wellford, SC area, I had been living “temporarily” in Santa Clara/San Jose, CA for three years. Finally, when my job out there was finally considered “permanent”, I finally moved my stuff from storage in South Carolina, Elena’s stuff from her apartment, and the cars out to California. So, Elena and I lived together and then finally married while we were living in our first place together in Livermore, CA (one of the eastern suburbs in the Bay Area). We figured this thing was going to be a permanent gig. So, we became Californians. We registered our cars in California. Got California licenses. The whole smash. We were official California residents. We immersed ourselves in that foreign culture. We enjoyed exploring our newfound homeland every weekend. We also loved “going into the city” as it is called out there. When you go to San Francisco from any of the suburbs, it is called “going into the city.” San Francisco was such a neat place. Art. Culture. History. Great food. So much to see there. We “went into the city” so many times during that year but yet we never saw all the sights. It was a fun experience that I will never forget.

Then, all of sudden the powers that be within the Fujikura world in which I work decided to consolidate my company’s accounting/finance function with that of the rest of US-based Fujikura companies at the US headquarters of our sister company, AFL Telecommunications, in Duncan, SC. So, about one year after my company spent about $20 grand to move my and Elena’s belongings to the Bay Area, they would now spend another $20 grand to move it all back to the east coast. We found a nice home with a big lot in Duncan when we moved back (we lived in that house from August 2010 til we sold it in October 2016 and moved to our current home in the Lyman Mill Village). During that first couple of weeks we lived there in Duncan, we were desperately trying to find a new home church that we could call our home church. We had visited one church and knew that it was NOT it. We were researching on the internet to find a church with a modern worship style and a relentless pastor of the Word and top-notch musicians. We had all that in Livermore. We wanted that here. But back to the story.

But because we had become Californians. We had to become South Carolinians once more. We had to get new South Carolina drivers licenses and car tags. Then, as part of the re-acclimation to South Carolina, we had to mail our California car tags back the California DMV after we had received our SC tags. So, being the great wife that Elena is who takes care of all the details of my life so I don’t have to, she got the tags all prepared to mail. She then that next morning set off for the Duncan post office. But being a small suburban town’s post office, it was actually closed for lunch. Can you believe that? No one’s there from like 12pm to 1:30pm. Well, Elena didn’t have time for that so she pulled out her trusty GPS on her phone and found the nearest next post office was in Lyman. So, she took off to the Lyman post office. While she was there she noticed LifeSong Church across the highway from the Lyman post office. LifeSong did not have the new worship center back in August 2010 but the sign outside was modern but the building looked like an old school church. So, Elena rushed back home after mailing off our car tags back to the California DMV and looked up LifeSong on the internet. Man, it looked and felt like what we had at Livermore. So, we went the next Sunday to check it out. That was on August 15, 2010….and the rest is history. It’s been pretty well documented here in my blogs over the past 4-5 years that we are now in leadership at LifeSong. LifeSong is such an integral part of our lives and we have grown so much spiritually there. No matter where God leads us from this point forward and even if He eventually leads us away from this area, LifeSong will stand as the most instrumental place in our lives. And I cannot overstate that more!!!

And it’s all because of license plates and closed post offices. Every time I pass by Duncan’s post office, I thank God that it was closed that when Elena went by there. We may have never found LifeSong otherwise. So, the Duncan post office is a mile marker for us. Every time I pass by it, I think of God’s providence. Every time I pass by it, I thank God that it was such a small post office that it was closed for lunch.

Those mile marker moments in life is what I thought about after reading today’s passage, 1 Samuel 7:3-17, for the first of three reads today. With that thought in my mind, let’s read it together right now:

3 Then Samuel said to all the people of Israel, “If you want to return to the Lord with all your hearts, get rid of your foreign gods and your images of Ashtoreth. Turn your hearts to the Lord and obey him alone; then he will rescue you from the Philistines.” 4 So the Israelites got rid of their images of Baal and Ashtoreth and worshiped only the Lord.

