Rewards and punishment

Peter asked, “Lord are you saying this parable just for our benefit or for everyone?”

Jesus answered “Who is the kind of person who his master would put in charge of his household to make sure that everyone who lives there gets fed on time? It is the wise and faithful servant who the master finds working when he comes home. Mark my words, the master will put that kind of servant in charge of everything he owns.

However, if a servant starts to think to himself ‘My master won’t be back for a long time,’ and begins to beat the people he is supposed to look after, and to spend his time getting drunk at parties, the master will return at a surprise day and hour. He will discipline the servant severely and put him with other untrustworthy people, and there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.

The servant who knew what his master wanted him to do and didn’t rise to the occasion or act upon his master’s wishes will be severely punished. However, the one who didn’t know what his master wanted and acted badly will be beaten less severely. More is expected of those people who have been given a lot. Even more than that is expected for those who have been entrusted with more.”

MT 24:45-51, LK 12:41-48

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On not setting up idols of other people and events.

I feel there’s a lot more behind this work transfer than I’m being told. I feel that it’s being done to keep someone else happy. I feel that it is being done to get me out of the way. While I would appreciate honesty, I’m not letting this get to me anymore because I believe that God is in charge of everything.

God uses people, even faithful people, to advance the kingdom. Even to say that the four layers of managers above me are in charge of my future is to give them more power than God. It is to set them up as idols. No, I’m not worshiping them. But to think they are truly in charge fundamentally ignores and negates the fact that God is in charge.

The same is true of a disease or an accident or a disaster. To say it controls your life is to say that it is your god. Yes, you are affected. You are forced to react, to change position and place. But if you truly believe that God is in charge, you know that everything is from God and that it is happening for reason, and that the reason is good because it is from God.

This does not mean that everything will be awesome and wonderful for you. This does not mean that because you are a follower of God that you will have everything go well, you’ll be healed of your sickness, you’ll have the best things. Your will is not the point. God’s will is. You are a player on the stage, a pawn, a puppet. But with God pulling the strings and directing the play, everything will come out exactly as it should.

These lines from Psalm 119 speak to me right now
ט Tet
65 LORD, You have treated Your servant well,
just as You promised.
66 Teach me good judgment and discernment,
for I rely on Your commands.
67 Before I was afflicted I went astray,
but now I keep Your word.
68 You are good, and You do what is good;
teach me Your statutes.
69 The arrogant have smeared me with lies,
but I obey Your precepts with all my heart.
70 Their hearts are hard and insensitive,
but I delight in Your instruction.
71 It was good for me to be afflicted
so that I could learn Your statutes.
72 Instruction from Your lips is better for me
than thousands of gold and silver pieces.

True relationships

His mother and siblings came to him while he was speaking with a large crowd, but they couldn’t reach him. They sent word that they wanted to speak with him. Someone in the crowd told him “Look, your mother and siblings are standing outside waiting to speak with you.”

Instead of going out, he replied “Who is my family?” Indicating his followers who were seated in a circle around him, he said “Here they are! Whoever hears and does the will of my Father in heaven is my mother and brother and sister.”

MT 12:46-50, MK 3:31-35, LK 8:19-21

Who is to build the Temple? Not Solomon.

King David thought that he should build the Temple, but God told him otherwise through his prophet Nathan. God tells Nathan to tell David that the Temple, the holy House of God, will be built after David has died.

These verses are at the end of Nathan telling him to stop his plans –

1 Chronicles 17:11-14
11 And it shall come to pass, when thy days are fulfilled that thou must go to be with thy fathers, that I will set up thy seed after thee, who shall be of thy sons; and I will establish his kingdom. 12 He shall build me a house, and I will establish his throne for ever. 13 I will be his father, and he shall be my son: and I will not take my lovingkindness away from him, as I took it from him that was before thee; 14 but I will settle him in my house and in my kingdom for ever; and his throne shall be established for ever.

Note that God says God will “…set up thy seed after thee” after David has died. Clearly, this is not referring to his son Solomon, who was already alive at this time. God is talking about a descendant of David who will be born after David has died.

David seems to understand this when he talks to God a little later.

1 Chronicles 17:16-17
16 Then David the king went in, and sat before Jehovah; and he said, Who am I, O Jehovah God, and what is my house, that thou hast brought me thus far? 17 And this was a small thing in thine eyes, O God; but thou hast spoken of thy servant’s house for a great while to come, and hast regarded me according to the estate of a man of high degree, O Jehovah God.

