Lucky Charm Christianity

It Makes No Sense to Take the Name of Christian and Not Cling to Christ

SYNOPSIS: Having God’s favor—his presence, power, and protection—is not a matter of what we receive in a certain moment of desperate need, it is the result of walking with him in a life-sustaining relationship over time. It is also the result of his sovereign hand that keeps us from danger or leads us into and through it, according to his will. We don’t have to twist God’s arm by chanting certain phrases, or unthinkingly repeating his name, or having perfect attendance in church, or praying three times a day, or giving to the poor, or whatever. Some of those activities might be good and fitting, but we don’t do them to get God’s favor. We do them because we have been ridiculously blessed by God’s favor.

Going Deep // Focus: 1 Samuel 4:3

After the battle was over, the troops retreated to their camp, and the elders of Israel asked, “Why did the Lord allow us to be defeated by the Philistines?” Then they said, “Let’s bring the Ark of the Covenant of the Lord from Shiloh. If we carry it into battle with us, it will save us from our enemies.”

Way too many believers have what I call a “lucky charm” Christianity. They believe that if they robotically go through certain motions, or if they repeat certain spiritual phrase by rote, then God’s favor and protection will be guaranteed. For instance, that is what our friend does who makes the sign of the cross before stepping to the plate to take a swing at a high fastball with the bases loaded in the ninth with two outs and his team three runs down is using God as his lucky rabbit’s foot. But that is also what our friend is doing who mindlessly “pleads the blood” of Jesus to relieve a suddenly crisis.

I don’t meant to step on your toes if any of those things are precious to you, but having God’s favor—his presence, power and protection—is not a matter of what you do in a certain moment of desperate need, it is the result of walking with him in life-sustaining relationship over time. It is also the result of his sovereign hand that keeps us from danger or leads us into and through it, according to his will. We don’t have to twist God’s arm by chanting certain phrases, or unthinkingly repeating his name a billion times in prayer, or having perfect attendance in church, or praying three times a day, or giving to the poor, or whatever….

Though some of those activities are good and fitting, we don’t do them to get God’s favor; we do them because we have been ridiculously blessed by God’s favor. Some of the aforementioned things—like mindless repetition of his name—are simply learned behaviors. But they don’t make you more lovable to God. He loves you anyway—if you don’t do them, and yes, even if you do. While I might get irritated with your “rituals”, God’s love for you is not diminished.

Yet the truth remains that God wants an intimate, moment-by-moment, love relationship with you instead of rote ritualism. He doesn’t want it to be fear-based, routine, or works oriented. He wants you to be connected deeply with him so that his life can constantly flow to you. Jesus said it this way in John 15:5-9,

I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing. If anyone does not abide in me he is thrown away like a branch and withers; and the branches are gathered, thrown into the fire, and burned. If you abide in me, and my words abide in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. By this my Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit and so prove to be my disciples. As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Abide in my love.

The Israelites didn’t get that. They didn’t abide in God’s love. In fact, they had removed themselves far from him. And as a consequence, godless enemies continually harassed them—in this case, the nasty, old Philistines. When the Philistines went to war against them, Israel mistakenly assumed they got walloped simply because they didn’t have the Ark of the Covenant with them in battle—their lucky charm. How wrong they were, for when they took it into the ark into the next battle, they found out that the it did not force God to show up and win the game for them.

God wanted a relationship with his people, but he treated him like a good luck charm. That never works. Just remember that.

God wants to be in relationship with you as a loving Father to a loving child. That is where the favor flows!

Going Deeper With God: Ask the Holy Spirit to reveal to you where perhaps you are exercising faith in a luck charm sort of way. If he doe, repent of it and simply ask him to reconnect you to the Vine!

Hanging Around The Holy But Never Hearing The Holy Spirit

Get Hungry For God—He's Great!