5 Then Samuel told them, “Gather all of Israel to Mizpah, and I will pray to the Lord for you.” 6 So they gathered at Mizpah and, in a great ceremony, drew water from a well and poured it out before the Lord. They also went without food all day and confessed that they had sinned against the Lord. (It was at Mizpah that Samuel became Israel’s judge.)

7 When the Philistine rulers heard that Israel had gathered at Mizpah, they mobilized their army and advanced. The Israelites were badly frightened when they learned that the Philistines were approaching. 8 “Don’t stop pleading with the Lord our God to save us from the Philistines!” they begged Samuel. 9 So Samuel took a young lamb and offered it to the Lord as a whole burnt offering. He pleaded with the Lord to help Israel, and the Lord answered him.

10 Just as Samuel was sacrificing the burnt offering, the Philistines arrived to attack Israel. But the Lord spoke with a mighty voice of thunder from heaven that day, and the Philistines were thrown into such confusion that the Israelites defeated them. 11 The men of Israel chased them from Mizpah to a place below Beth-car, slaughtering them all along the way.

12 Samuel then took a large stone and placed it between the towns of Mizpah and Jeshanah.[a] He named it Ebenezer (which means “the stone of help”), for he said, “Up to this point the Lord has helped us!”

13 So the Philistines were subdued and didn’t invade Israel again for some time. And throughout Samuel’s lifetime, the Lord’s powerful hand was raised against the Philistines. 14 The Israelite villages near Ekron and Gath that the Philistines had captured were restored to Israel, along with the rest of the territory that the Philistines had taken. And there was peace between Israel and the Amorites in those days.

15 Samuel continued as Israel’s judge for the rest of his life. 16 Each year he traveled around, setting up his court first at Bethel, then at Gilgal, and then at Mizpah. He judged the people of Israel at each of these places. 17 Then he would return to his home at Ramah, and he would hear cases there, too. And Samuel built an altar to the Lord at Ramah.

In this passage, we see that the Israelites had great difficulty with the Philistines, but God rescued them. In response, the people set up a large stone as a memorial of God’s great help and deliverance. During tough times or times of transition or just any unique moment in our life history, we may need to remember the crucial turning points in our past to help us through the present. Memorials can help us remember God’s past victories in our lives and as such they can remind us that God will have victory again in our lives.

For Elena and me, we look back at how God’s guiding hand has been in our lives at every point. What seemed like random events to the casual observer of our lives, we see that God’s providence has been all over our lives. This happened leading that happening leading to this happening. It is God pointing and guiding to where we are today. That gives us great confidence for the future. We trust the Lord with our future. We know that He will be ahead of us already addressing what is next for us before we even get there. I think these things because of license plates and closed post offices.

Amen and Amen.

Ruth 2:1-23 (Part 5 of 5)
Ruth Gleans in Boaz’s Field

We will have to go all the way back to creation. Those who do not believe in the existence of God or see Him as some remote force that is not a being with a personality and character would have us believe that the universe began for no apparent reason. They will dazzle with their understanding of how the universe operates upon universal laws that have existed since the beginning of time. The major overriding law of the universe that governs and is superior to all other laws of nature and the universe is cause and effect. In their godless universe, it all works very nicely and neatly if you want to ignore God. Everything since the beginning of time is cause and effect. Even as our world rotates around the sun here in what we, as man, call the 21st century, it is the continuing and ongoing result of the law of cause and effect. It will continue to be so until the end of the universe in this form as we know it. Sounds all nice, neat and tidy. It is a continually working law and the whole universe operates on it. It all works well until you go back to the moment the universe began.

Everything created has a moment of creation. It is not different with the physical universe within which we exist. So, the universalists would have you believe that the universe spontaneously erupted billions of years ago. Not debating the age of the universe here, but the moment of its creation. If the universe has always operated and will continue to always operate on the laws of cause and effect then what caused the universe to be created to begin with? Those who do not believe in a being with personality and character and purpose known as God would have us believe that there was this spontaneous big bang that occurred that started the whole universe. What caused this big bang? They would have you believe that it occurred spontaneously. However that would require that you suspend your belief in that overriding and evident law of the universe, the law of cause and effect. They would have you believe that it was suspended for just a moment at the most critical moment in the history of the universe, its beginning. What was the cause? To them, it was nothing. It was just a spontaneous thing. No cause, only effect.

