Imperfectly Perfect

Back in December I finished reading the Bible from beginning to end. I’ve read the Bible in its entirety before, but one thing I’ve learned over the years, is that every time you study the Word, you learn something new, and so once I finished Revelation, I picked right back up in Genesis, come January. Whether you’ve read it once, twice, or even hundreds of times before, the Word of God will never return void (Isaiah 55:11). I’ve found that the Holy Spirit is continually changing our heart and perspective, so much so, that stories we’ve read and learned about when we were children (whether physically or spiritually) are understood and viewed completely different the next time we read/study them. I always like to compare the Word of God to an onion and how it has layer after layer of knowledge and wisdom that can only be revealed to us after the Holy Spirit has exposed to us the first layer, then the next, and so forth.

In my case, reading Genesis this time around, got me thinking about the character of the men that God chose to fulfill His promises. I was amazed by Abraham’s faith, and was, surprisingly, only slightly disappointed when he tried to accomplish God’s plans on his own, producing Ishmael. I mean, let’s face it, how often have we been prone to attempt to accomplish God’s will on our own, only to make a mess of things? But as I read on, I found myself questioning Jacob’s character. I mean, here’s a man who’s scheming and manipulating (with encouragement from his mother, no less) gets him…exactly where God wanted him? I wrote in my journal after reading about Jacob stealing Esau’s blessing, that Jacob’s character left me “unimpressed,” and I actually questioned God, regarding His use of Jacob to complete His plans. “I just don’t get it, Lord,” I wrote. I thought a little more on it, and just decided that God uses us—imperfect, flawed humans—to accomplish His will and just left it at that.

Then, last night during our ladies’ Bible study, our leader read from a Matt Chandler book The Explicit Gospel, which I have yet to read and therefore can’t recommend, but the point that she made, referencing Psalm 139:13-18, was that God knew our very personality and character before He knit us together in our mothers’ womb.

O LORD, you have searched me and known me! You know when I sit down and when I rise up; you discern my thoughts from afar. You search out my path and my lying down and are acquainted with all my ways. Even before a word is on my tongue, behold, O LORD, you know it altogether. You hem me in, behind and before, and lay your hand upon me. Such knowledge is too wonderful for me; it is high; I cannot attain it. (Psalm 139:1-6, emphasis added)

For you formed my inward parts; you knitted me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Wonderful are your works; my soul knows it very well. My frame was not hidden from you, when I was being made in secret, intricately woven in the depths of the earth. Your eyes saw my unformed substance; in your book were written, every one of them, the days that were formed for me, when as yet there was none of them. (Psalm 139:13-18, emphasis added)

God not only knew our personality and character, but also our thoughts and responses to the people and things we’d face in life. God knew each of our days before we ever live(d) it! Suddenly, whereas before I wondered and questioned whether or not that’s how things had to play out for Jacob. For instance, did he really have to go along with his mother’s plan to steal Esau’s blessing? I now realized that God knew exactly how everything was going to play out because he knew the character of Jacob, and his mother, long before they were born! He knew it and He planned on it!

In the past I’d wondered even about my own poor decisions and choices, but now I realize that God wasn’t surprised by anything I did, because He knew it all along and He planned on it. That makes me wonder what else He has planned? How does He see this all playing out in my life and how does He plan to use my life—past, present, and future—to bring glory to His Name?Epistles

Now, I don’t want you thinking that just because God knew beforehand the choices that I would make, excuses me for making them; because we’re still subject to the consequences of our free will, but just like Joseph stated when he came face-to-face with the brother’s who’d betrayed him years before, “As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good, to bring it about that many people should be kept alive, as they are today,” I know that my experiences serve a dual purpose that God has preordained and planned far in advance (Genesis 50:20).

Finally, I know that my past decisions have disappointed and caused God sorrow, even though He expected them, which just further enhances my appreciation for the divine mercy and grace He’s shown me despite my shortcomings. I’m nothing special, just like Jacob, David, and Paul were nothing special. We’re all human, we all fall short of the glory of God (Romans 3:23), and we’re all going to disappoint God in some way, but His mercy and grace have absolutely nothing to do with us, and everything to do with His character. I now realize that the men and women of the Bible weren’t extraordinary because of their own character, but because of God’s character. God chose to use them, just as He chooses to use us, to fulfill His own purposes, not because of who we are or what we have or haven’t done, but because of Who He Is. His plans are perfect even if they’re carried out by imperfect us.

For one will scarcely die for a righteous person—though perhaps for a good person one would dare even to die—but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. (Romans 5:7-8)

And for that…I am thankful beyond expression.

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In Whom do You Trust?

As we mature from teens to adults, our freedom gradually increases. We are given the opportunity to make our own choices about school, work, relationships, jobs, our faith, money, and how we choose to spend our time–just to name a few. Often, our parents continue to advise us, but in the end, the choice is still ours.

What I find interesting, is that sometimes we choose to do the exact opposite of what our parents advised, and we figure out, much to our dismay, that we made the wrong decision. Now, when this happens, does it make sense that we would blame our parents because things didn’t work out the way we expected them to? Absolutely not! We made the wrong choice and we are responsible for the repercussions of our actions. Our parents tried to lead us in the right direction, but we chose the wrong one.

I’ve realized that we often do this with God, as well. God advises and tells us what we ought to do, what He’d like us to do, but in the end, it’s our choice. When we try to follow our own path and things don’t work out, is it God’s fault that things didn’t work out for us? (Hint: Was it our parents’ faults?) We may think we know what’s best for us, but when we refuse to listen to God’s counsel and not trust Him, it’s not His fault when our world is turned upside down, but our own, for relying on ourselves instead of Him.

In the book of Isaiah, God uses Isaiah to tell the people of Israel “‘Woe to the obstinate children,’ declares the Lord, ‘to those who carry out plans that are not mine, forming an alliance, but not by my Spirit, heaping sin upon sin’ (30:1).” In this verse, God is talking about the Israelites and their decision to form an alliance with Egypt for protection against their enemies, but the concept is the same; the Israelites weren’t putting their trust in God to keep them safe, but were forming their own plans.

Proverbs 19:21 states “Many are the plans in a man’s heart, but it is the Lord’s purpose that prevails.” In the end, we may have all these plans for our lives. We may have desires and dreams and goals, but unless they’ve been instilled in us by the Holy Spirit, trying to attain them is going to be impossible! We may try and try and try, but it will be fruitless, because they’re not God’s plan for our lives and His hand won’t be upon us. But He promises that when we put Him first and seek His face and His will for our lives, He will bless us and make us fruitful.

Jeremiah 29:11-13 “For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. Then you will call upon me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you. You will seek me and find me when you seek me will all your heart.”