There are many things that can be shocking, such as a precipitous drop in the stock market, unexpected news from a relative and sometimes, God does stuff that’s shocking. It seems to me that most of us don’t like stuff that’s shocking, such that we stay away from this kind of thing or we insulate ourselves, to minimize the exposure.
And yet, sometimes, things that are shocking can help us to get out of a rut. For example, I think Jesus was very shocking to the religious establishment in His day. Indeed, He challenged not only their assumptions and traditions, but also their practices and daily interactions:
He ate with sinners.
He associated with tax collectors.
He kept company with the irresuptable.
All of these actions of Jesus were very shocking to various upstanding citizens. And yet what is more importance than the shock value, is the reality that Jesus did all of these “crazy things”, from the premise and core motivation of genuine love. Sometimes, genuine love is the essence of shock value 🙂
“It’s not supposed to be like that!!” I’ve been reading in Acts about Peter going to Cornelius, a Gentile, ministering to his household & the outpouring of Holy Spirit on these Gentiles. The Jewish believers initially had a difficult time accepting this new reality with the Gentiles. Nonetheless, despite what the Jews expected, God didn’t stay in their confined expectations.
And I would encourage you & me to remember that God defies impossible. And it’s not uncommon for God to do what we don’t expect, answering prayers in often surprising & fun ways. Let’s also keep in mind that God doesn’t often conform to our limits & boxes. We would be wise to follow God’s leadership rather than trying to define or limit God 🙂
I have lots of friends who are good at planning. They think through a journey, a project or responsibility with focused attention for:
preparing for the unexpected, as best as they can
Me, not so much. And that’s one of my shortfalls. If I told you of all the times when I’ve forgotten things (makeup, clothes, money, etc), shown up at the wrong time, been unprepared or shocked, maybe you’d smirk with a playful laugh. And hopefully you wouldn’t shame me with the normal, “You should know better, Sarah” because I already do that to myself enough 🙂
No matter if you’re a planner or prefer a more “spontaneous” approach, let’s be certain to allow the Holy Spirit to guide our steps and navigate the various destinations and outcomes. If you’re a planner, be careful that you don’t try to stay in control of the journey with the Holy Spirit. If you’re the spontaneous type, be sure to listen to the Holy Spirit for those gentle nudges / reminders about bringing stuff & keeping appointments 🙂
SURPRISE!!!! Some of us like surprises & some of us, not so much. It’s also true that our response to surprises can depend on what the surprise is.
With Jesus’ birth, there were lots of associated surprises:
angels appearing to shepherds at night in the field,
Gabriel’s announcements to Zacharias & Mary about the upcoming supernatural births,
wisemen showing up to give kingly gifts to a seemingly common baby,
Joseph getting the surprise announcement that his fiancé was pregnant.
Let’s consider that surprises can be incredibly good, when we keep our eyes on Jesus, knowing that He loves us & is working in all things, even surprises, to work together for our Good, Romans 8:28-29.
Whenever my kids tell me, “Mom, don’t feel out when I tell you this, . . . ” I brace myself for what comes next. Sometimes it’s something easy, like “I forgot to tell you about a school assignment.” At other times, they spring something on me that’s more robust or unsettling. Whenever we have one of those “freak out” conversations, it always helps me to remember that nothing makes God freak out.
Indeed, God is never shocked nor chased away by us, our struggles or questions. And in full truth, God’s love continues to pursue us, even when we give up on ourselves. Be encouraged! You will never freak God out!
Some of us do shock better than others. Some of us need an hourly stability infusion & others need a more steady supply of edgy & unpredictable. Seems to me that Jesus fits the bill for each of these mindsets & He gives us stability when we need it & unpredictable when that’s what’s necessary.
Consider that Jesus was the steady Eddy for His disciples & earned their trust being His continuous faithfulness to them. He was also a shocker from time to time:
The walking on the water thing completely freaked out His disciples – Jesus walking on the water was the last thing they expected to see at 3am in the middle of a storm!
The multiple resurrection appearances was seriously shocking – a wake up call for sure!
Jesus’ disappearance after the Emmaus road chat made those guys recognize the holy heartburn from their traveling conversation w Him
Let’s be clear that whether we’re in a discouraging storm, or we’ve endured a tragic loss or we can’t understand what God is going, Jesus is fully capable to continue doing supernatural & shocking things. Let’s keep our eyes peeled & hearts open to Jesus throughout this day!
When my kids were very little, they trained me to get better at being prepared. Truth be known, I’ll often get super excited about something & throw preparation out the window for the sheer pleasure of adventure – but with babies & toddlers, this strategy backfires more often than not. A mom with babies & toddlers has to be prepared for all kinds of unexpected twists, most of which you probably don’t want to read about ,)
So my kids have helped me with that whole being prepared concept, mostly.
When it comes to Jesus, it’s also important to be prepared and here are a few helpful thoughts on what that might look like. Be prepared:
to love well – far beyond your natural limits, letting the love of God be poured out in your heart through the work of the Holy Spirit (Rom 5:5)
to give an answer for your faith & belief in Jesus – be that through rationale apologetic defense, philosophical rigor, miracles (1 Cor 2), prayer and / or personal experience (1 Pet 3:15)
to surrender to God’s plans & priorities – Jesus modelled the surrendered life with the Gethsemane prayer, “Not My will but Yours be done.”
to resist temptation – Jesus overcame the devil’s temptations in Matthew 4 & Paul encourages us that God always provides a way of escape in temptations (1 Cor 10:13)
When I was growing up, my dad didn’t really like surprises, even if they were pleasant. I remember a few occasions where I surprised him with something good & while he was grateful for me being thoughtful, it still wasn’t really appreciated because it was a surprise. In his mind, surprises weren’t good.
In my mind, however, I generally like surprises because I think of them as adventures & an adventure is almost always high grade fun for me.
Something that always helps me with surprises, whether they’re good of bad, is that nothing surprises God. Because God is all-knowling, there’s no surprise that can catch God off guard. Furthermore, God doesn’t make a Plan B when something seems to go wrong.
We can trust that nothing catches God by surprise & that God loves us far more than we could ever comprehend. These two truths work great rest into my heart & I hope into your heart as well over this weekend 🙂
My dad hated surprises – particularly bad surprises, but he wasn’t too keen on good ones either. I learned very quickly that I needed to give him lots of forewarning to avoid the “surprise fallout.” I also learned from his reactions that not everyone thinks that surprises are fun. Indeed, some people completely hate surprises, which can be kind of tricky to navigate when raising children (who are FULL of surpises). So here are some helpful thoughts about surprises:
no “surprise” catches God off-guard, since God is all-knowing
since God is all-knowing, we get to trust that God’s plans are always better than anything we could consider
it seems to me that staying calm is a good way to navigate surprises for the best outcomes
despite our best efforts, there is always the unexpected in our lives so it’s better to be flexible than resistant 🙂
it always helps me to remember that God is sovereign & nothing makes God jittery!
Don’t forget to stay in touch with Saving Moses over the next month for some GREAT SURPRISES!!!