That’s where I believe differently from those who do not believe in God. I believe science is our limited attempt to explain what God has done in the universe. This amazingly intricate and expansive universe even on this earth’s planetary is mind blowing. There has to be a being with personality, character, and intelligent will to have created the universe and it is He who created the law of cause and effect in His infinite intelligence and will that governs the universe to this day and beyond. It is then, and therefore, illogical to assume that at the moment of creation there was not a divine moment of the institution of the laws that govern the evolution, past, past and future, of the universe. A universe that happily operates on that law must have therefore had a moment of cause, the first cause, that set all this into motion. That first cause is God himself. When He spoke the universe into creation, it was the big bang. He was the cause and the universe is the effect which is now and everspinning set of actions and reactions, causes and effects, set off by the initial cause in God (the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit). God started it all be speaking the universe into creation. Whether the universe is 6,000 years old or billions and billions of human years old, I do not care to debate because literally we do not know beyond a shadow of doubt how old the universe is. Scientist can make educated guesses based on sets of predisposed assumptions. Creationist who believe in the existence of God can debate with the evolutionists all day long about the time frame. But none of us really know. And we won’t know until we move to our eternal destination in heaven or hell in the eternal, non-temporal side of existence. Thus, the debate of the age of the universe is a debate that can never be definitively won.

But at that moment of creation there is a flaw in the argument of those who do not believe in God and say that there was no cause to the beginning of the universe. To them it randomly and spontaneous created itself. There is no Higher Power to them. Thus, the universe has to suspend its own laws to be created. I had rather believe that cause and effect law was operating at its best at that moment. God created the moment of creation. He is Creator. The created cannot create itself. The created must be created by a creator. In this case, the Creator is God. He set all of this intricacy that we call the universe into motion the moment that He as the infinitely wise, eternal One spoke the universe into creation, the first cause. He created the universe because as the intelligent being with character, feelings, and purpose WANTED it to be created. It was created for no other reason that God WANTED it created. The universe thus is testament to the existence of a reasoned, intelligent, willful, purposeful Creator.

It gives me great comfort to know this fact. That was the thing that struck me when I read this passage/chapter of Ruth for the fifth of five reads through this morning – how there are no coincidences in God’s kingdom. Just like there are no coincidences in how the universe was created, there are no random acts in God’s universe. That includes us as his created beings. He leads us. There are no coincidences. Let’s read through Ruth 2:1-23 once again today:

2 Now there was a wealthy and influential man in Bethlehem named Boaz, who was a relative of Naomi’s husband, Elimelech.

2 One day Ruth the Moabite said to Naomi, “Let me go out into the harvest fields to pick up the stalks of grain left behind by anyone who is kind enough to let me do it.”

Naomi replied, “All right, my daughter, go ahead.” 3 So Ruth went out to gather grain behind the harvesters. And as it happened, she found herself working in a field that belonged to Boaz, the relative of her father-in-law, Elimelech.

4 While she was there, Boaz arrived from Bethlehem and greeted the harvesters. “The Lord be with you!” he said.

“The Lord bless you!” the harvesters replied.

5 Then Boaz asked his foreman, “Who is that young woman over there? Who does she belong to?”

6 And the foreman replied, “She is the young woman from Moab who came back with Naomi. 7 She asked me this morning if she could gather grain behind the harvesters. She has been hard at work ever since, except for a few minutes’ rest in the shelter.”

8 Boaz went over and said to Ruth, “Listen, my daughter. Stay right here with us when you gather grain; don’t go to any other fields. Stay right behind the young women working in my field. 9 See which part of the field they are harvesting, and then follow them. I have warned the young men not to treat you roughly. And when you are thirsty, help yourself to the water they have drawn from the well.”

10 Ruth fell at his feet and thanked him warmly. “What have I done to deserve such kindness?” she asked. “I am only a foreigner.”

