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Sunday, September 27, 2015

The Reality of the Situation

This is the message given in the United Methodist churches of the Wheatland Parish on Sunday, September 27, 2015.  The Bible verses used are Obadiah 1-21.

            We’re in the fourth week of our sermon series “Who Are These Guys?”, looking at the Minor Prophets.  Today we take a look at the book of Obadiah.
            We said at the start of this series that the Minor Prophets are not minor because they’re less important.  These are not the bush league prophets, the ones who could not quite make the majors.  They’re called the Minor Prophets just because their books are shorter.  And Obadiah is the shortest of them all.
            In fact, you may have noticed in the bulletin that we don’t have a chapter number by our Bible reading.  That’s because Obadiah is not divided into chapters.  It’s so short it’s all one chapter.  There are fewer than six hundred words in the book of Obadiah.  In fact, the book of Obadiah is so short that in our Bible reading today we read the entire book of Obadiah.  You heard all of Obadiah today.
            The name “Obadiah” sounds odd to us today, but it was not odd in that time or in that place.  When you read the Old Testament you see lots of references to people named Obadiah, especially in first and second Chronicles and first and second Kings.  None of those Obadiahs is this Obadiah, though.  They think this Obadiah lived in the sixth century B. C., but we really don’t know any more about him than that.
            The words of Obadiah are directed to the country of Edom—in fact, in verse one it says, “This is what the Sovereign Lord says about Edom”.  Edom is not the same as Israel or Judah, but they were related.  Edom was founded by Esau, who of course was the brother of Jacob, who founded Israel and Judah.  These nations were, well, not exactly allies, but they were not enemies, either.  They may not have liked each other, but they accepted each other and tolerated each other.
            At least, that was how it was supposed to be.  And for quite a while, that’s how it was.  But, ultimately, but Israel and Judah were taken over by other nations.  Judah was taken over by Babylon.  And when that happened, not only did Edom not come to Judah’s defense, Edom actually helped Babylon and participated in the looting of Jerusalem.
            And so that’s what some of this stuff in Obadiah means.  When it talks about “Because of the violence against your brother Jacob, you will be covered with shame; you will be destroyed forever” and when “foreigners entered his gate and cast lots for Jerusalem, you were like one of them”, this is what it’s talking about.  Edom was not supposed to turn against Judah.  And because it did, God pronounced judgment against it.
            So what’s that mean for us?  Does it mean anything for us at all?  How does this short book, talking about God’s judgment against a nation for things it did thousands of years ago, a nation that does not even exist any more, how does that have any application for us today?
            Well, as I was looking at this and thinking about it, the thing that jumped out at me was a part of the fifteenth verse.  It says, “the day of the Lord is near…As you have done, it will be done to you; your deeds will return upon your own head.”
            When we talk about “the day of the Lord”, of course, we’re talking about God’s judgment.  And you know, that whole idea of God’s judgment is one that can make us really uncomfortable.  We don’t like to talk about it much.  We like to talk about God’s love.  We like to talk about God’s grace.  We like to talk about God’s mercy.  And don’t get me wrong, I like to talk about all that stuff, too.  And of course, those things are all true.  God is love.  God is gracious.  God is merciful.  It’s not wrong to talk about that stuff.
            But the thing is that if that’s all we say about God, we’re not giving a complete picture, are we?  It comes back, again, to what we’ve said a couple of times already in these messages, which is that we cannot play God for a fool.  If we just talk about God’s love and grace and mercy and don’t include God’s judgment, we’re saying we can do whatever we want to without any consequences, because God will forgive us and love us anyway.  And the Bible makes clear that that’s not how it works.
