For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, declares the Lord. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts. —Isaiah 55:8-9
I am not a math whiz. Of all my extended family members, I am probably the least gifted with numbers.
My brain lives in the realm of pictures and approximations. Math is too exact; too detailed.
Yet, other family members seem to be fearless of numbers. My math-major sister-in-law said once in a casual setting, “I love abstract math.”
What is that? Math with no visible symbols? Who would want to make math harder than it already is?
So, the other day, I was visiting a church, watching a group of missionaries assemble at the front.
This caused me to think of my daughter, who is working at a refugee camp far away, going beyond her comfort zone, doing brave things in a company of global strangers.
Which caused me to consider all my children and who they are becoming.
“Lord, how did this happen? How can it be that you take children from a humble home, raised by imperfect parents, and grow them into amazing, beautiful souls?”
It doesn’t add up.
So, I was thinking about God’s kind of math, right there in the church service.
God’s equations go beyond 1+1=2. God’s math goes beyond what seems logical or rational. God’s math even seems to work backwards sometimes.
God’s kind of math says:
2 small coins can sometimes mean more than a large sum of money. (Mark 12:42)
Weak can be more powerful than strong. (Isaiah 40:29)
A few resources in God’s hands can multiply at a miraculous rate. (John 6:13)
Those who are last shall be first. (Matt 20:16)
When you give to God, you get back way more than you gave. (Luke 6:38)
Things put into God’s hands seem to explode exponentially.
Finally, the omnipotent God is not only a master multiplier, he is a caring Creator. Which earthly number cruncher would not only count stars in the sky, but also lovingly name them?
He determines the number of the stars; He gives to all of them their names. Psalm 147:4
Have you ever disappointed someone when you changed your mind?
Have you ever known the shame of a damaged reputation?
If so, you have something in common with John Mark – the bringer of good news; the writer of the gospel of Mark.
John Mark traveled as an assistant to Paul and Barnabas, when they embarked on their missionary journey. Halfway through, he opted out and returned home before they were officially finished. No one knows exactly why:
Whatever the reason, John Mark’s abrupt exit bothered Paul. It caused a rift between Paul and Barnabas.
Later, Barnabas (whose name means “son of encouragement”) wanted to give John Mark a second chance.
Paul wouldn’t have it.
So, Barnabas took John Mark one way, and Paul went another way with Silas.
In later years, Paul accepted John Mark as a worthy helper; he not only forgave him but praised him in the pages of scripture.
I would love to know what happened between the volatile rift and the complete forgiveness.
What’s the rest of the story?
Did John Mark have to prove himself?
What role did Barnabas the encourager play?
I think God used Barnabas to turn things around for John Mark with his encouraging:
You still have worth! I believe in you! Let’s go!
His support must have been life-changing — without it, John Mark would have just returned home.
With that encouragement, John Mark is down in history as being:
“Like a son” to Peter (1 Peter 5:13)
“Useful in ministry” to Paul (2 Timothy 4:11)
Author of the efficiently written gospel of Mark
Therefore encourage one another and build one another up, just as you are doing.
1 Thessalonians 5:11
Correction does much, but encouragement does more. ~ Goethe
In the middle of every difficulty lies opportunity. ~ Albert Einstein
Yesterday in church we learned about Josiah, who became king of Judah at age eight.
Who was King Josiah, what did he do, and why does it matter hundreds of years later?
Josiah had a notorious grandfather (Manasseh) – recorded as the most dastardly king of Judah. He had a son (Amon) that walked in his evil footsteps, leaving a poor spiritual heritage to his son, who was Josiah, the young king we are talking about here…
Josiah was eight years old when his father was assassinated. Early in his young royal life, Josiah was curious about spiritual things. Although his homeland was black with evil, Josiah still began to seek God.
It might be better to say that God drew him. God does that – and it’s often surprising. Especially when conditions around us don’t look promising, and we don’t appear to be headed in a holy direction.
