Author Archives: suegraff

2 Chronicles 33,34; Acts 23:16-35

This year I seem to be seeing a basic recurring theme of the mysterious balance of God’s sovereignty (or control of the happenings in the world in general and my life in particular) and the individual’s role in carrying out the purposes of God; how our actions affect not just our lives but the lives of those around us; how God often uses ordinary people to accomplish things, yet sometimes he just shows up with some supernatural force.

In our Old Testament reading the up/down cycle continues. “He/they did what was evil in the eyes of the Lord” is followed by hard times and captivity, then “he/they did what was right in the eyes of the Lord” followed by peace and prosperity.  We have it in multiple combinations (Manneseh starts out on the evil path then repents, Amon is evil from birth to death, Josiah is on the good path from start to finish). While the people seem to reap consequences of their actions, both good and bad, when we step back we see that God had a plan all along. Each part of the cycle had a part to play in the grand scheme of things.

In our New Testament reading yesterday we learned that God intended for Paul to go to Rome. Today we see that plan starting to unfold. But people still had a part to play. Paul’s nephew happened to be in the right place at the right time to learn of the plot to kill Paul, but he also had to be brave enough to get to Paul, pass on the message, tell the commander, etc. The centurion had to obey Paul’s request, the commander had to listen to this boy/young man, the commander had to take quick action. Everything had to be done in quick succession. People had their part to play, but we can see the orchestration if we take a step back and observe the big picture.

I know that when I am facing a trial I need to make sure I take a step back and realize that God is in control. My job is to do my part. I may not know until many days, months, years, decades later how the various events of my life played a part in a grand plan, but I can be confident that ultimately God is in control. Any my God is the God who saves.

10 The Lord spoke to Manasseh and his people, but they paid no attention. 11 So the Lord brought against them the army commanders of the king of Assyria, who took Manasseh prisoner, put a hook in his nose, bound him with bronze shackles and took him to Babylon. 12 In his distress he sought the favor of the Lord his God and humbled himself greatly before the God of his fathers. 13 And when he prayed to him, the Lord was moved by his entreaty and listened to his plea; so he brought him back to Jerusalem and to his kingdom. Then Manasseh knew that the Lord is God. (2 Chronicles 33:10-13)

27 This man was seized by the Jews and they were about to kill him, but I came with my troops and rescued him, for I had learned that he is a Roman citizen. (Acts 23:27)

suegraff

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Isaiah 50,51,52; Romans 9:16-33

In Isaiah we read about God’s sovereignty. Quite a mighty concept. We read of His wrath, His power. We read of our sin, and how what we deserve is his wrath. But we get a foretelling of Jesus to come. The Good News. Our salvation!

I grew up in a Christian home, learning from a child of God’s sovereignty, but I don’t think any of us can truly grasp it this side of heaven. Like many things, I think of this as something we see through a glass darkly. I read of a God who created the heavens and the earth, and yet knows the number of hairs on my head. How can this be?

This morning I was up before dawn, getting ready to write this post. I let the dog out, and right there in front of me I am reminded of God’s power, His glory. It was dark, the stars were out, and there were faint waves of lighter sky emanating from where the sun would soon rise. If you really weren’t looking, you wouldn’t see them at all. Then, over to my right, I see the Morning Star (technically Venus). I am reminded of a very dark time in my life when I was in this very same spot and saw the very same thing (Venus in the same location). At that time I thought back to a CD of a Christmas cantata that I would listen to constantly. It was a recording of a live event that my former church had every year. The music was beautiful. There was occasional narration, and I remember the narrator (a voice of a person I knew, making it more special) speaking of the coming of Christ and He was referred to as the “bright and Morning Star”. As I looked out on the night sky I remember seeing this star that morning, remembering the cantata, and feeling true hope deep down in my heart. Actually feeling the presence of God. Hearing a whisper that He is there with me. The Bright and Morning Star.

I struggle, because on the one hand I know that God is Good, and He is merciful.

14 What then shall we say? Is God unjust? Not at all! 15 For he says to Moses,

“I will have mercy on whom I have mercy,
and I will have compassion on whom I have compassion.”[f]

16 It does not, therefore, depend on man’s desire or effort, but on God’s mercy. 17 For the Scripture says to Pharaoh: “I raised you up for this very purpose, that I might display my power in you and that my name might be proclaimed in all the earth.”[g] 18 Therefore God has mercy on whom he wants to have mercy, and he hardens whom he wants to harden.

19 One of you will say to me: “Then why does God still blame us? For who resists his will?” 20 But who are you, O man, to talk back to God? “Shall what is formed say to him who formed it, ‘Why did you make me like this?’”[h] 21 Does not the potter have the right to make out of the same lump of clay some pottery for noble purposes and some for common use? (Romans 9:14-21)

God is in control and not me. Why does that scare me so? Why can I rest in that sometimes, and other times it scares me to death? But I am warned not to give up and light my own torch, find my own way.

10 Who among you fears the Lord
and obeys the word of his servant?
Let him who walks in the dark,
who has no light,
trust in the name of the Lord
and rely on his God.
11 But now, all you who light fires
and provide yourselves with flaming torches,
go, walk in the light of your fires
and of the torches you have set ablaze.
This is what you shall receive from my hand:
You will lie down in torment. (Isaiah 50: 10-11)

My instruction is to fear the LORD, and obey the word of his servant.