            But here’s the part that really sticks out to me.  “As you have done, it will be done to you; your deeds will return upon your own head.”
            Now don’t take that the wrong way.  We’re not talking about a works-based salvation.  We’ve said many times that our salvation comes from our faith in Jesus Christ, not from our works.  I still believe that and I think the Bible makes that clear.  But still, we need to deal with this other thought.  “As you have done, it will be done to you; your deeds will return upon your own head.”
            And as I thought about that, what it reminded me of is what we say in the Lord’s Prayer.  “Forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us.”  To me, those are two sides of the same thing.  God forgives us in the same way that we forgive us.  God judges us in the same way we judge others.  God treats us in the same way we treat others.  “As you have done, it will be done to you.”
            And sometimes, that thought can make us even more uncomfortable.  Because I suspect most of us, maybe all of us, have people in our lives that we have not forgiven.  Maybe they’re in our lives now or maybe they were in our lives in the past, but they’re still there, and we have not forgiven them.  And I suspect most of us, maybe all of us, have passed judgment on other people.  And I’m pretty sure that most of us, maybe all of us, have had times when we have not treated others the way we should have.  And so, when we think about “as you have done, it will be done to you”, well, we don’t like that idea very much.
            We’ve all heard the Golden Rule, right?  “Do to others as you would have others do to you.”  You know, we hear that, and we agree with it.  We think, “how nice.  What a nice thought.  That’s really nice.”  But the Golden Rule is not just nice.  It’s not just a pleasant-sounding saying.  The Golden Rule came from Jesus.  The Golden Rule is the reality of the situation.  And God, speaking through Obadiah, told the people of Edom that they were about to meet that the reality of the situation face to face.
            And someday, the reality of the situation will meet each one of us face to face, too.  And what that tells us is that we need to take a look at ourselves.  We need to take a look at everything about our lives—our deeds, our words, our attitudes.  If we’re going to rely on God’s love and God’s grace and God’s mercy, then in our lives on earth, we need to show love and grace and mercy to others.
            We cannot do that as perfectly as God can, of course.  I know that.  God knows that, too.  But we should not use that as an excuse, either.  We may not be able to show perfect love, but we should show love as well as we can.  We may not be able to give perfect forgiveness, but we need to give as much forgiveness as we can.   We may not be able to show perfect mercy, but we need to show as much mercy as we can.
            Obadiah’s words were a judgment on Edom.  But one of the reasons they’re in the Bible is as a warning for us.  It’s a warning for us to examine the way we live our lives.  And when we do that we need to think of it in these terms:  What if God was to love to the same extent that we love other people?  What if God was to forgive us only to the extent we forgive other people?  What if God was merciful to us only to the extent we’re merciful to others?  Where would we be?  Would we be comfortable with that?  Of would we be in big trouble?
God does not expect us to be perfect, but God knows what’s in our hearts.  God know whether we’re trying or not.  God knows whether we’re doing our best to get things right or whether we’re just doing whatever we want to and thinking God will forgive us and love us anyway.
Obadiah told the people of Edom the reality of the situation:  “As you have done, it will be done to you.”  Jesus told us the reality of the situation:  “Do to others as you would have others do to you.” 
That’s the reality of the situation.  That’s the way it works.  If we remember that, we’ll be able to live our lives in a way that serves God a lot better.  And not only that, we’ll be a lot closer to being the people God wants us to be.