11 “Yes, I know,” Boaz replied. “But I also know about everything you have done for your mother-in-law since the death of your husband. I have heard how you left your father and mother and your own land to live here among complete strangers. 12 May the Lord, the God of Israel, under whose wings you have come to take refuge, reward you fully for what you have done.”

13 “I hope I continue to please you, sir,” she replied. “You have comforted me by speaking so kindly to me, even though I am not one of your workers.”

14 At mealtime Boaz called to her, “Come over here, and help yourself to some food. You can dip your bread in the sour wine.” So she sat with his harvesters, and Boaz gave her some roasted grain to eat. She ate all she wanted and still had some left over.

15 When Ruth went back to work again, Boaz ordered his young men, “Let her gather grain right among the sheaves without stopping her. 16 And pull out some heads of barley from the bundles and drop them on purpose for her. Let her pick them up, and don’t give her a hard time!”

17 So Ruth gathered barley there all day, and when she beat out the grain that evening, it filled an entire basket.[a] 18 She carried it back into town and showed it to her mother-in-law. Ruth also gave her the roasted grain that was left over from her meal.

19 “Where did you gather all this grain today?” Naomi asked. “Where did you work? May the Lord bless the one who helped you!”

So Ruth told her mother-in-law about the man in whose field she had worked. She said, “The man I worked with today is named Boaz.”

20 “May the Lord bless him!” Naomi told her daughter-in-law. “He is showing his kindness to us as well as to your dead husband.[b] That man is one of our closest relatives, one of our family redeemers.”

21 Then Ruth[c] said, “What’s more, Boaz even told me to come back and stay with his harvesters until the entire harvest is completed.”

22 “Good!” Naomi exclaimed. “Do as he said, my daughter. Stay with his young women right through the whole harvest. You might be harassed in other fields, but you’ll be safe with him.”

23 So Ruth worked alongside the women in Boaz’s fields and gathered grain with them until the end of the barley harvest. Then she continued working with them through the wheat harvest in early summer. And all the while she lived with her mother-in-law.

In this passage, we see that though Ruth may not have always recognized God’s guidance, He had been with her every step of the way. She went to glean and “just happened” to end up in the field owned by Boaz – who “just happened” to be a close relative. This was more than mere coincidence. As you go about your daily lives and the tasks within it, God is working in your life – in ways that you may not even notice. We must close the door on what God can do. Events do not occur by luck or coincidence. We should have faith that God is directing our lives for His purpose for our lives and for His overall glory.

The universe was not some random uncaused creation. It was purposefully done by God. He has purpose in everything even when we do not believe He exists. This world would be a random and purposeless and hopeless existence without God. To know that He has an ordered purpose for everything and that it begin with the beginning of the universe gives me great comfort and purpose to my life. Without God, this existence is entirely meaningless and all is wasted effort while we are here. We are forgotten in three to four generations. Our existence on this side of eternity is futile in the absence of God. I do not care if we have the most knowledge as man that we ever have had at this moment in time. But it is based on the collective work of man leaving it behind for the next generation to build on. However, for each individual, in the absence of God, the end of our life is the end of our existence. This is it. 70, maybe 80, years and you are done. No more existence. Gone. The knowledge you gained and imparted stays here and you are worm food. No existence. God, my God, how depressing and futile then does life seem in the eyes of someone who does not believe in God.

There is an answer. God does exist. He created the universe and ordered its workings from the beginning of time. And because we were given free will be our creator that gives us the ability to gain knowledge about our universe that He created, God took a chance that we would use it appropriately. We did not. Our world is in the mess that it is in now not because of God but because of the sinful nature of man. In order for our perfect God who is without sin to accept us to Himself with our flawed sin nature, He had to send His Son, who is of one and same essence as the Father, to take the punishment for our sins and make us imputedly clean again through this act of taking on the wrath of the perfect God against sin. All we have to do is believe that God exists, is an intelligent being who has a design and plan for everything including reconciling ourselves to Him through the sacrifice of Jesus Christ on the cross and being of the same essence as God that Jesus arose from the dead to give us hope, and a purpose and a future in Him through His resurrection. All this is meaningful. All this has purpose. This is evidence of God caring about you and as individual. Through Christ, there is an eternal existence in heaven. There was a meaning for you to have this temporal existence. There was no coincidence about it. You were put here for a reason and it was to give glory to God, the Creator of all things.

