God Over History

ThanksLiving: 365 Days of Gratitude

God is over history. The biblical record over thousands of years proves it. The story of twenty centuries of Christianity bears it out. Our faith affirms it. God is sovereign over the affairs of this world, he is in control of all things, and he is in charge of you. So go with God and you will be on the right side of history.

Going Deep // Focus: Joshua 24:2-5, 14

Joshua said to the Israelites, “the Lord your God says to you…‘you crossed the Jordan and came to Jericho. The citizens of Jericho fought against you, as did also the Amorites, Perizzites, Canaanites, Hittites, Girgashites, Hivites and Jebusites, but I gave them into your hands. I sent the hornet ahead of you, which drove them out before you—also the two Amorite kings. You did not do it with your own sword and bow. So I gave you a land on which you did not toil and cities you did not build; and you live in them and eat from vineyards and olive groves that you did not plant.’ Now fear the Lord and serve him with all faithfulness. Throw away the gods your ancestors worshipped beyond the Euphrates River and in Egypt, and serve the Lord.”

These are the final words of General Joshua to the people of Israel, He is passing the baton after four decades of extraordinary leadership and victory after victory—a conquest for the ages. And he is recounting the activity of God for the people, reminding them of the sovereign hand of God in the entire history of Israel. God is over history.

It was God who selected their idol-worshipping ancestors out of a pagan culture and made them his own. It was God who sent Abraham and Jacob into Egypt. It was God who brought the nation back out of Egyptian slavery with great signs and wonders. It was God who fought for Israel during their wilderness journey, destroying each enemy nation that stood in their way. He provided food and water for them in the desert; he formed them from a collection of slaves into a mighty nation. It was God who drove out the inhabitants of Canaan and brought them into the Promised Land—a land flowing with milk and honey. God did it for them. God is over history.

Let us never forget what Joshua was so clear about: God is over history. That was true for the Israelites—proven over the several hundred years between Abraham’s call and Israel’s conquest of Canaan; that has been true over the two thousand years between Christ’s ascension and the present moment; that will be true between now and the Second Coming. God is over history.

We may not see the hand of God in the everyday details of our world, or of our lives, but history proves that God is over history. That is why Joshua’s charge to the Israelites is a charge that is valid for God’s people today—including you and me:

Now fear the Lord and serve him with all faithfulness. Throw away the gods your ancestors worshipped beyond the Euphrates River and in Egypt, and serve the Lord.

If God is over history, why would we not serve him in faithfulness? Why would we depend on any other source for provision and protection? Why would we worship the other gods of our culture—fame and fortune, power and pleasure? Why would we not wholeheartedly follow the one and only God over history? When you stop and think about it, any other choice but loving obedience to the Lord our God just doesn’t make any sense at all.

God is over history. So go with God. Get on the right side of history!

Going Deeper With God: Are you leaning on any source other than God for security, success or significance? Put God first! Repent where you have allowed allegiance to other gods to creep in and declare your undying loyalty to the God who is over history.

Useful Idiots

ThanksLiving: 365 Days of Gratitude

Joseph’s submission to the sovereignty of God allowed him to see the pain his brothers had inflicted not merely through his own perspective alone, but through a perspective that saw God working through their evil actions. He recognized that in all the circumstances of life, big and small, good and bad, God had been inexorably bringing the currents of his personal history to a providential conclusion.

Going Deep // Focus: Genesis 45:5

Don’t be upset, and don’t be angry with yourselves for selling me to this place. It was God who sent me here ahead of you to preserve your lives.

Useful idiots! With all due respect (it’s odd that we use that term when we’re about to disrespect someone!), that’s what I would call Joseph’s brothers. Or I could clean it up a bit and call them unwitting but useful instruments in God’s hands.

Twenty plus years after they had sold him into slavery, the brothers are now standing before Joseph, and they don’t even recognize him. They have been blinded by two decades of thinking he had long since died, their perspective jaded by the haunting fear, endless guilt and corrosive shame of what they had done. (Genesis 44:16) Finally, when Joseph’s identity is revealed, the brothers expect him to exact revenge, make them pay dearly and do to them what they had done to him.