SYNOPSIS: You and I live in a glorious time when the presence of the Holy Spirit is continual. We don’t need a priest to mediate the Lord’s presence or a tabernacle to be the place where God’s voice can be heard. Through our daily times with God and in the gatherings of our faith community, we should expect to receive the voice of God. God desires to speak to us, and that should be the ongoing experience of both our personal and our corporate Christianity. If we are not hearing from God; worse, if we are not even expecting God to speak, then something is amiss in our spirituality. If our kids are clueless about the voice of God, then we—and they—are missing a vital piece of what it means to be part of New Testament Christianity. Dallas Willard said, “Few people arise in the morning as hungry for God as they are for cornflakes.” Get hungry for God—He longs to speak to you!

Going Deep // Focus: 1 Samuel 3:1

Meanwhile, the boy Samuel served the Lord by assisting Eli. Now in those days messages from the Lord were very rare, and visions were quite uncommon.

I Samuel 3 introduces the Bible reader to Samuel. It is also the introduction to what will be one of the greatest periods of spiritual awakening in Israel under Samuel’s leadership. He will be the last and arguably the greatest of Israel’s judges. We actually met Samuel in the first chapter of this book that bears his name when the Lord granted his previously barren mother Hannah’s request for a son.

In fulfillment of a vow that Hannah made that dedicated Samuel to the Lord’s service, when the boy was weaned she took him to Eli the high priest so that he could serve as an assistant in the tabernacle. Samuel would grow up hanging around the holy. Our story today occurs most likely when Samuel is around twelve, and Eli is well into his nineties.

While the time of Samuel’s leadership will bring Israel back to God, it begins because of very dark conditions in Israel. Not only had the nation drifted from its spiritual moorings, Eli was a bad High Priest, and his sons, Hophni and Phinehas, were thoroughly wicked. Eli was lazy, and he had neither controlled his sons nor held them accountable for their immoral behavior. And the sons were so corrupt that the Lord has determined to slay them.

All of what I have just described will unfold in intriguing detail over the next few chapters. Samuel will be uniquely dialed into the voice of God. But in this chapter, he wasn’t. We could excuse his initial spiritual dullness because he was so young. And throughout his life, he would regularly experience the voice of God like few ever have. Yet on this occasion when God spoke, Samuel didn’t have a clue it was God.

So let’s focus on that very thing, and extract an application from it. We are told in the very first verse that Samuel was serving the Lord in the daily duties of the tabernacle. He was the high priest’s assistant. We are also told that any word from God was rare in those days. People were not receiving revelations—the prophetic voice calling Israel to repentance had been silenced. So rare was it that God spoke that when he finally did, Samuel was clueless that it was God. He actually thought it was Eli messing with him.

How sad. That anyone could hang around the holiness of God, administering his holy things, yet never hear the voice of the Holy Spirit—and in fact, not even be aware of the Spirit or crying out for a word from the Lord or expecting God to speak—that itself is a spiritual indictment of the worst order.

You and I live in a glorious time when the presence of the Holy Spirit is continual. We don’t need a priest to mediate the Lord’s presence or a tabernacle to be the place where God’s voice can be heard. Through our daily times with God and in the gatherings of our faith community, we should expect to receive the voice of God. God desires to speak to us, and that should be the ongoing experience of both our personal and our corporate Christianity. If we are not hearing from God; worse, if we are not even expecting God to speak, then something is amiss in our spirituality. If our kids are clueless about the voice of God, then we—and they—are missing a vital piece of what it means to be part of New Testament Christianity.

Few people arise in the morning as hungry for God as they are for cornflakes or toast and eggs. (Dallas Willard)

God wants to speak. If he isn’t, that is not his fault, it is ours. We have moved away from him. We have put distance between the Almighty and us. We have programmed the Spirit right out of our daily lives and our weekend gatherings. We are hanging around the holy yet never hearing from the Holy Spirit. When you think about it, how terribly sad is that!

If you are not hearing from God, the good news is, he wants to speak. So come before him with a repentant heart, realign your life to give time to hear his voice, get into his Word, begin to ask him to talk to you and then listen on a consistent basis, and he will speak.