Note David’s words in verse 17 – “…for a great while to come”. He is aware that this is in the far distant future.

Then David, like Abraham, tries to take matters into his own hands. Either he misunderstood what he seemed to understand earlier, or he just thought he’d get a head start on things.

1 Chronicles 22:6-10
6 Then he called for Solomon his son, and charged him to build a house for Jehovah, the God of Israel. 7 And David said to Solomon his son, As for me, it was in my heart to build a house unto the name of Jehovah my God. 8 But the word of Jehovah came to me, saying, Thou hast shed blood abundantly, and hast made great wars: thou shalt not build a house unto my name, because thou hast shed much blood upon the earth in my sight. 9 Behold, a son shall be born to thee, who shall be a man of rest; and I will give him rest from all his enemies round about; for his name shall be Solomon, and I will give peace and quietness unto Israel in his days: 10 he shall build a house for my name; and he shall be my son, and I will be his father; and I will establish the throne of his kingdom over Israel for ever.

At no point did God tell David why he didn’t want him to build the Temple. Being a man of war wasn’t the reason he was prevented. It just wasn’t time yet. Solomon can’t be the one that God wanted to build it, because God talked about bringing forth a seed of David (a descendant of his) after David had died. Also important to realize is that at no point in the intervening chapters did David hear from God directly – it was always through a prophet, either Nathan or Gad.

David keeps telling himself this story, and it keeps being wrong. This is a little later –

1 Chronicles 28:5-7
5 And of all my sons (for Jehovah hath given me many sons), he hath chosen Solomon my son to sit upon the throne of the kingdom of Jehovah over Israel. 6 And he said unto me, Solomon thy son, he shall build my house and my courts; for I have chosen him to be my son, and I will be his father. 7 And I will establish his kingdom for ever, if he be constant to do my commandments and mine ordinances, as at this day.

God didn’t choose Solomon. David did. David wanted the Temple built, and he wanted to make sure it happened.

Let’s go back to the beginning.

1 Chronicles 17:4-6
4 Go and tell David my servant, Thus saith Jehovah, Thou shalt not build me a house to dwell in: 5 for I have not dwelt in a house since the day that I brought up Israel, unto this day, but have gone from tent to tent, and from one tabernacle to another. 6 In all places wherein I have walked with all Israel, spake I a word with any of the judges of Israel, whom I commanded to be shepherd of my people, saying, Why have ye not built me a house of cedar?

If God wanted a house, God would have asked for one. God would have made it happen. God was happy dwelling in a tent or a tabernacle. God was happy being free and not stuck in one place.

But David wouldn’t listen, and made sure that there were plenty of materials ready. He didn’t leave it to chance, but most importantly, he didn’t leave it to God.

1 Chronicles 22:2-5
2 And David commanded to gather together the sojourners that were in the land of Israel; and he set masons to hew wrought stones to build the house of God. 3 And David prepared iron in abundance for the nails for the doors of the gates, and for the couplings; and brass in abundance without weight; 4 and cedar-trees without number: for the Sidonians and they of Tyre brought cedar-trees in abundance to David. 5 And David said, Solomon my son is young and tender, and the house that is to be builded for Jehovah must be exceeding magnificent, of fame and of glory throughout all countries: I will therefore make preparation for it. So David prepared abundantly before his death.

Interestingly, some of the materials that were used for the Temple were gotten from David waging war. In 1 Chronicles 18 we learn that David went to war against the Philistines, the Moabites, and the Syrians. From those spoils came a huge amount of brass, which Solomon used to make the brass reservoir, pillars, and vessels. So much for not wanting David to build the temple because he was a man of war!

God does what God wants in God’s time, and in God’s way. We keep acting like it is all up to us to do. We have to wait patiently, knowing that God is in charge.

(All translations of the Bible are from the American Standard Version, which is in public domain.)

Nothing is an accident

I’ve written before about how the Lord told Abraham that he was going to be the father of many people. Abraham didn’t do things on the Lord’s time, but tried to get things going on his own.

Abraham and Sarah (named Abram and Sarai at that time) were very old. It didn’t look like they were going to have children, so they tried to figure out a way that they were going to fulfill God’s promise that they were going to be the parents of a multitude.

