Straight Out of Left Field

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Have you ever had a time in your life when God did a work for you that came straight out of left field?

The blessing, provision or miracle he bestowed on you caught you off guard and astonished you. It was completely unexpected and surprising.

You never saw it coming.

God seems to like to work that way, doesn’t he?

Think of Moses in the Old Testament, when he was leading the children of Israel out of bondage in Egypt.

They found themselves in a jam: cornered at the Red Sea with the Egyptian army snapping at their heels.

Moses had faith that God would save them, but I wonder if he was racking his brains trying to figure out just how it would happen.

Maybe God would send a flotilla of boats from the other side to rescue them, Dunkirk-style? But no one knew they were coming, and at any rate, the only people on the other side were either enemies or strangers.

Maybe God would send an affable and reasonable Egyptian captain to negotiate with Moses? Not likely, since all of Egypt’s firstborn had just been killed. The Egyptians were in no mood to parley with their escaped slaves.

No matter what Moses came up with as a potential solution, he never could have expected the curveball that God threw:

God miraculously parted the waters of the Red Sea and allowed the Israelites to cross over on dry ground, then closed up the waters to drown their enemies. Moses surely didn’t see that one coming!

And that’s not the only curveball that God threw…

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Don’t Get Used To It

How would you feel if you won the lottery?

Pretty amazing, I’d imagine!

And the feelings of joy and gratitude at your good fortune would last for a long time, wouldn’t they?

Um, maybe not.

Researchers have discovered that positive feelings following a stroke of good luck soon subside and return to baseline. By the same token, people eventually adjust back to their baseline after some misfortune has befallen them.

This phenomenon is called “hedonic adaptation.” Whether your situation is good or bad, you get used to it.

I wonder if something like this happened to the children of Israel after being freed from slavery in Egypt.

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You CAN Get There From Here!

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Have you ever heard the phrase, “You can’t get there from here?”

Said to have originated in the US state of Maine, it’s used humorously when describing a distant location that can’t be accessed without extensive, complicated directions.

The place might be difficult to get to from your current location, and the route may be very hard to describe. People simply throw up their hands rather than try.

This phrase is now used more generally to describe a problem that can’t be solved:

You simply can’t get there from here.

…or can you?

There may be things in your life that you think are impossible to solve.

But with God in the driver’s seat, you’d be surprised at where you may end up.

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Get Ready For God To Act

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When you read a cake or muffin recipe, it will usually instruct you to preheat your oven and get your baking pans prepared before describing how to make the dessert itself.

But why do it in this order? Why not make the batter first, and let it sit there in the bowl while you leisurely grease or line the baking pans and let the oven slowly heat up?

There’s a very good reason to have everything prepared before you start the actual baking, and it has to do with how leaveners behave.

As soon as a raising agent like baking soda comes into contact with the liquids in your cake batter, a chemical reaction starts to take place. Gases are generated, and bubbles begin forming. You want those bubbles to stay trapped inside the cake to give it loft and airiness.

If you let the batter sit there on the counter for too long, the gases would escape into the air. This would prevent your finished cake from being as light and fluffy as it could be. So as soon as the leavening agent is added and mixed in, put the batter into the prepared pan and get it into the heated oven as quickly as you can.

It’s the same way in life, isn’t it?

When God adds the circumstance or person that will be a catalyst to change your situation, things often begin moving very fast. If you’re not ready, it might catch you off guard. You may end up stumbling instead of stepping confidently into the new level God has in mind for you. You might not rise as high as you could have.

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Fast Or Slow, God Is Always At Work

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If you look out the (virtual) window here at The Faith Cafe, you can see the leaves starting to change colour on the trees outside.

The tops of the maple trees are starting to blush with red. There’s a hint of yellow among the linden leaves. And the sumacs are beginning to fire up in vivid shades of orange.

This change creeps in gradually, however. At first, you barely notice fall coming on. Weeks from now, though, the trees will be ablaze in vibrant yellows, oranges, and reds. The difference from how they look today will be dramatic.

Oftentimes, I think this is the way God works in our lives.

He is slowly but surely leading us through a process of change and sanctification.

We may not notice that aspects of our character are being transformed, because the change is so gradual. One day, however, you look up and realize how far you’ve come and what amazing things God has done in your life.

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God, the Ultimate Multi-tasker

Multi-tasking has been described as the art of messing up several things at once.

Like trying to apply makeup and drive on the freeway at the same time. Or using power tools while texting.