You and I need a word from God, and he longs to give it. May God grant us a hearing of his voice!

Going Deeper With God: If you are not hearing from God, come before him with a repentant heart, realign your life to give prime time to hear his voice, get into his Word, begin to ask him to talk to you and then listen. Do that on a consistent basis, and God will speak to you.

Made For Another World

"I Will Come Back For You!" ~Jesus

SYNOPSIS: Jesus’s revelation of his Second Coming and the planned retrieval of his followers to a newly constructed eternal dwelling in John 14:3 – “When everything is ready, then I will come and get you, so that you can always be with me” – is the most comforting and motivating promise that he ever made. Allow his promise to both soothe and strengthen you today because it is yet another reminder that you were “made for another world.” This world is not your home; a better one is coming – and soon! And until that great day comes, your longing for the next world is to energize you for tireless kingdom work in this present world.

Project 52—Memorize:
John 14:2-3

“In my Father’s house are many rooms; if it were not so, I would have told you. I am going there to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am.”

Jesus knew that what he was about to say would upset his disciples; perhaps even cause them to panic. They had left everything to follow him, and now that public opinion had turned against his messianic ministry, their very lives were in danger along with his. Yet this small band of men had still thrown in with Jesus. And now he was telling them that he was about to leave them for another world.

But Jesus made two incredible promises to his disciples in John 14 as he revealed his exit plan that would shore up their courage and give them the confidence to carry on with his plans to transform the world through their witness. First, he revealed that the Holy Spirit would take his place and come alongside them, and unlike him, actually take up residence within them. (John 14:16-17) It would be the ongoing ministry of the Holy Spirit who would comfort, guide, and empower the disciples to accomplish even greater results than Jesus himself had achieved.

The second promise was that just as surely as he was going away, and just as surely as he had come a first time, he would come back a second time and get them. The next time, he would not come to live with them, he would come to take them to a place that he was now leaving to prepare especially for them.  He would be constructing a new home in a new place in another world just for them—that was his promise. And he asked them, as tough as the news of his departure was on them, to trust him on this and to not be troubled by his absence. (John 14:1).

It was this revelation of his Second Coming and the planned retrieval of his followers to a newly constructed eternal dwelling that was and still is to be the most comforting and motivating promise that Jesus made. It is to comfort because, as C.S. Lewis said, it is a powerful and ongoing reminder that we “made for another world”. This world is not your home; a better one is coming!

But Jesus’ promise was more than just wishful hoping for an escape hatch from this world to the next, it was also to be a powerful motivator that much was needed to be done before his return. Just as he would be working on our new dwellings while he is away, we are to be working to spread his fame in this world before he returns. It was precisely our longing for the next world that is to energize us for tireless kingdom work in this present world.

Jesus’ promise to return and retrieve us is still in effect. Just as it was to comfort his disciples then, it is to comfort us today. Just as it was to energize them for kingdom work back then, the fact that he could return at any moment, perhaps even the next moment, is to motivate us to tirelessly represent his cause today.

If you belong to Christ, you were made for another world. Don’t ever forget that. It will keep your heart strong and your hands active—which is exactly how I want him to find me when he comes to get me.

“If we really believe that home is elsewhere and that this life is a ‘wandering to find home,’ why should we not look forward to the arrival?” ~C.S. Lewis

Reflect and Apply: Spend some time today thinking about your eternal home. That is not a waste of time, by the way, it is what you were meant to do. In history, “you will find out that the Christians who did most for the present world were precisely those who thought most of the next.” (C.S. Lewis)

Intentional Parenting or Unintentional Consequences

Train Up a Child in the Way They Should Go

SYNOPSIS: The ultimate parental dereliction of duty is to allow the children to parent themselves. Your children need a dad and a mom who will give them definite direction in the way they should go. And the promise of scripture is that when they are old, they will not depart from it. That is quite a risky promise, but it is God’s, not mine.