Genesis 16:1-3
Now Sar′ai, Abram’s wife, bore him no children. She had an Egyptian maid whose name was Hagar; 2 and Sar′ai said to Abram, “Behold now, the LORD has prevented me from bearing children; go in to my maid; it may be that I shall obtain children by her.” And Abram hearkened to the voice of Sar′ai. 3 So, after Abram had dwelt ten years in the land of Canaan, Sar′ai, Abram’s wife, took Hagar the Egyptian, her maid, and gave her to Abram her husband as a wife.

It was fourteen years later that the Lord allowed Sarah to become pregnant and give birth to Isaac. Fourteen years! Can you imagine? They were sure that God’s promise was going to happen anytime. They were just getting older and older. It still wasn’t happening. But we forget that God’s ways are not our ways. We forget that God knows everything – and if God says something is going to happen, then it will.

Meanwhile, Ishmael was there. Was he an accident – or part of God’s plan? The Lord has a way of making things NOT happen if they aren’t supposed to happen. Let’s look at two examples.

Genesis 20:1-7
From there Abraham journeyed toward the territory of the Negeb, and dwelt between Kadesh and Shur; and he sojourned in Gerar. 2 And Abraham said of Sarah his wife, “She is my sister.” And Abim′elech king of Gerar sent and took Sarah. 3 But God came to Abim′elech in a dream by night, and said to him, “Behold, you are a dead man, because of the woman whom you have taken; for she is a man’s wife.” 4 Now Abim′elech had not approached her; so he said, “Lord, wilt thou slay an innocent people? 5 Did he not himself say to me, ‘She is my sister’? And she herself said, ‘He is my brother.’ In the integrity of my heart and the innocence of my hands I have done this.” 6 Then God said to him in the dream, “Yes, I know that you have done this in the integrity of your heart, and it was I who kept you from sinning against me; therefore I did not let you touch her. 7 Now then restore the man’s wife; for he is a prophet, and he will pray for you, and you shall live. But if you do not restore her, know that you shall surely die, you, and all that are yours.”

God prevented the king from getting into trouble. Abraham said that Sarah was his sister to protect her, but it didn’t work. God stepped in and prevented a problem.

Then we have this story.

Numbers 22:21-35
21 So Balaam rose in the morning, and saddled his ass, and went with the princes of Moab. 22 But God’s anger was kindled because he went; and the angel of the LORD took his stand in the way as his adversary. Now he was riding on the ass, and his two servants were with him. 23 And the ass saw the angel of the LORD standing in the road, with a drawn sword in his hand; and the ass turned aside out of the road, and went into the field; and Balaam struck the ass, to turn her into the road. 24 Then the angel of the LORD stood in a narrow path between the vineyards, with a wall on either side. 25 And when the ass saw the angel of the LORD, she pushed against the wall, and pressed Balaam’s foot against the wall; so he struck her again. 26 Then the angel of the LORD went ahead, and stood in a narrow place, where there was no way to turn either to the right or to the left. 27 When the ass saw the angel of the LORD, she lay down under Balaam; and Balaam’s anger was kindled, and he struck the ass with his staff. 28 Then the LORD opened the mouth of the ass, and she said to Balaam, “What have I done to you, that you have struck me these three times?” 29 And Balaam said to the ass, “Because you have made sport of me. I wish I had a sword in my hand, for then I would kill you.” 30 And the ass said to Balaam, “Am I not your ass, upon which you have ridden all your life long to this day? Was I ever accustomed to do so to you?” And he said, “No.” 31 Then the LORD opened the eyes of Balaam, and he saw the angel of the LORD standing in the way, with his drawn sword in his hand; and he bowed his head, and fell on his face. 32 And the angel of the LORD said to him, “Why have you struck your ass these three times? Behold, I have come forth to withstand you, because your way is perverse before me; 33 and the ass saw me, and turned aside before me these three times. If she had not turned aside from me, surely just now I would have slain you and let her live.” 34 Then Balaam said to the angel of the LORD, “I have sinned, for I did not know that thou didst stand in the road against me. Now therefore, if it is evil in thy sight, I will go back again.” 35 And the angel of the LORD said to Balaam, “Go with the men; but only the word which I bid you, that shall you speak.” So Balaam went on with the princes of Balak.

In this case, the Lord prevented someone from going the wrong way by sending an angel to stop him.

So if we aren’t supposed to do something, God will get in the way and let us know. Sure, the king could have gone ahead and taken Sarah as his wife. Sure, Balaam could have gotten off the donkey and walked around the angel.