Much of the time when we try to do several things at once, we wind up doing each of them poorly.

God, on the other hand, is a master at multi-tasking, and He does everything perfectly.

When we think God is doing one thing in our lives, He’s actually doing many things at once. And much of what God is accomplishing is completely off our radar screens.

As theologian John Piper says, “In EVERY situation and EVERY circumstance of your life, God is always doing a thousand different things that you cannot see and you do not know.” And, “God is always doing 10,000 things in your life, and you may be aware of 3 of them.” (I invite you to read Piper’s excellent post on this topic.)

Take Joseph in the Old Testament, for example.

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Don’t Let Fear Get The Better Of You

Image by mohamed Hassan from Pixabay

Do you have a fear of bugs?

Many of us do, and I don’t mind admitting that I’m one of them.

Finding a bug in the house instills terror in me. I’m convinced the bug is out to get me, lying in wait to murder me.

I’m tempted to have armed police arrive at my door to deal with the “intruder.” It takes all the self-control I can muster to refrain from dialling 911.

People tell me I’m being irrational. After all, humans are thousands of times bigger than bugs. Insects are probably more afraid of us than we are of them, right?

But I don’t see it that way, so I’m afraid to confront them.

I’ve fallen into the trap of letting my fear get out of proportion to the problem.

Many of us make this mistake. We let fear get the better of us, and it hobbles our responses to life’s challenges.

In ancient times, the children of Israel were no exception.

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The Centre of God’s Will

Photo by Phil Gold on Flickr CC BY-SA 2.0

Before the advent of rear cameras in vehicles, some drivers had trouble knowing if they were properly backed into a parking space.

(Come to think of it, some drivers still have trouble with this, despite having rear cameras!)

Some people may need several attempts to get centred in the spot. They may have to open their car doors and peek down to see how far they are from the lane markers.

They just don’t have a sense of whether they’re in the centre or not.

I think all of us can relate to this. Perhaps not as drivers, but certainly in life, because we often don’t know if we’re in the centre of God’s will or not.

Sometimes it’s hard to tell, isn’t it?

We can’t always determine whether we’re in God’s will by merely looking at our circumstances. We might be going through some terribly difficult life events, and think, “This can’t be God’s will for me. It looks all wrong.”

And yet we might actually be smack dab in the centre of God’s will for our lives at that time.

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Your Past Doesn’t Determine Your Future

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If you’ve ever invested in stocks or mutual funds, you’ll probably have come across a disclaimer like this:

“Past performance is not a reliable indicator of future results.”

This phrase is meant to warn us and give us pause before we press the “Buy” button. We shouldn’t assume that an investment will continue to succeed in the future just because it’s done so in the past.

But there’s a secondary meaning that can be read into that disclaimer, too.

We shouldn’t discount or overlook an investment opportunity simply because it has performed poorly recently. It could well turn around and gain ground.

It’s this last meaning of the disclaimer that we see exemplified in several characters in the Bible. It applies to our own lives as well:

Past failures in our lives don’t mean that God can’t still use us.

They’re not a reliable indicator of our future results or success.

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A Series of Fortunate Events

Image by Susann Mielke from Pixabay

Sometimes it takes a bit of time before we can tell if an event will turn out to be good or bad for us.

Take the famous Chinese proverb about Sai Weng losing his horse. The story goes like this:

Sai Weng, a old farmer, raised horses for a living. One day, his prized stallion ran away. His neighbours comforted him in his misfortune by saying, “What terrible luck!”

Sai Weng merely replied, “Maybe so, maybe not. We’ll see.”

Later, the stallion returned, bringing with it several wild mares. The farmer’s neighbours congratulated him on his good fortune: “What wonderful luck!”

Again, Sai Weng only said, “Maybe so, maybe not. We’ll see.”

One day, Sai Weng’s son tried to ride one of the new mares, but was thrown off and broke his leg. The neighbours again commiserated with the farmer, saying, “What bad luck!”

Sai Weng once again replied, “Maybe so, maybe not. We’ll see.”

Later, soldiers from the national army came through town, conscripting all able-bodied men for service in the war. The farmer’s son was spared, however, because he was still recovering from his broken leg. The neighbours said, “What great luck!”

Sai Weng simply said with a smile, “We’ll see.”

We often can’t judge whether an event in an of itself is fortunate or unfortunate. Sometimes only time will tell the whole story.

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