Friday, September 25, 2015

Be Yourself

I saw a question on facebook the other day.  I can’t quote it exactly, but it was to the effect of “If you could go someplace where no one knew you and just start over again, would you?”

Now, my answer is no.  But there was a time, not that many years ago, really, when my answer would’ve been yes.

The obvious question, then, is “What changed?”  Why is it that at one time I would like to have been able to just start all over again, but now I don’t?

Well, it’s a couple of things, and as you’ll see they’re somewhat related.  One of them is that I now love what I do.  Becoming a pastor is the best thing that ever happened to me.  That’s not to say that I hated my previous life as a lawyer, but I didn’t love it, either.  It was just something I did.  That’s probably a situation a lot of people find themselves in regarding their work—they don’t hate it, but they don’t love it, either.  It’s okay.  Could be worse.  But the thing is that when we settle for “It’s okay, could be worse”, we don’t even realize how much joy we’re missing out on.  We don’t consider the possibility that we could really love what we do, rather than having it be just okay.  But when you go from “okay” to “fantastic”, which is where I am now, you’ll never willingly go back.

The other part of it is that, as a pastor, I feel like I can truly be who I am.  I hope that doesn’t come out as bragging, because I don’t mean it to be.  What I mean is that, as a lawyer, I felt like I had to fit into a certain mold.  I had to be something that I was not, really.  But as a pastor, I can be who I truly am.  That’s not to imply that I think I’m perfect, by any means—there are all kinds of things I need to improve.  I may be who I am, but I still have to try to be the best “me” I can be.  But what I mean is that I don’t have to pretend to be someone I’m not.  I can be used by God just as I am, with my faults and my personality quirks and also, I hope, my good points.  And it’s a pretty wonderful thing to know that.

And that applies to you, too.  God does not want you to pretend to be someone you’re not.  I hope you’ll try to be the best “you” that you can be.  But you can be used by God just as you are, with your faults, with your quirks, and with your good points.  You don’t need to go somewhere and start over.  Who you are is good enough.  Who you are is a child of God.

However things may be going in your life, always remember that.  Who you are is good enough.  God can use you just as you are.  I hope for you, as it is for me, it’s a pretty wonderful thing to know that.

Saturday, September 12, 2015

In the End, There's Hope

This is the message given in the United Methodist churches of the Wheatland Parish Sunday, September 13, 2015.  The Bible verses used are Amos 9:1-15.

