Pre-positioned Miracles

Bo the poodle and I went for our customary morning Diet Dr. Pepper run this morning, heading to the QuikTrip nearest our house. As we drove–I drove, Bo was in the back–I found myself irritated by the yellow circle of the sun, just above the horizon, blasting into my eyes. There sat the sun, almost perfectly in front of me as I tried to see the road before me. Then I thought about the matter a bit.

Thirty-ninth Street in my hometown runs down the middle of section 22 in the 19th-century division of lands: township, range, and section. Two streets, 35th and 43rd, mark the north and south boundaries of that section (and all of the mile-square, 640-acre sections) in the area. All of these numbered streets run, for all practical purposes, perfectly east and west. Therefore, as I drove on 39th Street this morning at about 7:30 a.m., four days before the vernal equinox, I drove straight east. Looking more carefully, I realized that the sun was actually just a tiny bit to the left of straight ahead and just a hair above the horizon. In other words, I expect, on Wednesday, the so-called “first day of spring,” the rising sun will be perfectly above 39th Street should I drive at that hour.

Anyone who understands some basic astronomy will read these words and look unbelieving at me. It’s as if I breathlessly announced that a pot of water, left on the stove indefinitely, would eventually turn into a gas we call steam. Certainly I cannot call the mechanical operations of the solar system a miracle, can I?

The beginning of Psalm 19 suggests that, if not a miracle, that orderly operation of the heavens, the predictability of sun, moon, and seasons does proclaim the presence and greatness of God:

The heavens declare the glory of God,
and the expanse proclaims the work of his hands.
Day after day they pour out speech;
night after night they communicate knowledge.
There is no speech; there are no words;
their voice is not heard.
Their message has gone out to the whole earth,
and their words to the ends of the world.

Far from being annoying, the sun in my eyes this morning declares the glory of God and proclaims the work of his hands. Isaac Newton’s second law of thermodynamics tells us that the natural way of systems is that they move from order to entropy, from design to chaos. If that held true here, then we might never know when or where to expect sunrise.

But God has pre-positioned miracles in our midst. These miracles hold the universe together. They allow creatures to pass genetic information from one generation to the next. They provide for human respiration and plant photosynthesis.

“Praise God from whom all blessings flow,” the traditional “Doxology,” sings. Sometimes those blessings pop up in the form of a healing or a fortuitous discovery, but most of the time they have been placed into the world from the foundation of the earth. That’s some praiseworthy foresight!

1963

 

John 2:5

Blessing follows obedience, not the other way around.

I wish I had a dollar for every time, in thirty years of teaching, I’ve heard a student say something like this: “I’m applying for the nursing program, so I really need to get an A in this course.”

I’m all in favor of students earning As.What strikes me, though, is how people act as if their desire to enter some demanding area of study should dictate the grade I assign. They don’t seem to get it: You earn entry into that program–nursing, med school, whatever–because you did the hard work and had the ability necessary to gain those lofty grades.

Anybody can see the sense in that, but how often do we foolishly think that we should obey God only after He comes through with the blessings? It makes us sound like kidnappers on a cop show. “You leave the blessings where I say and then I’ll tell you where the obedience is!”

God doesn’t work that way. Or does He? As redeemed believers, we have already gained the greatest blessing we’ll ever see. How petty do we appear when we ask, “What have you done for me lately?” and wait for God to come through with the equivalent of a bowl of soup?

Obedience must come first. Otherwise it really isn’t obedience.

  • In what area of your life do you find it hardest to put obedience first?
  • What is an example of a time when God showered disproportionate blessings on you in response to your obedience?
  • Pray that God will help you put obedience first in your heart and allow the blessing to follow as He sees fit.

Solution to Every Puzzle

 

John 2:4

What matters to you matters to Jesus.

People sometimes have a hard time keeping my grandsons separate. It’s easy to understand the confusion as they all three have a three-letter name that begins and ends with a vowel: Ira, Isa, and Uri. If you’d like a bit of help, let me explain that Ira is the one whom you’ll see walking around, almost all of the time, with a Rubik’s cube in his hand, its squares constantly clacking as he solves it, scrambles it, and then solves it again.

Although I think it is pretty cool that Ira can solve the traditional three-by-three cube in something like thirty seconds, I honestly have no interest in learning the various algorithms and patterns necessary to move beyond dumb luck.

On the other end of the scale, Ira is utterly obsessed with the crazy things. He owns practically every type of cube (and other shapes) available. The highlight of his summer will be coming up this weekend as he travels to Des Moines for a competition.

Who knew there were Rubik’s cube competitions? They have all manner of events and their own star system. Ira today described himself as a “peasant” in the cubing world.

As I said, I have no interest in cubing, but I have an interest in Ira. That’s why I don’t mind supporting him in this, paying for entries, and so forth.

How much more does Jesus care about the minutiae of our lives. If it matters to me, then it matters to Him. Why would I keep it to myself?

  • Are there aspects of your life that you believe are too trivial to involve Jesus with? Why?
  • What else might keep you from allowing Jesus to take an interest in what matters to you?
  • Examine your life and systematically open every part of it to the One who is your greatest advocate.

Don’t Turn to the Toaster

 

John 2:1-3

It’s not the problem you face but how you face the problem.

We used to spend a good deal of time with Pat, a woman who had an endless string of problems. Perhaps you know someone who seems to always have a terrible crisis coming down the road, but actually that wasn’t Pat. While she thought that she had an endless string of problems, what she really had was a steady flow of fairly insignificant matters, many of them created by her own folly.

“My supervisor complained that I made too many personal calls!”

“The bank repossessed my car, and now I can’t get to the casino.”

I listened and gritted my teeth. Finally, one day, as she cursed “my luck” because something really important–I think maybe her toaster quit working–had marred her day, I had listened to enough.

“Trent is paralyzed,” I noted.

Trent, a father of two, had gone from a capable, active young man to a hopelessly paralyzed fellow in a motorized wheelchair in the course of a few weeks. His wife didn’t know how they could pay for their house, pay for his care, or raise their daughters.

All the while that Pat complained about her luck, Trent and his family kept as strong an outlook as you could hope. I’d be lying if I said they didn’t experience some dark days, but mostly they kept their faces toward Christ throughout the worst of times.

Pat, I’m afraid, kept her face toward the toaster. I’m sure I needn’t mention that her outcome was less satisfactory.

  • What is the biggest problem that you are facing at the present?
  • Do you find it easy or difficult to turn first to Jesus in the face of problems great and small?
  • Ask God to assist you in making your problems His problems.