There are no coincidences in the universe He created. And there are no coincidences in your life. God has a plan. He had a plan for Ruth. He has a plan for you!

Amen and Amen.

Joshua 3:1-17 (Part 4 of 4)

The Israelites Cross the Jordan

 

Why is it that people who do not believe in God either miss His miracles or try to explain them away as random events. They do not believe that there is a God who is interactive with the world in which we live. Everything is unrelated to them. Everything is random. How sad of an existence must it be for those who do not believe in God! To them, everything is just capricious randomness with no direction, no point, and no connection between events that are leading us somewhere under the guidance of a higher power. There are events in my life that are not parting the Red Sea or parting the Jordan River miracles but miracles nonetheless. For me, these events are part of God’s orchestration of events and people and timing. These are not random events. These are God’s little miracles that are huge in my life.

 

The first miracle is what I call the California miracle. In the beginning of the Great Recession that began in 2007 and lasted to 2010, the company that I was working for at the time in Charlotte, NC was bought out by a European communications investment company. Since they managed their investments from a corporate office in London and all of our company’s communications holdings were in Europe, it just made no sense for this company to keep a corporate office in Charlotte. They closed us down. They gave us all varying degrees of severance packages. So, there I was, at the beginning of our economy’s deep slide into the biggest economic downturn since the 1930s, without a job. By God’s providence, I had a nice severance package and then I was only without a job for 26 days. I was able to land a consulting gig in Duncan, SC working as a JSOX contractor. JSOX was the Japanese government reaction to the financial scandals that the nation had suffered through just a few years prior. It was similar to the financial revelations here in the US that led our country to pass the Sarbanes-Oxley bill into law. It was known affectionately (not so much) as the SOX law. Both SOX and JSOX require companies to prove that they have internal controls to prevent financial reporting fraud and prove that they have tested them and that they are working.

 

Because of this Japanese law being implemented at the Japanese-owned companies around the world, I was hired to help America Fujikura, Ltd. (AFL) and its legal subsidiaries here in the US to implement its JSOX program. It involved identifying every business process of the company and documenting process walkthroughs so that we could identify all the company’s internal controls. It involved seven months of consulting work here in Duncan, SC. It was during that time that I was assigned to work on the internal controls of one of AFL’s legal subsidiaries, Fujikura America, Inc. (FAI) This company’s financial reporting controls were in shambles. AFL could not trust the financial information coming out of FAI. Long story short. I was sent out to California to fix the problems. That I moved out to California was a miracle to begin with. Nonbelievers would call this pure economic hardship. I would call it a miracle. I had never lived outside of South Carolina – ever. Sure, I had traveled the world in my various jobs but never had I lived anywhere other than South Carolina.

 

If I had not moved out to California, I would have had to find other employment. Something told me to make the move. It was God’s guiding hand. I moved out to California in May 2008. It was that move that caused my then-girlfriend (who is now my wife) and I to have a bi-coastal relationship – seeing each other about every three to four weeks. Eventually the strain of a bi-coastal relationship caused her to seek a transfer to her company’s California location so that she could move out there to be with me. Her job was in Stockton. Mine was in Santa Clara. We decided to (think God’s miracles) locate in a town halfway in between our two jobs – Livermore, CA.

 

Then one night there was this couple Steven and Sophia from this little start up church in town that was having a concert from a local Christian band to celebrate the church’s new home – the gymnasium of a former elementary school turned community center. Steven and Sophia were at our apartment complex putting out door hangers advertising the event as much as they could throughout our complex. However, toward the end of this project they had realized they had not gotten enough door hangers to hang a hanger on every door. They had miscalculated by one building. All other buildings had been saturated. A door hanger for every door in each three story building. However, they only had one hanger left for one door for our entire building. Steven had the one door hanger they had left. He could have done the easy thing. Put the door hanger on the first door he came to on the first floor. But being the quirky dude Steven is, he decided not to do the easy thing. He went up three flights of stairs and placed the door hanger on our apartment on the third floor of the building. We had just moved there a few weeks before. The Holy Spirit moved me to talk Elena not so much going to the concert but going to church at this little church the day after the concert on Sunday.