But Joseph was cut from a different cloth than these lousy brothers. His submission to the sovereignty of God allowed him to see the pain they had inflicted not merely through his own perspective alone, but through a perspective that saw God working through their evil actions. Joseph recognized that in all the circumstances of life, big and small, good and bad, God had been inexorably bringing the currents of his personal history to a providential conclusion.

Joseph’s submission to the sovereignty of God is revealed three times as he discloses himself to his brothers with words to this effect: “Don’t beat yourself up; it was God, not you, who sent me here. You had a plan and God had a plan, and God’s plan trumped yours. You were simply unwitting but useful instruments in his hands.” (Genesis 45:5,7,8). Joseph’s brothers might have been idiots for selling him into slavery twenty plus years before, but they were useful idiots in the hands of the Providential Ruler of all mankind.

The bottom line to Joseph’s story is that God is in control. He turns what is meant for evil to our good, extracts glory for himself even in the most impossible circumstances, and no matter what, always, always, always fulfills his sovereign purposes. He is in control! He is the Sovereign God of the universe, the Providential Ruler over the affairs, big and small, of all mankind, the Incomparable One who works all things for his glory.

And here’s the kicker: He works all things not only for his own glory—but for your good! That’s right—for your good. Now why would the Sovereign, Providential, Incomparable One bother with little old you? Simply because you’ve surrendered your life to him; and when you did that, you, perhaps even unwittingly, signed up to be on his sovereign benefits plan.

So here’s the deal: If you have a few idiots making your life difficult, just remember, in God’s hands they are useful idiots.

Going Deeper With God: Here is a prayer you might want to offer today: “Sovereign Lord, today I express my trust that you will use what was hurtful to me for your glory and my good. I will refuse to allow bitterness and unforgiveness to take root in my spirit. Rather, by faith I will choose to see you actively at work in me.”

God Rules—Live With It!

Making Life Work
Read: Psalm 75
Focus: Psalm 75:6-7

No one from the east or the west or from the desert can exalt a man. But it is God who judges: He brings one down, he exalts another.

It is God who brings one down and exalts another! That is certainly a timely reminder, wouldn’t you say! It is neither the Democratic or the Republican National Committees that get their candidates elected; it is not how well organized the parties are at the grassroots level; it is not the hundreds of millions of dollars that we now spend to “buy” elections—although those factors certainly play into the outcome. But at the end of the day, it is what God permits that determines who will rise and who will fall.

The truth is, we see only a little slice of history. From our perspective, leaders get elected because the country was desperately needing change, or we were in a war and we needed a wartime leader in the Oval Office, or whatever other scenario we used to describe our current context. But God lives outside of time and above circumstances, and he is moving human history to a foreordained conclusion that goes well beyond our little slice in time. Daniel 2:20-21 reminds us,

Praise be to the name of God for ever and ever; wisdom and power are his. He changes times and seasons; he sets up kings and deposes them. He gives wisdom to the wise and knowledge to the discerning.

If we could truly absorb that truth and embrace it as a guiding principle for our everyday lives, what difference would it make in how we approach life? I think we would live with a lot less anxiety about the current global climate. I think we would be a great deal less upset about our current leaders, or a lot less dependent on them to solve our every problem. I think we would be a lot less worried about whether we would have a job, or good health, or a happy family when the sun comes up tomorrow. In fact, we would not lose any sleep at all about the sun coming up tomorrow or not.

Now I’m not claiming that we should adopt a do-nothing, careless approach to life. Of course not—that would make us unworthy servants (see Matthew 25:24-30) of a Master who expects us to do our best with what we have been given (Colossians 3:23-24). But remembering that God rules over all, big and small, that God controls all, big and small, that God uses all the events of this world, big and small, to bring about his perfect plan, this is what helps me to live out my life in a much more purposeful, peaceful and productive way.

Yes, God rules—live with it!


“There is a God in heaven who over-rules all things for the best; and this is the comfort of my soul.”(David Brainerd)


Making Life Work: God rules—live with it! So offer up a prayer of gratitude right now to the One who rules over your life!

