Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Timing is Everything: Part 1

Timing is everything.

In my opinion, that is one of the truest sayings to have ever been said. At some point in my life, I was late for something (...a frequent occurrence). I can't even vaguely remember what it was. I only remember what someone (I don't know who) said to me when I arrived: "You're just in time to be too late!" And it was true. I had arrived at the end. People were putting on coats. I was just in time to be too late.

"Just in time to be too late" is the story of my life. Or at least it's been the perception of my life. If "timing is everything" I think most people can also agree that when you want something "the time is now." But alas, "now" is usually much later than we'd like.

Do you think Sarah laughed like this? Maybe...
I've written blogs before about waiting. For example, the fulfillment of God's promise to Abraham and Sarah. A baby at 90 years old? Seems just in time to be too late. Seems like God made her wait too long. Seems kind of rude actually. Right? But for Sarah, it was actually just in time. To her, it was joyous, even though she thought she was past knowing that joy:

Sarah said, “God has made laughter for me; everyone who hears will laugh with me.” And she said, “Who would have said to Abraham that Sarah would nurse children? Yet I have borne him a son in his old age.” - Genesis 21:6

Why couldn't she just have the baby at 35? All I can think is: it wasn't time.

Joseph was a slave in Egypt for 13 years. For nothing. That's how it always looked to me. Joseph wasn't a bad kid. He might have been too loose and free with that "the sun, moon, and stars will bow down to me" speech, but he was just telling them about his dream! That shouldn't land you 13 years as a slave. Seems like a bit much. Seems like God played Joseph. Seems kind of messed up actually. But for Joseph, it all made perfect sense. And it was all perfectly timed:

Then Joseph said to his brothers, “Please come closer to me.” And they came closer. And he said, “I am your brother Joseph, whom you sold into Egypt. Now do not be grieved or angry with yourselves, because you sold me here, for God sent me before you to preserve life...God sent me before you to preserve for you a remnant in the earth, and to keep you alive by a great deliverance. Now, therefore, it was not you who sent me here, but God. - Genesis 45:4-8

There's something about people who realize that there time has come. They say incredible things. INCREDIBLE. What I love about Sarah, is that as a barren woman, she lived almost her entire life with that reproach. And it seems like too long. I said she thought she was past knowing joy. She thought it didn't exist anymore, and God manufactured it. He made laughter for her. I love that saying, because it implies that there was no other source for it. Deep.

Joseph came to the conclusion that Egypt was the endgame for his family. But he had to go first as the forerunner. He had to go set it all up. He was on a different timetable. And he was fine with that. Once his time had come, he fully understood. And he didn't credit his arrival in Egypt to his brothers. He credited God, who knew there was a time for Joseph to be thrown in a pit. And there was a time for him to rise out of it. Deep.
change 12/27 to 12/30...that's how late I am

And so I'm late. My timing is off. This blog should have come about 7 days ago. Or should it have? Initially this thought was in my head for Advent. I was researching the length of time between the first prophecy of the coming of Christ and His arrival (the Christmas story). Theologians say the first prophecy is in Genesis 3:15. Which is at the beginning of the Bible. Like...it's still in the garden! So before Sarah had her baby, and before Joseph was vizier in Egypt...Jesus was in the weather forecast.

I am 1 day from completing my Bible in a Year plan--which was my New Year's Resolution from 2014. And I can tell you, from Genesis 1 to Malachi 4, a lot of really bad stuff happened. Jesus seemed rather late. And with the 400 years of silence between Malachi and Matthew? Late with no phone call! 

 But when the right time came, God sent his Son, born of a woman, subject to the law. 
- Galatians 4:4 (NLT)

I used the NLT here, because I like that it says "the right time." I also like the NIV because it says "the set time." I even like the NASB because it says "the fullness of time." All of those imply a determination by God. His determination of the correct timing trumps our wishy-washy perception of: "...moving kinda slow there God."

I think it seems slow, until your time has come. Or it seems slow until your faith is right. It's probably more like the latter, but I'm definitely often (if not always) in the former camp. I think it's helpful to simply know that timing is everything. And not my timing. But God's timing.

Jesus came and He left at the right time. I think that's a big deal too. Don't you find it amazing how God works? I mean...it's beyond all comprehension. But it took thousands of years for Him to come. And it only took 33 short years for him to complete His work. Why do I say complete? Well, because Jesus said: "it is finished"  (John 19:30). Thirty-three years and it was time.