 

The rest is history. We fell in love with the church. We became best friends with the pastor and his wife. Elena accepted Christ as her Savior two months later. I started maturing from the spiritual baby that I had been for 8 years. We starting growing deeper and deeper in our relationship with Christ. Although we ended up moving back to South Carolina a year later because of my job, the time in Livermore seemed so much more than a random move for a short period of time. It was a watershed moment in both of my wife’s life and my own. Had we not been involved in Livermore Alive Community Church, we would not have been hungry for a similar kind of church back here in South Carolina when we came back. Without Livermore Alive we would not have been searching for LifeSong Church – the church we came to know and are still apart of today right here in Lyman, SC.

 

Since we have been at LifeSong, we have grown in ways that we could have never grown in Livermore. It is a bigger church and it has forced us to grow up in our faith and not depend on being patted on the back or hand picked by the pastor. We have learned so much here. It is because of the idea that we are responsible for our own relationship with Jesus Christ and not to be coddled at the breast of our pastor that we have grown into leaders in the church and I have grown to hear the call to ministry. We both would not have been here for these things to happen in our walks with Jesus Christ if it were not for Livermore Alive. If it were not for the decision of Steve to run up three flights of stairs. Were it not for one last door hanger hung on one door in the last apartment building. Were it not for what seemed like a random event but rather a miracle of God. That miracle would not have happened if it were not for losing my job in Charlotte, accepting a consulting job that brought me to Duncan, SC. Without that miracle in the middle of a recession, there would not have been what seemed a random event of me focusing my work while in Duncan on the company’s California subsidiary. I call that a miracle. Without that miracle. I would not have moved to California. Without moving to California, my girlfriend (now my wife) would not have asked for a transfer to her company’s location in California. Without that miracle, we would not have located in Livermore. Without locating in Livermore, we would not having been living in Mill Springs Commons apartments. Without living at Mills Springs Common, we would not have been the only recipient in our building of a door hanger. Without receiving that door hanger on our door, we would not have come to Livermore Alive Community Church. Without coming to Livermore Alive Community Church, we would not have been disciple by Pastor Luke Brower and his wife, Felicia. Without Livermore Alive, we would not have been ready for our church now, LifeSong Church. Without LifeSong Church, we would not be anywhere near as grown up in our faith as we are now. These are the unseen miracles of God. This is the California miracle.

 

Add to that, everyone one of the people that turned out to be the key members of Livermore Alive Community Church are now gone and the church has since folded. However, there was that one great year that meant so much to all of us that were there. It was that bright shining moment that we were brought together by God so that He could do great things in our lives and the lives of others. Robert & Carol Baer, Dan & Leslie Hoffmeister, Steve & Sophia Adams, Luke & Felisha Brower (pastor and his wife), Mark & Elena Bowling, all were some of the key members of that church. All moved away within 2 years of the first couple moving. The Baers moved to Oregon. The Hoffmeisters moved to Pennsylvania. The Adams to Tracy, CA (and then to Littleton, CO). The Browers moved to Greeley, CO. The Bowling moved to Duncan, SC. All moved. The church didn’t necessarily fold because we all left but it did not help. We were all brought together for an intense year together that readied us to be dispersed around the country. You might call that one year a random bringing together of people simply by chance or by reason of jobs and or whatever. I call it a miracle. That year was so crucial in all our lives. When the first of us started moving away. It was not the same anymore. But when we were all together it was amazing. It was a miracle of God’s plan. Without that one intense year, we would not have been ready for LifeSong. I know this. That’s the amazing miracle of it all. All because of a door hanger.