We’re in the third week of our sermon series “Who Are These Guys?”, looking at the minor prophets.  Today, we look at the prophet Amos.
            From what I’ve read, Amos lived in about the eighth century B. C.  He did not have any particular religious background.  He was Jewish, of course, but he was not a rabbi or a scholar or anything like that.  Amos was what today we’d probably call a farmer-rancher.  He bred sheep and he owned some orchards.  He was chosen by God—we don’t know why—to deliver a message to the people of Israel.  And after he delivers it, he goes back to his old life again.
            You may have noticed, in the first two installments of this sermon series, that the message that the Minor Prophets have been delivering is not a very pleasant one.  It’s a message about how Israel has turned away from God, that God is not happy about that, and that God is going to do something about it.  And Amos’ message fits right in with that.
            What was going on here is that Israel thought of itself as God’s chosen people.  And of course, that’s right.  Israel was God’s chosen people.  That was a promise that went back to the days of Abraham.  But the thing is that Israel had forgotten what the promise actually was.  The promise was that Israel would worship God, would trust God, and would do what God told them to do.  If they did that, God would take care of them and protect them.  As God tells the people several times, “I will take you as my own people, and I will be your God.”
            The people still wanted God to take care of them and protect them.  But they did not want to worship God any more.  They did not want to trust God any more.  And they certainly did not want to do what God told them to do.  The first several chapters of the book of Amos go into a lot of detail about this.  They talk about how Israel has abandoned God and is now following other gods.
            Israel had also forgotten how they came to be God’s chosen people.  It was not because of anything they’d done.  It’s not something Israel earned.  As far as we know, at least, God did not hold a competition among all the various nations and races, with the winner getting special status as God’s chosen people.  In fact, we are never told why God chose Israel.  We’re told God loved the people of Israel, but we’re never really told why.  We’re just told that God did.  We assume God had reasons, and since they’re God’s reasons we assume they’re good reasons, but we don’t really have any idea what they are.  All we know is that God chose them, for whatever reason.
            But Israel had forgotten that.  Israel had come to think they were better than the other nations and races.  Israel had come to think that it was special, that they had earned this status as God’s chosen people because they were so great.  In fact, they took it farther than that.  They seemed to think that, because they were God’s chosen people, they could do pretty much anything they wanted to do.  They broke their promise to worship and obey God, but they thought God still owed it to them to keep the promise to take care of them and protect them.
            In the first several chapters of the book of Amos, God makes it clear in no uncertain terms that it does not work that way.  God tells them they’re not special.  God says “Are not you Israelites the same to me as the Cushites?”  In other words, Israel, there’s nothing special about you.  God says I’m the one who made you special.  God says I can take you down just as easily as I raised you up.  And I’m going to.
            Listen again to what we read:  ““Strike the tops of the pillar so that the thresholds shake. Bring them down on the heads of all the people; those who are left I will kill with the sword.  Not one will get away, none will escape…I will keep my eye on them for harm and not for good…Surely the eyes of the Sovereign Lord are on the sinful kingdom.  I will destroy it from the face of the earth.”
            There’s a lot more of that in Amos.  In fact, that’s the contents of almost the entire book of Amos:  describing Israel’s sins and how Israel is going to be punished and brought down.  But then, in the last five verses—not the last five chapters, but just the last five verses—of the book of Amos, we read this:  “’Yet I will not totally destroy the descendants of Jacob,’ declares the Lord…”I will bring my people Israel back from exile.  They will rebuild the ruined cities and live in them.  They will plant vineyards and drink their wine; they will make gardens and eat their fruit.  I will plant Israel in their own land, never again to be uprooted from the land I have given them.’”
            That’s pretty amazing, don’t you think?  God, speaking through Amos, has gone on for verse after verse, chapter after chapter, page after page, going on and on about how Israel has sinned and is going to have to take the consequences for that, how Israel is going to be destroyed for its sins.  And then, at the end of the book, God says that eventually Israel will be restored.  The consequences for Israel’s sins are going to be hard for them to deal with, and they’ll have to deal with them for a long time, but they’re not going to last forever.  In the end, there’s still God.  And that means that in the end, there’s still hope, hope for a better future.
            And I think, really, that’s the message to take out of the book of Amos.  Because we can look at the world, and we can see a lot of things that are not right.  And we can look around us, right where we are, and see a lot of things that are not right.  And we can look at our families and see a lot of things that are not right.  And we can look at ourselves and see a lot of things that are not right, too.
            There are so many times we ignore God.  We ignore doing what God wants us to do.  And yet, we still want God to take care of us and protect us.  Not only do we want that, we demand it.  When it feels like God is not taking care of us, we get angry with God.  We think God must be falling down on the job.  In fact, sometimes we conclude that God does not even exist.  I mean, taking care of us and protecting us is God’s job, right?  So if God’s not doing that, then God must not be there.
            When we ignore God, when we ignore doing what God wants us to do, there are consequences for that.  There are consequences for us just as much as there were for the people of Israel in Amos’ time.  And by the way, when I talk about ignoring God, don’t think I’m talking about somebody else here.  I’m taking about each one of us.  I’m talking about you.  And I’m talking about me.  We all do this.  Most of us do it every single day.  And we—you and I—have to deal with the consequences of that.  That’s why, sometimes, we have to go through some of the things we go through.  It’s not because God is falling down on the job.  It’s because you and I have to deal with the consequences of our actions.  And, sometimes, the consequences of our inaction.
            Sometimes those consequences are hard for us to deal with.  Sometimes we have to deal with them for a long time.  But they’re not going to last forever.  Because, after all of that, in the end, there’s still God.  Just as there was in Amos’ time, in the end, there’s still God.  And that means that in the end, there’s still hope.  Hope for a better future.  A better future for you.  And a better future for me.
            God chose the people of Israel.  And through the coming of Jesus Christ, through Jesus’ death and resurrection, God chose all of us, if we only believe in Jesus as our Savior.  That means that God chose you.  And God chose me.
            God did not choose us because of who we are.  We did not earn our status as God’s children because we’re so great.  God did not hold some sort of competition that we won.  God chose us—all of us—for one reason and one reason only.  God chose us because God loves us.  We’re not told why.  We’re just told that God does.
            That’s pretty amazing, too, don’t you think?  After all our sins, God still loves us.  We still have to deal with the consequences of our actions and inaction, but those consequences won’t last forever.  In the end, there’s still God.  And God loves us.  And that means that in the end, there’s still hope.  And there always will be.