Going Deep // Focus: 1 Samuel 2:12-13, 22

Now the sons of Eli were scoundrels who had no respect for the Lord or for their duties as priests…. Now Eli was very old, but he was aware of what his sons were doing to the people of Israel.

Eli was the high priest of Israel as the period of the Judges was coming to a close. Arguably, there was no higher public role than his. Yet there was a job more important than being the Chief Spiritual Officer of Israel, and that was being a dad to his two sons, Hophni and Phinehas.

Now while these two were grown men and Eli was very old at the time of this story, it is obvious that many years had passed where Eli had been derelict in his parental duties. Hophni and Phinehas were very wicked men, even though they were priests of the Lord like their father.

The story of this family doesn’t give any details of their upbringing, except that as we have already seen, this was a time in Israel’s spiritual journey that God had been moved to the margins and people were doing whatever they thought best. (Judges 22:25) We don’t know what had happened, or what had not happened. We don’t know if Eli had been off shepherding Israel but not shepherding his own home. We don’t know if Eli was simply lazy as a dad, or if he had a pushover personality, or if his sons were just bad apples, or all of the above.

What we do know is that when we get to these early chapters in 1 Samuel, Hophni and Phinehas were abusing their spiritual authority. They were cheating people out of sacrifices that were meant to the Lord, they were seducing women who came to worship, and were using their role to benefit themselves, and they had deeply offended the Lord, who was now ready to end not just their ministry as priests, but their very lives:

Eli said, “You must stop, my sons! The reports I hear among the Lord’s people are not good. If someone sins against another person, God can mediate for the guilty party. But if someone sins against the Lord, who can intercede?” But Eli’s sons wouldn’t listen to their father, for the Lord was already planning to put them to death. (1 Samuel 2:24-35

Now like many parents, Eli had a heartfelt concern for his sons’ wicked behavior. But unfortunately, like many parents, his concern was not matched by action. And his dereliction of duty only allowed their evil to grow worse, until it reached the point where God had determined to slay them. Keep in mind that God didn’t predetermine that these two would be evil—that is not what the writer is telling us when he says, “they wouldn’t listen to their dad, for God was planning to kill them.” What he is saying is that because of their deliberately evil actions, the Lord allowed their hearts to grow beyond repentance. In other words, God had given them what they were determined to have, and now they would harvest the wild oats they had sowed.

Of course, the overarching purpose of this story is to connect the increasingly lawless times of the judges with the arrival of Israel’s monarchy. Interestingly, scripture takes quite a bit of space to do that, using Judges, Ruth, and the early part of 1 Samuel to make sure we know how awful society will get when God is not at the center. The account of Eli and his evil spawn is yet one more story that adds to this indictment.

Yet while that is the general theme, we can still extract some very important life applications from these accounts—including this one. One of those applications for me is the recognition that my highest call and chief mission in life is to honor Christ by being an effective father. Furthermore, the fruit of my mission will be seen in my kid’s and grandkids’ lives as they reach adulthood—it will be reflected in their own reverence for the Lord and the values of godliness they choose to live by. As they follow God of their own accord, that is the greatest tribute to what kind of dad I have been

Now that won’t happen just by virtue of being a parent to your children. It will be the result of intentional parenting and a determination to be the kind of mom or dad that honors God—especially the kind that honors God by insisting that your children give him the respect that is due.

Eli didn’t. He let his boys parent themselves until it was too late. The good news is, you can be different, especially if your children are still young. And if they are not, then start with where you are and exert the godliest influence you can. And with God’s help, your sincere efforts will have an effect.

The ultimate parental dereliction of duty is to allow the children to parent themselves. Your children need a dad and a mom who will give them definite direction in the way they should go. And the promise of scripture is that when they are old, they will not depart from it. That is quite a risky promise, but it is God’s, not mine.

Going Deeper With God: Have you ever shared your spiritual values with your children or grandchildren? If you haven’t, look for an opportune time to tell them what you believe and why you believe it. Believe me, it will leave an impression.