Man is like a mere breath; His days are like a passing shadow. - Psalm 144:4

Jesus was here for less than half a breath, and it was enough to conquer sin and death! I've never really thought about that. But the timing was simply right:

For while we were still helpless, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. - Romans 5:6

I think it's important to know (and accept) that nothing is ever overdue. Never delinquent. And it's never too early.

Nothing is ever "just in time to be too late."

Sunday, December 7, 2014

Risk and Rewards

Risk and rewards or "risk and return" is a common thought in the finance/investing world...I think. The last I heard of risk and rewards was in a college classroom. However, it went something like this:

The higher the risk, the higher the potential reward (or return). 

It's a calculation. We like calculations. There is something very comforting about 1+1 = 2. It's absolute. I, personally, love absolutes. I have picked a career that is very rules based, and I've decided it's because I like very clear "right" and very clear "wrong." The right and wrong in accounting changes with the understanding of regulators. A new code comes out and I follow that code. That code gets amended, and I change my understanding based on the amendment.  Everything is in order. 
Explainable. Defensible.

I'm the same way in my personal life. Yesterday, at an outing, I and some other single ladies were talking about our "types." And I said that I didn't have a type, that I was "open." I realize now (I didn't in the moment) that I was lying. There is a list of qualities that I seek. They are in order. They are explainable. Defensible. But when you fall in love everything flies out the window. When you want someone that you weren't looking for, that is out of order, inexplicable, and indefensible...you go out to dinner with him. Smile in his face. Imagine what your children look like. Why? Risk and reward. The risk is that this individual is "off list." The reward: true love (if you believe in that sort of thing). Which is what you wanted in the first place. True love was the goal, but you have another means of reaching it.

In my opinion, the sermon on the mount is very similar. This next part...is sort of crazy, but I do believe it is divinely inspired. It's twisty. It's turny. But stay with me.

The sermon on the mount is a story of risk and reward. I've spent the last million years (or so it feels like to me) talking about the risks. I call them risks, because honestly the more I look at the Beatitudes, the more it seems like it's about throwing yourself away. It's a call to a level of selflessness that is incredible uncomfortable. Just to recap: 
  1.  We have to throw away all our preconceived notions of who we are, and see ourselves and our sin the way God sees it (poverty of spirit and mourning). 
  2. We must humbly present our bodies as "a living sacrifice" to God's will, throwing away our will for our own lives (meekness, hunger/thirst, pure in heart) 
  3. And we must bear with evil for the greater good, with our only weapon being the Word of the Gospel (merciful, peacemaking, persecution).
Risks. All of this is self-denial and self-sacrifice. To what end? Six of the rewards make some sort of sense:
  • Mourn = comforted
  • Meek = inherit the earth
  • Hunger and thirst = satisfaction/fed
  • Merciful = receive mercy
  • Pure in heart = shall see God
  • Peacemakers = shall be called sons of God
But the first reward and the last reward (which are the same) are a little iffy:

"For theirs is the kingdom of heaven"

Upside-down kingdom. What kind of king says "reign with me?" I mean, it would be totally cool/awesome for us to simply be loyal subjects in the Kingdom of our Lord...but that's not what God is going for. Jesus is saying: reign with me. BE LIKE ME.

Why is that a big deal?

Well...because it takes us all the way back to the beginning:

The serpent said to the woman, "You surely will not die! For God knows that in the day you eat from it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God - Genesis 3:4

This right here, is where the need for reconciliation began. It wasn't that Eve wanted to eat the fruit so badly, because as she told the serpent, she could eat from any tree in the garden (Genesis 3:3). It's not that she was hungry. It's not even that this was the forbidden fruit. It was the promise of: and you will be like God. What a motivator! 

What's your motivation? And what are you after in life? And how do you think you're supposed to go about getting it? I ask this because Adam and Eve were truly tricked. They had no idea that they were being offered something that was already slated to be theirs!

You don't have to steal it...
Everything that the beatitudes require of you, every thing that the Holy Spirit works in us sums of up to Jesus Christ. It is a work of reconciliation, transforming you into the image of Christ who is what? The express image of the person of God ( Hebrews 1:3). That was always the plan. Reign with me. Be like me.

God is freely allowing us to have the thing Adam and Eve thought they had to steal: to be as He is.

That's the reward. That's the ultimate goal.

How do you plan to get there?