Friday, September 11, 2015

Requiem For a Car

As you may know, through the generosity of the awesome people of this parish, Wanda and I now have a new car.  Well, it’s not a “new” car, but it’s new to us, and it’s a lot newer than the cars we had.  We now are the owners of a white 2013 Dodge Avenger.

It’s a wonderful car.  We really enjoy driving it.  Still, the day we got it was somewhat of a bittersweet day.  You see, as part of the deal, we traded in our 2000 Buick Century.

It was the only sensible thing to do.  The Century is fifteen years old and has around 250,000 miles on it (I say “around” 250,000 miles because the odometer light hasn’t worked for years.  I’m estimating based on about a thousand miles a month, which may or may not be anywhere close to accurate.).  We have no need for three vehicles, and no place to put a third vehicle if we had one.  It just made sense that we would trade that car in.  Still…

That car and I had been together for a long time.  I trusted it to take Wanda from Wessington Springs to Woonsocket for work for several years.  It took me to seminary for three years.  That car and I have seen municipal league meetings, annual conferences, church meetings, family gatherings, and any number of ball games.  It never let me down, never stranded me anywhere.  It always got me where I wanted to go, and it always got me back again.  Even though the new car is much nicer, and I’m really glad to have it, I’m going to miss that old Buick Century.

But then, that’s the way life is, isn’t it?  Every time we move forward, we always have to leave something behind.  We may know that the thing we’re moving toward is better.  We may even really look forward to what we’re moving toward.  But still, there’s a twinge of regret for what we’re leaving behind.

Maybe that explains why death can be so hard for us.  As Christians, we know that heaven awaits us when we die.  And while we may not know what heaven is, exactly, we know it has to be a pretty awesome place.  And yet, to get there, we have to leave our life on earth behind.  And that bothers us.  We know we’re moving toward something better, but we still regret having to leave this life behind us.

It’s understandable.  And it’s okay.  It’s okay to regret leaving things behind, just so long as we don’t let that regret keep us from moving forward.  In life, we either move forward or we move backward.  We never stand still.  It okay to have happy memories of the past, but we should not let those memories keep us from moving into and enjoying the future.

So let’s keep moving forward together.  I hope to see you soon.  In my wonderful white Dodge Avenger.

Saturday, September 5, 2015

The Gift of Forgiveness

This is the message given on Sunday, September 6, 2015 in the United Methodist churches of the Wheatland Parish.  The Bible verses used are Joel 2:1-32.