But notice – nothing stopped Abraham from having a child with Hagar. There was no warning, no angel sent. So what looks like a human way of solving a situation is much more than that. God wanted Ishmael to be born, even though he was prophesied to be constantly fighting.

When Hagar found that she was pregnant, she was rude to Sarah, and Sarah kicked her out. This is way out in the desert, with nobody else around. This was a death sentence. Alone, upset, Hagar cried out for help and the Lord sent an angel. The angel told her to return to Sarah and submit to her.

Genesis 16:10-12
10 The angel of the LORD also said to her, “I will so greatly multiply your descendants that they cannot be numbered for multitude.” 11 And the angel of the LORD said to her, “Behold, you are with child, and shall bear a son; you shall call his name Ish′mael; because the LORD has given heed to your affliction. 12 He shall be a wild ass of a man, his hand against every man and every man’s hand against him; and he shall dwell over against all his kinsmen.”

So even though it doesn’t sound like it is part of God’s plan to have someone constantly fighting – it is. The Lord didn’t send any warning to stop it happening. So we have to accept it.

Poem – three days

Jonah was in the whale three days.
By himself.
In the dark.
He didn’t know if he’d ever get out.

Jesus was dead for three days.

His disciples thought
it was the end.

Sometimes the wait is forty years.

Sometimes longer.

Redemption isn’t immediate.
It isn’t guaranteed,
either.

Trust that whatever is happening
is meant to happen.
Trust that whatever
is going to happen
is meant to happen
too.

Prayer isn’t about changing what IS.

I was just asked to pray for a man’s wife. She is going to have a scan today to see how her cancer is. He wanted me to pray that her cancer is gone. Prayers don’t work like this. Sure, I can pray that they find everything that needs to be found, and that the machine is working correctly. But I can’t pray that her cancer has disappeared. That is a different thing altogether.

Say your friend tells you that she is pregnant and she asks you to pray that it is a girl. This is too late. The gender of the child is already determined at this point. The time to pray for a specific gender was before she got pregnant.

Say you are driving home and you see smoke from a fire. You start praying “God, don’t let that be my house!” Too late. The fire is already happening. It won’t jump from your house to another. If it did, that would mean that your neighbor’s house would be on fire, and that wouldn’t be fair. But in reality, you just have to accept that whatever house that is on fire is on fire. You can’t change it. You can pray that everybody gets out ok, but even then you need to understand that isn’t up to you either.

Sometimes people are meant to die young. Sometimes bad things happen. Our goal with prayer is to learn how to accept the reality of the situation.

The more we try to define things as bad or good, the more resistance we are bringing to the situation, and the more attachment.

Our goal is to be like a surfer. Ride the waves, and go with them. You can’t control them. If you work with them you are safe. If you work against them you will get hurt. Or die.

Prayer isn’t about getting what you want. It is about wanting what you get.

A lot of prayer isn’t about changing God’s mind. It is about us coming to grips with God’s will. It is about us learning to accept what IS.

God is in charge. Our job is to understand that. If we believe that God is good, we have to accept that whatever happens is what God needs to happen. We may not like it at the time. It may be pretty awful in fact. But the more we resist, the harder it gets.

There was one time I was in a river raft. My boyfriend at the time was a guide. He had taken many tours of that river and knew it well. We were with a few other friends on a private trip down the river. He got to a certain area and had us “surf” for a bit. The water started to come into the boat a little. I started to freak out and tried to climb out of the raft. He held me in the raft, pushing down on my shoulders. I freaked out more. We got out of it fine and he explained it to me. He knew what he was doing. It had to happen that way. If I’d gotten out, I would have been pulled away by the current, or worse, pulled under the raft. My resisting was making it worse for me.

Ideally, he would have explained all this before we got to that area, but he didn’t think to. Also, he didn’t know exactly the way the water (or I) was going to behave. But he knew what he was doing, even if I didn’t. He was the expert, and I wasn’t.

God is the expert, and we aren’t. God is in charge, and we aren’t. God knows what is going to happen, and we don’t. God is the Alpha and the Omega – the beginning and the end. God is everything, all at once. We can’t even begin to comprehend that. God’s will is so much more vast than we can ever know.

Prayer puts us in a state of being receptive to the will of God.

This doesn’t mean that you can’t ask God to change His mind. But be aware that whatever happens after that is what is supposed to happen. God is not your waiter. You don’t get to “have it your way.”