All this drawing and wooing and curious interest about God made Josiah’s heart fertile ground. God was preparing his soft heart for an upsetting, earthshaking event that took place a few years later…
King Josiah told workers to clean out the temple. This was looking like a no-brainer job. Laborers were simply there to de-clutter, dust and organize. They were even told to keep track of their own hours. Things looked easy.
As trinkets were unearthed and dust flew, a scroll was discovered and brought to King Josiah.
This scroll was actually a treasured but forgotten book of the Law of God — given and practiced hundreds of years before.
Back when people followed God.
Back before people exchanged a loving God for a lie.
Reading the scroll aloud put a horrifying spotlight on Judah’s current state of affairs. God’s chosen people had been living in direct opposition to the words of this scroll-book. The nation was practicing child sacrifice and idol worship, even though generations before they had ousted people that were doing these same things.
When Josiah heard the words of the neglected book, he wept and tore his clothes.
Here they were, trying to tidy up the temple, making it sparkle and shine. But the temple – the spiritual heart of the nation– didn’t need dusting, it needed to be stripped down, disinfected, dismantled and rebuilt.
Josiah’s heart was overwhelmed and heavily grieved.
But Josiah wasn’t only stirred. He was changed.
Josiah turned the nation of Judah around 180 degrees.
(This thorough process involved lots of idols being ground to powder and piles of burnt bones.)
A woman named Huldah gave a prophecy at this point:
Judah be destroyed because of its abominations. It would be disciplined for the cries of its sacrificed children. But because of Josiah’s repentance and love for God’s discovered Word, Judah’s depressing end wouldn’t come during Josiah’s lifetime.
Lots of personal lessons here:
We should expect to see God’s Word in God’s house. It shouldn’t be hidden, neglected, unused or unpracticed.
Maybe we feel safe, knowing we will avoid the coming judgment. That doesn’t mean we shouldn’t warn others. I want to be faithful to share God’s Word within my sphere of influence.
When I am confronted by God’s Word, do I change? Or, do I continue puttering around, just dusting the externals?
Josiah burned and destroyed the evidence and the promoters of idol worship in Judah. This made it impossible for the people to return to the former way of life. Have I made it easy or difficult to return to old, sinful ways? Burning bridges here can be a good thing…
300 years earlier, a prophet actually named Josiah by name, predicting that he would destroy idol worship in Judah. (I Kings 13:1-10) The Bible is bursting with fulfilled prophecies, confirming its truth.
After all that Josiah did to reform Judah, his son Jehoiakim went the opposite way. He heard God’s word, and what he didn’t like, he conveniently had cut out with a knife and burned. God has no grandchildren; our children need to surrender to God for themselves.
Josiah’s life ended on a strange note. He felt compelled to fight against Egypt, even though Pharaoh warned him that it really wasn’t his fight. Josiah did it anyway — he dressed up like a common person, was wounded and died. It’s always good to be reminded that even if a person’s life is resplendent and glorious, he or she is still just a person who makes mistakes.
“For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways,” declares the Lord. “For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.” — Isaiah 55:8,9
A baby boy was born into a loving family we know. Hisfirst year was a roller coaster ride of surgeries and hospital stays. When he arrived home, each family member played a role in his everyday routine – and they served with joy.
This special~needs baby, with his explosive smile and simple cheerfulness drove any selfishness out of the home. What felt at first like an overwhelming challenge…had now become a blessing.
When unexpected circumstances surprise us, we often cringe and fuss. But what if we saw circumstances, events, and people – as God sees them?
What if the weakness of one child brings strength to the entire family?
What if, in serving an elderly parent, we have a taste of serving Jesus?
What if the most fragile members of the body of Christ show us God’s power?
We often see our loved ones, our neighbors, and other church members through our own limited eyes, and with our own sin-tainted, limited frame of reference.
The way God works is far above our own plans. His ways are higher. His eyesight is better.
“God sees hearts as we see faces.” –George Herbert
For the Lord sees not as man sees: man looks on the outward appearance, but the Lord looks on the heart. — 1 Samuel 16:7