            We continue our sermon series “Who Are These Guys”, looking at the Minor Prophets, with a look at the book of Joel.  Our best guess is that Joel lived in about the fourth or fifth century B. C., although some would say he lived earlier.  We don’t know anything about Joel—where he lived, what he did, any of that.  The only thing we know about him is that his father’s name was Pethuel, which we know because the first verse of the book says, “The word of the Lord that came to Joel son of Pethuel.
            This was a fairly quiet time in the history of the Jewish people.  They were not free—they were a small part of the huge Persian Empire.  But they were not really enslaved, either.  Things are going kind of the way they go in our lives a lot of the time—not real great, but not real terrible, either.  Life’s not what you wish it was, but it’s not that bad.  Could be worse.
            We usually read from the book of Joel exactly one time each year, and that’s on Ash Wednesday.  Our traditional Ash Wednesday reading was part of what we read today.  Maybe some of you recognized it.
            And if we think about what we read today, we can see why it’s used on Ash Wednesday.  Because what Joel says is, you know how you’re thinking things could be worse?  Well, they’re going to be worse.  They’re going to be a lot worse.  Joel says the day of the Lord is coming.
            Now, maybe you’re thinking, what’s so bad about that?  After all, we’re Christians.  We talk about Jesus coming again all the time.  We think of it as a good thing.  The apostle John, at the end of the book of Revelation, prays, “Come quickly, Lord Jesus.”  Why does Joel say the day of the Lord is going to make us worse?
            Well, remember, we’re talking Old Testament here.  This all happened before Jesus came.  Joel, and the people he was talking to, were still operating under the system of Jewish law.  The way to heaven, in Old Testament times, was to follow the law.  And Jewish law was not being followed very well.  So the day of the Lord was not necessarily going to be a good thing for them.
            And also, the idea of who God was, was different then.  Not that God has changed, but the attributes of God that were emphasized are different.  We tend to emphasize God’s love, and God’s forgiveness and mercy, and those certainly are attributes of God.  But in Old Testament times, they emphasized that God’s power and God’s righteous and holiness, and those are attributes of God, too.
            And the thing is, when you emphasize God’s righteousness and God’s holiness, then you realize how far short you and I fall from God’s standards.  And when you think about how far short we fall from who God wants us to be, and then you think about how powerful God is, and how much God can punish us for our failures if God chooses to do that, well, then the day of the Lord is not going to be a very good thing for people who are not following Jewish law.
            That’s why Joel calls for the people to turn back to God.  The churchy word we use for that is “repentance”.  Now repentance includes asking for forgiveness, but it’s more than that.  For one thing, it includes doing things to show how sorry you are.  Remember, we read “declare a holy fast, call a sacred assembly”.  “Let the priests, who minister before the Lord, weep between the portico and the altar.”  Those things were about demonstrating, in a real, physical, public way, how sorry you were.  Now, of course, it needed to be done sincerely, but the point is that repentance was not a private matter.  It was to be done in a very public way.
            And while you did this, you pleaded with God.  When you repented, you asked for forgiveness, but you did not just say, “God forgive me.”  You begged for mercy.  You said, please, God spare us.  Have mercy on us.  There was no thought that God’s forgiveness was automatic.  You had no assurance or even necessarily any expectation that God would forgive you.  You begged, you pleaded, and you hoped that God would forgive you.  As Joel says, if you do all this stuff, “Who knows?  [God] may turn and relent and leave behind a blessing.”  God may not do that, too, but maybe God will.  Who knows?  All we can do is ask and see what happens.
            And of course, in the second part of the reading, God does exactly that.  God takes pity on the people.  God promises them food and drink, promises to protect them from their enemies, and ultimately promises salvation for the people.
            So, does any of this apply now?  After all, we don’t feel obligated to follow Jewish law.  Our salvation comes from our faith in Jesus Christ as our Savior.  So does all this talk about repentance and begging for mercy apply to us today?
            Well, for one thing, God is still holy.  And God is still righteous.  And God is still powerful.  We may not emphasize those qualities of God today, but they’re still true.  And it’s also still true that you and I fall far short from God’s standards.
            But we say, well, hey, I’m not perfect.  God knows I’m not perfect.  God cannot expect me to be perfect.  God loves me despite the fact that I’m not perfect.  Like we just said, I’m saved by faith in Jesus Christ, not by being perfect.  So why do I have to worry about all this stuff?
            Well, God does know that we’re not perfect.  I suspect God knows that a lot better than we know it.  And God does love us despite the fact that we’re not perfect.
            But we call ourselves Christians.  We call ourselves followers of Jesus Christ.  We say that we do have faith in Jesus Christ.  If we mean that, then we’re holding ourselves up to a standard.  If we say we follow Jesus Christ, then we’re saying we’re going to do what Jesus told us to do.  That includes things like loving our enemies.  That includes things like praying for people who persecute us.  That includes things like forgiving people over and over and over again.  That includes turning the other cheek when someone strikes us.  It includes a whole lot of stuff that does not come naturally to us, stuff that you and I really do not want to do.
            When we think of all that, we realize that when we say, “I’m not perfect”, we’ve never made a truer statement in our lives.  I mean, let’s face it, you and I are not even in the same zip code as perfect.  From where you and I are, perfect would be a long distance call, and we may not even be able to get a signal.
            When we think about that, it makes us realize just how much Joel’s call for us to turn back to God, for us to “repent”, for us to ask for God’s forgiveness and mercy, still applies.  You and I need forgiveness at least as much as the people in Joel’s time did.
            Now, does that mean that you and I need to make a big public show of our repentance?  No, I don’t think so.  But we do need to be sincere about it.  And I think we do need to take some time with it.  I don’t think a perfunctory “God forgive me” is what God is looking for.  We may not need to make a public show, but I think we do need to do something to show, to ourselves as much as to God, that we really are serious about this.  We need to show that we’re not just saying the words, that we truly are sorry for what we’ve done.
            And I also think we need to understand that God does not owe it to us to show us mercy.  Now, don’t get me wrong.  I do believe that every time we go to God and sincerely and seriously ask God for forgiveness, God will give it to us.  But we need to understand that God’s forgiveness is a gift that God gives to us.  God is not required to forgive us.  It’s like we said last week—we cannot play God for a fool.  God knows whether we’re serious about this.  God knows whether we’re truly sorry for what we’ve done.  God knows whether we’re going to do something change, or whether we’re just saying the words.  We need to ask God for forgiveness humbly, recognizing who we are and how far short we fall.  We need to recognize God’s holiness and righteousness and power, while at the same time asking God to apply God’s love and mercy and forgiveness to us.
            In Joel’s time, God forgave the people and blessed them.  If we sincerely and humbly and seriously ask God for forgiveness, God will forgive us and bless us.  We don’t know what form that blessing will take, but we will get one.  And we’ll be a lot closer to being the people God wants us to be.

