Tag Archives: expectations

When God’s Provision Looks Like Coriander Seeds

How quickly we forget.

Those memories of God’s miraculous intervention in our lives seem to run away in our most desperate moments. Anne VosKamp, in her book “The Broken Way,” terms it soul amnesia.

When our feet feel as if they are floating on a cloud, the words of gratefulness for God’s provision can’t come fast enough. Our eyes, wide and stunned, once again capture the image of divine intervention that we vow to never forget.

The scripture attesting to the faithfulness of a God who intimately knows the number of hairs on our heads, knit us together in the womb, is all knowing of the the dark places of our hearts, and promises to never abandon us  speak in a concert of voices in the mind.

Life is good.

But then it takes a turn.

How quickly we forget. Apparently, it’s a part of our DNA.

Then the foreign rabble who were traveling with the Israelites began to crave the good things of Egypt. And the people of Israel also began to complain. “Oh, for some meat!” they exclaimed. “We remember the fish we used to eat for free in Egypt. And we had all the cucumbers, melons, leeks, onions, and garlic we wanted. But now our appetites are gone. All we ever see is this manna!”  Numbers 11:4-6

It’s so easy to read the narratives of the Israelites and judge. How could they forget what they experienced? 

“Then the Egyptians—all of Pharaoh’s horses, chariots, and charioteers—chased them into the middle of the sea. But just before dawn the Lord looked down on the Egyptian army from the pillar of fire and cloud, and he threw their forces into total confusion.  He twisted[b] their chariot wheels, making their chariots difficult to drive. ” Exodus 14:23-24

Even those who didn’t have a relationship with God were stunned. “Let’s get out of here—away from these Israelites!” the Egyptians shouted. “The Lord is fighting for them against Egypt!”” Exodus 14:25

And then, just as they approached the Red Sea, God unleashed more special effects: they walked through the sea. Think about that one. THEY WALKED THROUGH the SEA! They continued on their journey of liberation. Life was good.

Until it wasn’t. At least it appeared that way.

The riffraff among the people had a craving and soon they had the People of Israel whining, “Why can’t we have meat? We ate fish in Egypt—and got it free!—to say nothing of the cucumbers and melons, the leeks and onions and garlic. But nothing tastes good out here; all we get is manna, manna, manna.  Manna was a seedlike substance with a shiny appearance like resin.”  Numbers 11:4-7

The truth is, their food was never that great in Egypt. The previous menu was not not much different from the new one. So what changed?

Their expectations.

In Egypt, they felt crushed under oppression. Literally. They pleaded for God to hear them. Both cries for deliverance and hunger arose from the gut. And Heaven descended down to deliver them from both. When God gave them a vision for something better, they held expectations for how that would unfold.

But it didn’t happen the way they expected. In the midst, they took their focus off the  Provider and focused on the provision.  And that’s not where sufficiency is ultimately found.

As I read their narratives once again, I see myself in their story. The hands of Heaven have reached into my circumstances to rescue me too. Despite the fact that I am surrounded by burning bushes on a daily basis, I forget that I matter to a Great God. One who, as a friend described, “sometimes shows us his goodness and sometimes shows us his glory.”

God’s provision for me doesn’t always fit my expectations. It isn’t always flashy or announced with fanfare. Sometimes, it resembles Coriander seeds. And often, like the Israelites, my response is, “What is that?

“When the layer of dew had lifted, there on the wilderness ground was a fine flaky something, fine as frost on the ground. The Israelites took one look and said to one another, man-hu (What is it?). They had no idea what it was.” Exodus 16:14

It isn’t at all what I expected. It isn’t my version of fulfillment. Conjuring up words of gratefulness from my heart through my lips takes longer than it should. But I need to remember that God hears the cries for deliverance and “hunger” arising from my gut. And will give my bread to satiate my needs. It just may look different than I expected.

“So Moses told them, “It’s the bread God has given you to eat.” Exodus 16:15

Maybe eventually, like the Israelites, I will get exactly what I hoped. But in the meantime, I pray for a spirit of contentment; to recognize that sometimes God’s provision looks like Coriander seeds. And that is sufficient because God is.