Complain Mode

Making Life Work
Read: Psalm 64
Focus: Psalm 64:1

Hear me, O God, as I voice my complaint.

One of my favorite stories is of the monk who joined a monastery and took a vow of silence. After the first ten years, the abbot called him in and asked, “Do you have anything to say?”

The monk replied, “Food bad.”

After another ten years, the monk again had an opportunity to voice his thoughts. He said, “Bed hard.”

Then at the end of thirty years, once again the monk was called before his superior. When asked if he had anything to say, he broke his silence and blurted out, “I quit.”

The angry abbot shot back, “It doesn’t surprise me a bit. You’ve done nothing but complain ever since you got here.”

Great story. Like the abbot, I’m not a big fan of complaining, or complainers. My unspoken response to those who complain is what a friend once said to me when I was complaining: “Build a bridge and get over it.” Once in a while I will actually say that if I feel a jolt like that would be good for the griper.

Most of the time, we are instructed by God’s Word not to complain. Paul said to the Philippians, “Do everything without complaining or arguing, so that you may become blameless and pure, children of God without fault in a crooked and depraved generation, in which you shine like stars in the universe.” (Philippians 2:14-15)

Yet there is a form of complaint that is not only acceptable, it is actually therapeutic. David did it in this psalm; David does it a lot in the psalms: He gripes to God. The whining and griping we voice, for the most part, grates on people who have to listen to us. It does us no good—even if they give in to what we want, they have been pushed down the path to a negative opinion of us. But when we pour out our complaint to God, things happen.

What things? One, we get out what, by and large, shouldn’t be bottled up inside. Two, voicing our upset gives us a chance to evaluate whether we should really be upset or not. Three, we put what we can’t control in the hands of the One who is in control of all things. And four, as we are asking God to change the circumstances we are griping about, God does something better—he changes us.

“The very things that you most deprecate, as fatal limitations or obstructions, are probably what you most want. What you call hindrances, obstacles, discouragements, are probably God’s opportunities. Bring down your soul, or rather, bring it up to receive God’s will and do His work, in your lot, in your sphere, under your cloud of obscurity, against your temptations, and then you shall find that your condition is never opposed to your good, but really consistent with it.” (Horace Bushnell)

As you read this psalm, you will notice that while David starts off with whining (Psalm 64:1-7), he ends up worshiping (Psalm 64:9-10). That is usually what happens when you follow the psalmist’s plan for problem-solving. And anytime you end up worshiping, you are in a good place.


“Don’t pray for rain if you are going to complain about the mud.”


Making Life Work: King David started with whining and end up worshipping. If you have something in your life that’s the source of griping, whether it is worth griping about or not, take it to God. And make sure that you worship him after your done voicing your complaint.

Who’s In Charge

Making Life Work
Read: Psalm 33
Focus: Psalm 33:10-11

The LORD foils the plans of the nations; he thwarts the purposes of the peoples. But the plans of the LORD stand firm forever, the purposes of his heart through all generations.

It was a big night. It was our president, Barack Obama, holding a prime-time press conference. The main subject of his public address was the worsening national economy—an alarming upswing in unemployment, home foreclosures, bank failures and a host of other bleak economic indicators.

The president knew that a lot was riding on his ability to go directly to the American people and convince them that his plan to bailout our economy must be supported, and if it wasn’t, the damage done would be irreparable. Agree or disagree with him, one thing you’ve got to give him, he is a gifted communicator with a sharp intellect and a charismatic personality.

But he’s not really in charge—no president really is. And we mustn’t forget that! God is in charge. Economies, presidents and even nations come and go, but, as David says, “the plans of the Lord stand firm forever!”

Sure, poor economies affect our day-to-day lives; so do bad presidents and rotten nations. But just remember, they will come and go. It’s the “purposes of God’s heart” that transcend the current state of affairs in our world.

Enough said!


“Fear is faith in Satan; Faith is fearing God.” (Unknown)


Making Life Work: As presidents, political parties, politicians, election cycles come and go over the years, and as you evaluate in the aftermath of the speech-making by our leaders and the perpetual debate going on in Washington as to how our problems can be solved, pray for our leaders—they really need our help. Actually, they really need God’s help. But at the end of the day, I would suggest that you throw your lot with God—because he’s really the One in charge. Remember: he always will be!

