Always the Plan

This morning we kick off a brand-new teaching series with the Advent season fully in view. When we are celebrating Advent, we are celebrating the season of preparing for the arrival of Jesus. But understanding that just got me thinking: How did God Himself prepare for Jesus’ arrival and what exactly does it mean that He prepared for it? Starting this morning, in this series we’ll explore God’s plans and how they worked themselves out over the course of human history all with our salvation in mind. To get you thinking about complicated plans and to have a little fun together, check out this YouTube video and then read on.

Always the Plan

So, wasn’t that cool earlier? Can you imagine how much work went into just setting that up? I’ve got to admit: If I took the amount of time involved in setting up that contraption—I mean, it spanned something like four different rooms of that house and then went outside—I’d have a lot of trouble pulling the trigger to start it. It kind of makes you wonder just how many times he got it started and then had to start over because something didn’t quite work; or how many times everything worked except the final ball didn’t make it into the cup. Yikes! Talk about monumentally frustrating.

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A Little Something Different

So, even as I sit down to write this, I know that it’s going to seem like fishing. Rest assured, it’s not. I usually try not to bring any more attention to this than I can help it. But this is a day for reflecting so here goes nothing. Today I grow another year older. Rather than our usual meditation on Mark’s Gospel, I thought I’d do something just a bit different and reflect with you on a few lessons I’ve learned over the years. Lord willing I’ve still got many yet to go, but here are a few things I’ve learned so far.

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Overcoming the World

Last week we ended things on a cliffhanger. God was allowing a terrible unfair injustice in Stephen’s death to happen without any apparent consequences for the people who perpetuated it. Why would He do that? Why does He allow the hard times we face in our own lives to happen the way they do? This week offers not so much an answer as an invitation to a bigger perspective. Let’s talk about it together.

Overcoming the World

Can I safely assume that everyone here has seen or at least knows the basic plot outline of the original Star Wars movie? I’m not sure if George Lucas had his vision completely laid out when he made the first film, but it was released as entry number four of a nine-part series. Who starts a 9-part series with episode number 4? George Lucas apparently. And, it’s has made him a very rich man, so there you go. Now, sure, episodes 1, 2, and 3 are all pretty much abominations (especially episode 1), but maybe that’s why he started with episode 4. Who knows?

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Digging in Deeper: Zechariah 10:11

“The Lord will pass through the sea of distress and strike the waves of the sea; all the depths of the Nile will dry up. The pride of Assyria will be brought down, and the scepter of Egypt will come to an end.” (CSB – Read the chapter)

History is linear. It is unidirectional. It is going somewhere. We may not be able to see where from any single point along the way, but yesterday was not the day before and the day before that was different still. This wasn’t always thought to be the case. For a time it was fashionable science to hold that the universe was cyclical–it had been expanding and contracting in an endless cycle since eternity past and would continue like this on into eternity future. Then some smart folks looked a little harder and realized that the universe actually started at a single point and has been expanding ever since. Some religious worldviews today still believe that history is cyclical. But it’s not. History moves in one direction. But that doesn’t mean it doesn’t repeat itself.

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Digging in Deeper: Nahum 2:13

“Beware, I am against you. This is the declaration of the Lord of Armies. I will make your chariots go up in smoke, and the sword will devour your young lions. I will cut off your prey from the earth, and the sound of your messengers will never be heard again.”‬‬ (CSB – Read the chapter)

When the apostle Paul was retelling his testimony to King Agrippa before being sent off to Rome in order to be tried before Emperor Nero, he added something to what Jesus said to him on the road to Damascus. When Jesus asked Paul why he was persecuting Him, He also made a statement: It is hard for you to kick against the goads. It is indeed hard. And, as Nahum describes here, the harder we try and kick against them, the harder the pushback will be.

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