Praise Your Way Through Pain

Worship Until Worship Becomes Your First Response To Life - God or Bad

SYNOPSIS: Learn to worship until worship becomes your first and best response to not only the delightful but to the devastating things in life. As tough as it may be to offer your praise to God when things aren’t going your way, it’s the best and only thing that will set your heart right. Brennan Manning writes in Ruthless Trust, “To be grateful for an unanswered prayer, to give thanks in a state of interior desolation, to trust in the love of God in the face of the marvels, cruel circumstances, obscenities, and commonplaces of life is to whisper a doxology in darkness.” The Old Testament Hannah worshiped her way through barrenness. May that be true of you, too. Wherever the barrenness is—in your relationships, your finances, your career, your ministry, or even your walk with the One you are worshiping—offer him your worship. He sees your way and he knows his plans to fulfill his purpose in you, and he will do it!

Going Deep // Focus: 1 Samuel 1:10-11

Hannah was in deep anguish, crying bitterly as she prayed to the Lord. And she made this vow: “O Lord of Heaven’s Armies, if you will look upon my sorrow and answer my prayer and give me a son, then I will give him back to you. He will be yours for his entire lifetime, and as a sign that he has been dedicated to the Lord, his hair will never be cut. As she was praying to the Lord, Eli watched her. Seeing her lips moving but hearing no sound, he thought she had been drinking. “Must you come here drunk?” he demanded. “Throw away your wine” She replied, “Oh no, sir! I haven’t been drinking wine or anything stronger. But I am very discouraged, and I was pouring out my heart to the Lord. Don’t think I am a wicked woman! For I have been praying out of great anguish and sorrow.”

Nobody really understands the pain of desiring children but not being able to have any like the barren. Hannah was a childless woman in a culture where children meant everything—a woman’s worth and desirability to her husband, her bragging rights at family gatherings, the admiration of the other women at the market, her husband’s ammunition for one-upping the other guys hanging out at the city gates, as well as a whole host of other cultural notches on the belt that came with having kids. And there was one other benefit to having children that had an even more significant meaning to married couples in Israel: eternal life. You see, through posterity, the family DNA, the family name, the family’s unending future would be carried forth in perpetuity.

So in light of all that, Hannah’s grief over having no children is more than most of us could ever begin to understand—unless, of course, you have suffered the disappointment of barrenness yourself. Even her husband, Elkanah, didn’t get it:

Why are you crying, Hannah?” Elkanah would ask. “Why aren’t you eating? Why be downhearted just because you have no children? You have me—isn’t that better than having ten sons? (I Samuel 1:8, NLT)

Either he was a complete dolt and didn’t get it, or he was a complete dolt who also happened to be an insensitive brute. But Elkannah wasn’t alone in this matter: Even Hannah’s pastor didn’t fare too well in the Mr. Sensitive category. He accused her of being drunk as she silently poured out her heart to the Lord:

Seeing her lips moving but hearing no sound, Eli thought she had been drinking. “Must you come here drunk?” he demanded. “Throw away your wine!” (I Samuel 1:13-14, NLT)

Hannah was alone in her grief, and even worse, she had no hopes that things would be any different in the future, destined to a life of barrenness. So what is a misunderstood, hopeless, devastated, childless woman to do? Well, here’s what Hannah did: she worshiped.

You will notice in the story that Hannah went before the Lord year after year—she didn’t give up. She poured out her heart, time and time again—trusting that God would one day hear her. She faithfully presented herself in sacrificial worship before the Lord not only with her husband, but also with his other wife and her mean-spirited rival, Penniah (I Samuel 1:7)—she pressed into God. As difficult as her situation was, Hannah worshiped the One who had her life, including all its details, big and small, in his good hands. And finally, in timing understood only by God, he granted her request and she bore Samuel, who grew up to be the greatest of Israel’s prophets.