The Shadow Of Death

John 19:1-42

“Then Jesus said, ‘You would have no power over me at all unless it were given to you from above.’” (John 19:11, NLT)

There is nothing in this world that happens apart from God’s sovereign knowledge and by his sovereign permission.

Jesus understood that as he stood before Pilate, who nervously tried to impress upon our Lord that he held the power to either crucify him or free him: “Why don’t you talk to me?” Pilate demanded. “Don’t you realize that I have the power to release you or crucify you?” (John 19:10, NLT) That is when Jesus, who, up to this point, had held his peace, looked Pilate directly in the eye and informed him in no uncertain terms that even though he might be a high officer of the Roman court, he held no such power—only God did.

In the awful light of what Jesus had been through, and what he knew he was about to go through, what an amazing statement of not only understanding the sovereign will of God, but of complete trust and submission to it. That was the reason Jesus could so calmly and resolutely traverse the terrible way of the cross. And that is the reason you can walk through the difficulties of your life as well—even if your path takes you through the valley of the shadow of death. As King David said, “Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff they comfort me.” (Psalm 23:4, KJV)

You can know what King David knew that our Lord knew: Because of God’s sovereign control over all the affairs of this universe, and because of his immeasurable love for you, this world is a perfectly safe place for you—even if you are standing before your cross.

Before you begin this day, take a moment to read the Shepherd’s Psalm printed below. In fact, you may want to read it every day this week before you head off into the busyness and challenges of your world:

The LORD is my shepherd; I shall not want.

He maketh me to lie down in green pastures: he leadeth me beside the still waters.

He restoreth my soul: he leadeth me in the paths of righteousness for his name’s sake.

Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff they comfort me.

Thou preparest a table before me in the presence of mine enemies: thou anointest my head with oil; my cup runneth over.

Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life: and I will dwell in the house of the LORD for ever.

Yes—your life is in Better Hands!

“Much that worries us beforehand can afterwards, quite unexpectedly, have a happy and simple solution…Things really are in a better hand than ours.” ~Dietrich Bonhoeffer

Reflect and Apply: Memorize Psalm 23 from your favorite version, and pray it each day this week.


5×5×5 Bible Plan

Read: Matthew 2
Matthew 2:5, 15, 18, 23

“For thus it is written in the prophets…”

Shift Your Focus… The birth and life of Jesus Christ, the Son of God and Savior of the world, was not the product of random events. It was the direct result of prophetic fulfillment. Thus the phrase linking Christ’s life to Old Testament prophecy is repeated four times here in this second chapter of Matthew’s Gospel.

Those details of Jesus’ life had been laid out in the mind of God from eternity past and had been written down in the inspired utterances of the prophets of old hundreds of years before Christ was born. The fulfillment of scores of prophecies in minute detail of the birth, life, death, and resurrection of Jesus leaves us with a pretty amazing track record of prophetic accuracy…leaving no doubt that those detailing his second coming will most certainly be fulfilled, too.

There is nothing random about God; nothing is left up to chance. The God of the Bible is the sovereign Lord of the universe, and is ruling over the details of history to bring about his perfect plan. What may seem like happenstance or coincidence, God has foreordained, caused, or permitted in his perfect will. Coincidence is simply a sovereign act of God for which he chooses to remain unseen; a miracle for which he prefers anonymity.

God is in control of all things, and that includes your life. David wrote in Psalm 139:16,

You saw me before I was born.
Every day of my life was recorded in your book.
Every moment was laid out before a single day had passed.

God’s Word invites you to live with amazing confidence today, knowing that he is in control of all things, including even the smallest details of your life. Therefore you can say, “all things will work together for my good and his glory.”

“We serve a gracious Master who knows how to overrule even our mistakes to His glory and our own advantage.” ~John Newton

Prayer… Lord, I will live confidently and expectantly this day, and this year, knowing that my life is a part of your greater plan. May the details of my life serve your purposes perfectly and bring great glory to your name.