 

The idea of God’s timeliness of His miracles is what struck me this morning as I read through this 3rd chapter of Joshua for one last time before we move on to the next passage. Let us read it together once more this morning:

 

3 Early in the morning Joshua and all the Israelites set out from Shittim and went to the Jordan, where they camped before crossing over. 2 After three days the officers went throughout the camp, 3 giving orders to the people: “When you see the ark of the covenant of the Lord your God, and the Levitical priests carrying it, you are to move out from your positions and follow it. 4 Then you will know which way to go, since you have never been this way before. But keep a distance of about two thousand cubits[a] between you and the ark; do not go near it.”

 

5 Joshua told the people, “Consecrate yourselves, for tomorrow the Lord will do amazing things among you.”

 

6 Joshua said to the priests, “Take up the ark of the covenant and pass on ahead of the people.” So they took it up and went ahead of them.

 

7 And the Lord said to Joshua, “Today I will begin to exalt you in the eyes of all Israel, so they may know that I am with you as I was with Moses. 8 Tell the priests who carry the ark of the covenant: ‘When you reach the edge of the Jordan’s waters, go and stand in the river.’”

 

9 Joshua said to the Israelites, “Come here and listen to the words of the Lord your God. 10 This is how you will know that the living God is among you and that he will certainly drive out before you the Canaanites, Hittites, Hivites, Perizzites, Girgashites, Amorites and Jebusites. 11 See, the ark of the covenant of the Lord of all the earth will go into the Jordan ahead of you. 12 Now then, choose twelve men from the tribes of Israel, one from each tribe. 13 And as soon as the priests who carry the ark of the Lord—the Lord of all the earth—set foot in the Jordan, its waters flowing downstream will be cut off and stand up in a heap.”

 

14 So when the people broke camp to cross the Jordan, the priests carrying the ark of the covenant went ahead of them. 15 Now the Jordan is at flood stage all during harvest. Yet as soon as the priests who carried the ark reached the Jordan and their feet touched the water’s edge, 16 the water from upstream stopped flowing. It piled up in a heap a great distance away, at a town called Adam in the vicinity of Zarethan, while the water flowing down to the Sea of the Arabah (that is, the Dead Sea) was completely cut off. So the people crossed over opposite Jericho. 17 The priests who carried the ark of the covenant of the Lord stopped in the middle of the Jordan and stood on dry ground, while all Israel passed by until the whole nation had completed the crossing on dry ground.

 

In this passage, we see that the Israelites crossed the Jordan River, according to biblical scholars, in the spring when it was overflowing its banks. God chose the time when the river was at its highest depth and its most dangerous current to demonstrate His power – parting the waters so that the entire nation could cross on dry ground. Those who do not believe in God or question His existence often say that there was just some natural occurrence that happened to allow them to cross on dry land such as a landslide. Believers feel that this was a direct act by God. In either case, God showed His great power by working a miracle of timing and location to allow the people to cross over the Jordan on dry ground. This testimony of God’s supernatural power served to build the Israelites’ hope in God and to give them a great reputation among their enemies, who happened to outnumber them greatly.

 

We may can give physical explanations of God’s miracles that discounts them or does away with them. But you have to do some explaining to do so. You have to discount so many things that come together at certain times. If you don’t want to see God’s miracles you can explain them away all you want to. However, for the believer, we see God’s miracles all around us. We see the succession of miracles in our lives, one right after another.

 

When I take time to reflect on how God has orchestrated the last decade of my life, I am in freaking awe! You may think that my trek from 28 years living in Greenville, SC from age 14 to age 42 to the Charlotte, NC area to the San Francisco Bay Area, CA as all unconnected, random employment decisions but each one is a miracle of God. If I had not moved to Rock Hill, SC to a specific apartment complex there, I would not have met Elena. If I had not lost my job in CharlotteIf I had not moved to California, she would not have moved. If she had not moved out there, we would not have settled on Livermore, CA as the place that we were going to live. If we had not chose Livermore, CA, we would not have received the door hanger. If it were not for the door hanger, we would not have reached Livermore Alive Community Church. If it were not for Livermore Alive Community Church, we would not have been ready for LifeSong. If it were not for my company relocating us back to South Carolina, we would not be at LifeSong. It’s all connected.

 

It’s all God’s miracles. The miracle of a door hanger and what led up to it and what came after. Miracles. God showing His power.

 

Amen and Amen.