Hannah worshiped! That’s what you and I must learn to do, too, until worship becomes our first and best response to not only the delightful, but to the devastating things in life. If you are a childless woman whose pain and disappointment is understood only by God—worship him. He is your only hope and the One who knows his plans for your life—plans that are always good, even when you don’t particularly like them. And if you are suffering other kinds of barrenness—in your relationships, your finances, your career, your ministry, or even your walk with the One you are worshiping—offer him your worship. He knows your way, and he knows his plans for you. Jeremiah 29:10-14, one of the great promises for those who are in the midst of pain, promises,

This is what the Lord says: “You will be in Babylon for seventy years. But then I will come and do for you all the good things I have promised, and I will bring you home again. For I know the plans I have for you,” says the Lord. “They are plans for good and not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope. In those days when you pray, I will listen. If you look for me wholeheartedly, you will find me. I will be found by you,” says the Lord. “I will end your captivity and restore your fortunes. I will gather you out of the nations where I sent you and will bring you home again to your own land.”

As tough as it may be to offer your worship to the Lord when things aren’t going your way, it’s the best and only thing that will set your heart right. Brennan Manning writes in his great little book, Ruthless Trust,

To be grateful for an unanswered prayer, to give thanks in a state of interior desolation, to trust in the love of God in the face of the marvels, cruel circumstances, obscenities, and commonplaces of life is to whisper a doxology in darkness.

Hannah worshiped the Lord. May that be true of you, too!

Going Deeper With God: Today, whether you are in a delightful place, or wrestling with disappointment—even if you are in a pace of devastation—offer God your heart in worship. The saints of old would tell you that is the very best therapy.

What Even God Can’t Do

Clue: It Has To Do With You

SYNOPSIS: No human being wants to be forgettable. No kid ever grows up in hopes of living an anonymous life, and after having offered a lukewarm existence to this world, says, “bury me in an unmarked grave.” Of course not! Everyone wants to be remembered; God has wired that into our DNA.  The good news is, God wants to convince you that to him, you are unforgettable. And he sent his Son to die on a cross just to make sure you never forget that.

Project 52—Memorize:
Isaiah 49:15-16

“Can a mother forget the baby at her breast and have no compassion on the child she has borne? Though she may forget, I will not forget you! See, I have engraved you on the palms of my hand; your walls are ever before me.”

There is something that even God can’t do: Forget you.

And that’s a good thing since no human being wants to be forgettable. No kid ever grows up in hopes of living an anonymous life, and after having offered a lukewarm existence to this world, says, “bury me in an unmarked grave.” Of course not! Everyone wants to be remembered; God has wired that into our DNA.

Perhaps the reason he made us that way was to cause us to crave his attention. In human relationships, being an attention-getter is usually, at worst, a bad thing, and at best, a very annoying trait, but with God, craving attention is actually okay, since he made us for that.

It is stunning how much the Bible speaks of God remembering his people, especially at times when they think he may have forgotten them. If you want to really be encouraged that God won’t forget you, consider the following:

“But God remembered Noah and all the wild animals and the livestock that were with him in the ark, and he sent a wind over the earth, and the waters receded.” (Genesis 8:1)

“So when God destroyed the cities of the plain, he remembered Abraham, and he brought Lot out of the catastrophe that overthrew the cities where Lot had lived.” (Genesis 19:29)

“Then God remembered Rachel; he listened to her and opened her womb.” (Genesis 30:22)

“Moreover, I have heard the groaning of the Israelites, whom the Egyptians are enslaving, and I have remembered my covenant.” (Exodus 6:5)

“Early the next morning they arose and worshiped before the Lord and then went back to their home at Ramah. Elkanah lay with Hannah his wife, and the Lord remembered her.”  (I Samuel 1:19)

“Surely he will never be shaken; a righteous man will be remembered forever.”  (Psalm 112:6)

“Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you.”  (Hebrews 13:5)

Get the picture? Obviously, God wants to convince you that to him, you are unforgettable. And he sent his Son to die on a cross just to make sure you never forget that.