I am to know that God created me for a purpose, and I am accountable to that. I am to fear God. Trust in Him. Let His Morning Star be my light and my salvation. I do not need to create my own light to see and lean on my own understanding. Thank you for this reminder today, Lord, as I get ready for a new week.

suegraff

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Isaiah 17,18,19; Ephesians 4

As a prisoner for the Lord, then, I urge you to live a life worthy of the calling you have received. (Ephesians 4:1)

The first verse of Ephesians 4 pretty well sums up the rest of the chapter. I admit that this is somewhat scary and intimidating. What follows throughout the chapter is a picture of what our attitudes in life should be, how we should act, what we should do and not do.

2Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love.

3Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace.

25 Therefore each of you must put off falsehood and speak truthfully to his neighbor, for we are all members of one body.

26 “In your anger do not sin”[d]: Do not let the sun go down while you are still angry, 27 and do not give the devil a foothold.

28 He who has been stealing must steal no longer, but must work, doing something useful with his own hands, that he may have something to share with those in need.

29 Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen.

31 Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice.

32 Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.

I pick out key words for how I should be.

Humble.     Gentle.     Patient.     Unified.    

Truthful.     Useful.     Sharing.    

Helpful.     Compassionate.    

Forgiving.

I see what I need to get rid of:

Bitterness.     Rage.     Anger.     

Brawling.     Slander.   

Malice.  

What stands out to me today is how important my mind, my attitudes, my perspective are to how I act. Note that we are to be made new in our minds before we put on our new self.  And note that the Gentiles indulge in impurity due to the “futility of their thinking”, “ignorance”, and “hard hearts”.

So it starts with a right mindset. If I meditate on the thought that Christ is the head and we all are a part of the body, the same body, I do get the picture of how it should be, all working together toward a common goal. It also helps to know that I actually grieve the Holy Spirit when I am bitter and angry, and when I participate in unwholesome talk that does not build up but instead tears down. Ouch. What I notice is that there is no escape clause here. It doesn’t say “except for those people, the ones who are idiots who do stupid things and don’t agree with your point of view.” Sigh…  there are no exceptions.

Lord, thanks for the reminder of how damaging bitterness, anger, and slander truly are. Thanks for the reminder that I am to be humble, patient, compassionate, and forgiving. I know that I can only do that with the power of you in me. Help me to tap into that power and more fully put on my new self.

suegraff

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Psalms 87,88; 1 Corinthians 12

21 The eye cannot say to the hand, “I don’t need you!” And the head cannot say to the feet, “I don’t need you!” 22 On the contrary, those parts of the body that seem to be weaker are indispensable, 23 and the parts that we think are less honorable we treat with special honor. And the parts that are unpresentable are treated with special modesty, 24 while our presentable parts need no special treatment. But God has combined the members of the body and has given greater honor to the parts that lacked it, 25 so that there should be no division in the body, but that its parts should have equal concern for each other. 26 If one part suffers, every part suffers with it; if one part is honored, every part rejoices with it. (1 Corinthians 12:21-26, NIV)

Today at my work much is made of “diversity”. Sometimes I am amazed that people actually need to be told that to accomplish great things you need a variety of people, each with different skills and abilities. That projects need more than a room full of “experts”. That the arms and legs of an organization are the people that actually do the work. That you have to be intentional in honoring people that don’t always get recognized because their work is not out in the open. That one person will never have all the answers, and sometimes you need a team of people bringing different ideas to develop really great things. That teams need to work together and suffer together as well as rejoice together. Of course, all of these ideas are thought to be very progressive, very modern.

I wonder how many know that Paul taught them as Christian values 2,000 years ago? I’ll bet this was pretty radical teaching in his day. I’ll also bet it really bothered the religious elite. They understood that everyone was different. But everyone was important, and they all needed each other? That the scholars and blacksmiths should have equal concern for each other?

Then at the end of the chapter we realize that Paul was setting the stage for the famous “love” chapter. These ideas are certainly needed to set up the frame of mind needed to begin to understand the type of love Paul is about to describe. More radical ideas to follow!

suegraff

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Psalms 130,131,132; 1 Corinthians 1

18 For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. 19 For it is written:

“I will destroy the wisdom of the wise;
the intelligence of the intelligent I will frustrate.”[c]

20 Where is the wise man? Where is the scholar? Where is the philosopher of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world? (1 Cor 1:18:20)

I need to remember that His thoughts are higher than my thoughts. His ways are higher than my ways. I may study all sorts of things and enjoy debating them with my friends and acquaintances, but I need to keep in mind that we all “see through a glass darkly”.

If I look though history and see the things that very smart people thought were true and then proven wrong later, I am humbled. I have many firm beliefs, but I need to understand that the only ones that will stand are the basic truths of God. My application of them is subject to thinking that is prone to deception. When I realize that Satan is going to and fro, looking for victims, it is no surprise that many are deceived on so many fronts.

So let me rest you, Lord. I don’t have to prove a thing. Let me simply boast in you.

30 It is because of him that you are in Christ Jesus, who has become for us wisdom from God—that is, our righteousness, holiness and redemption. 31 Therefore, as it is written: “Let him who boasts boast in the Lord.” (1 Cor 1:30-31)

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5 I wait for the Lord, my soul waits, and in his word I put my hope. 6 My soul waits for the Lord more than watchmen wait for the morning, more than watchmen wait for the morning.

7 O Israel, put your hope in the Lord, for with the Lord is unfailing love and with him is full redemption. 8 He himself will redeem Israel from all their sins. (Psalm 130:5-8)

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1 My heart is not proud, O Lord, my eyes are not haughty; I do not concern myself with great matters or things too wonderful for me. 2 But I have stilled and quieted my soul;     like a weaned child with its mother,  like a weaned child is my soul  within me.

3 O Israel, put your hope   in the Lord both now and forevermore. (Psalm 131)

suegraff

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