 

 

 

 

 

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Do You Believe Jesus is Enough to Meet Your Hopes and Fears?

The angels’ proclamation to the shepherds packs a powerful punch.

“Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people.” Luke 2:10

Their good news communicated the fulfillment of a long anticipated promise.

But. somewhere in the midst of hope lies fear. What if that which we expect doesn’t unfold according to our expectations?

The narratives surrounding the account of Christ’s birth reveal the common human struggle with hope and fear. 

These Jewish “chosen ones” longed for the promised Messiah. The hope had been passed down to them just as it had been through previous generations. The prophecies began to flesh out the vision. But did they understand how chosen they were? And there was a cost.

Hope became infused with fear.

Shepherds: ordinary folk from Bethlehem. As men, they were well steeped in knowledge of Jewish theology. The prophecies created a rough draft as to how the Messiah would be made manifest.

Micah 5:2-3[a] But you, O Bethlehem of Ephrathah,
who are one of the little clans of Judah,
from you shall come forth for me
one who is to rule in Israel,
whose origin is from of old,

Hope grew in their hearts.

And then the angels visit. They are chosen to do a hard thing. The earthly implications are staggering. Who will believe them? How will they manage their sheep if they leave? Do they believe Jesus is enough to meet their hopes and fears?

Mary: Poor Jewish teen. Yet, from the line of David. She is aware of Isaiah’s words  “Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign: The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son, and will call him Immanuel.”  (Isaiah 7:14)

Hope grows in her heart.

And then the angel visits. She is chosen to do a hard thing. The earthly implications are life threatening. She could be stoned for appearing to break her engagement vows.

Does she believe Jesus is enough to meet her hopes and fears?

Joseph: A carpenter’s son-not a significant identity in terms of social and economic status. Yet, from the line of David. He, too was schooled in the hope of a Messiah. One who would transform the status quo. Perhaps he clung to these words spoken through Isaiah:

“For to us a child is born,
to us a son is given,
and the government will be on his shoulders.
And he will be called
Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God,
Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.
Of the greatness of his government and peace
there will be no end.
He will reign on David’s throne
and over his kingdom,
establishing and upholding it
with justice and righteousness
from that time on and forever.” (Isaiah 9:6-7)

Hope grew in his heart.

And then the angel visits. He is chosen to do a hard thing. His reputation is at stake as well as his love for his fiancee. In addition, he and Mary could both be killed for their alleged violation of Jewish law. Does he believe Jesus will be enough to meet his hopes and fears?

Trusting God with what we can’t grasp is hard. Story after story throughout scripture bear witness to it. It’s a human problem.

Fear is mentioned in the Bible over 500 times!

The angels recognize our humanity which is why their first words are:“Do not be afraid!”

The exhortation itself was nothing new. God’s word to them and us spoken through Isaiah is this: “So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand. “ Isaiah 41:10

But the angels’ announcement to the shepherds and to the world was different. Because this time God wasn’t just telling us no not be afraid. He was coming to earth to transform their fears.

Upon the official announcement of Jesus’ birth, something happens that the shepherds would have recognized but we may not.

13 Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying,

14 “Glory to God in the highest heaven,
and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests.” (Luke 2)

A host of angels appears here. This is significant. The Greek work for “host” is a military term. These are not cute little angels playing harps. An angel army descended to earth to signify that Satan no longer rules it.  They are operating at the command of the infant Jesus.

Heaven intersected Earth.

Jesus is enough.

Enough to meet our hopes and fears: for

health, power, relationship, provision, purpose….

“The hopes and fears of all the years
Are met in thee tonight” (From the hymn “O little Town of Bethlehem”)

Our fears are transformed into hope when we surrender them to Jesus. 

Do you believe Jesus is enough to meet your hopes and fears? What can you leave in the manger?

*this post originated as a message given by me on Christmas Eve 2017 at Hope Covenant Church. You can listen here: https://s3.amazonaws.com/media.cloversites.com/21/215af0c3-7d17-4960-a142-642d26ec8048/documents/xmaseve.mp3