Yes, you are someone God can’t forget. I hope you will always remember that!

 “God does not forget us and we should not forget Him!” ~Mark Engler

Reflect and Apply: Take a moment to consider God’s promise through Isaiah. Now every morning this week, offer a prayer of thanksgiving back to God for his promise to keep you as unforgettable in his eyes.

God’s Higher Ways

Current Circumstances Give Way To Future Redemption

SYNOPSIS: Boaz was the father of Obed. Obed was the father of Jesse. Jesse was the father of David. And Jesus was the descendent of David—and Ruth. Ruth was a widowed, poor, gentile refugee, and an unlikely choice to be in a genealogical lineup that would lead to Jesus the Messiah. That God’s fondness of unlikely choices is also seen in the stories of the scheming Tamar, the harlot Rahab, the adulteress Bathsheba, and the young virgin Mary—all unlikely choices to be in a genealogical lineup that would lead to Jesus the Messiah. But God’s ways are above our ways, which means that 100 percent of the time, he is at work, perfecting his plan in everything that concerns us—even though we can’t see it.

Going Deep // Focus: Ruth 4:13-15, 21-22

So Boaz took Ruth into his home, and she became his wife…the Lord enabled her to become pregnant, and she gave birth to a son. Then the women of the town said to Naomi, “Praise the Lord, who has now provided a redeemer for your family! May this child be famous in Israel. May he restore your youth and care for you in your old age. For he is the son of your daughter-in-law who loves you and has been better to you than seven sons!” … Boaz was the father of Obed. Obed was the father of Jesse. Jesse was the father of David.

Boaz was the father of Obed. Obed was the father of Jesse. Jesse was the father of David. And Jesus was the descendent of David…and Ruth.

Ruth was a foreigner in Israel—a refugee really. She was of no account, a young Moabite widow who decided to throw in with her widowed mother-in-law Naomi, who was returning hat in hand to her own people in Israel. Naomi, and thus Ruth, had nothing. They would have to depend on the compassion of distant relatives for their survival. They were homeless, indigent, stuck in a cycle of bad news, and without much hope for the future. They had no offspring to even carry on their name.

Yet they were really good people; women of virtue. More than that, they were women who, unknown to them at the time, were a significant piece to God’s grand scheme to shape the future of the human race. They didn’t see what we now see. Even while God worked things out for them in the long run, they still died having no clue how significant their lives were.

One never knows what God is up to, but he is always up to something. He knows what he is doing; his ways are beyond ours. And they are perfect. What we can’t see at the time is that God is at work, perfecting his plan along with everything that concerns us (Psalm 138:8). We rarely see it in real-time, if ever, but we can trust him because he has proven himself trustworthy 100 percent of the time.

Strange how God works, isn’t it? What looks like a meaningless story at the time to us, or a hopeless story, God uses for his eternal purposes. What looks like B and C list actors in the plot, God’s long-term strategy turns them into major players in his plan for the ages. That is the story of scripture: the scheming Tamar, the harlot Rahab, the Gentile Ruth, the adulteress Bathsheba, and the young virgin Mary—all unlikely choices to be in a genealogical lineup that would lead to Jesus the Messiah.

And that will be your story, too—as well as mine. We will go to our graves without really knowing how God used our everyday faithfulness to accomplish eternal things. Someday we will; eternity will tell the story of God’s ways in our lives, but for now we can only offer obedience and trust, leaving the results up to the Great Director.

In my humanness, I wish I knew the end of my story from the beginning—and had creative input in how it was going to turn out. But that would actually limit the brilliance of the part I will play because God’s ways are infinitely greater, more creative, and brilliant than my mind could ever conceive.

God is writing my story, and yours, too, even as we speak. And believe me, my friend, it is going to be a doozy! Better yet, believe what the Bible says about it!

For since the world began, no ear has heard and no eye has seen a God like you, who works for those who wait for him! (Isaiah 64:4)

Going Deeper With God: Thank God in advance for the great story he is writing about you!