Friday, September 4, 2015

Life Under Construction

As I write this, I cannot use my garage.  The reason I cannot use my garage is that I cannot drive to my house.  The reason I cannot drive to my house is that the street on which the parsonage is located is blocked off due to some work on the street.  I expect it to be blocked off for a couple of days.  The best I can do is park on the street about a half block away and walk to my house.

Now, a walk of a half block is not a big deal.  It is an inconvenience, though.  I can’t say I like it much.  I know the work that’s being done on the street is necessary.  I know that, eventually, the street will be better for the work that’s being done on it.  I know I’ll be better off, too, for having a better street to drive on every day.  But right now, it’s annoying.  I don’t want to have to wait two days before I can use my garage again.  I want to be able to use it now.

It seems to me our relationship with God works like that sometimes.  There are times when it seems like God is not allowing us to do the things we want to do.  We don’t like that very much.  We may know that God has reasons for not allowing us to do those things.  We may know that the situation will ultimately be better for us not doing them.  We may even know that we will be better off for not doing them.  But at the time, we find it very annoying.  We don’t want to have to wait to do the things we want to do.  We want to be able to do them now.

That’s where trust comes into it.  Even though I’m annoyed by not being able to drive to my garage, I trust that the city knows what it’s doing.  I trust that the people in charge of the street work know what they’re doing, too.  And so, even if I’m not totally pleased about the situation, I’m not upset about it, either.  I trust that, in the end, things are going to work out for the best.

We need to trust God in that same way.  Even if we’re annoyed by not being able to do what we want to do, we need to trust that God knows what God is doing.  We may not be totally pleased about the situation, and that’s okay, but we should not be upset about it, either.  We need to trust that, in the end, God is going to work things out for the best.

No matter what is happening, God has promised to never leave us or abandon us.  We can trust God’s promises.