Slice of Life: It is not unique to me, of course, but this week has been a very long week. Where I have been, the weather has been nearly perfect. I have had many pleasant conversations. I have been able to hang out with some people from work for whom I have great respect and affection. I have been able to jog in some of my preferred places beneath hardwoods. And I have trekked around ponds and creeks and the river–all of which surround me. So, I have experienced blessings, too–numerous blessings.
Perhaps meaning more than almost anything, I have spoken to my bride of several decades, and she has reminded me that she is praying for me. Because I’m military, we suffer a lot of separations due to my career. But I love to call her and/or text her in the mornings, when I know she is in her chair, with her Bible open, and she is reading it, and her little notebook will be near her wherein she writes her prayer requests and even dates them. She is specific in her prayers; I love that: specificity. Details.
And because I know she is praying, I smile to myself, as if to say, “I am to expect things now.” No, this is not some superstition I have. And no, she is not magical or anything like that. It is much simpler and more profound than that: it is that she just lays matters out plainly before herself and before the Lord in her heart’s cry to the God who hears his people.
It is possible to theologize rather than just to pray. Theology, done biblically, is of supreme importance. But if theology does not lead you to the founder and perfecter of our faith (Hebrews 12::2), then it can be made an intellectual idol. Perhaps you know the struggle.
This week especially, I have had a lot of things that needed to come together. And those things did not come together in my timing. In fact, they seemed to frustrate me at every turn. But when I’d be at my wits’ end, I’d receive a text or a voicemail: “Praying for you” or “God has you” or “I trust the Lord” would come to me from her and/or from others.
And you know what? Things did come together. At the last minute. Literally. But they did. And I am now reenergized, focused, and most of all, grateful.
Segue: I know few people read Scripture with the discipline and love that some of us do, but I want to share an encouragement I received from Matthew’s gospel this morning. I am a morning person and I read, think, and write best in the mornings. This morning, I was reading Matthew. When I came to Matthew 3, I read of John the Baptist. He was a striking Elijah-like figure, a fiery man, unafraid to tell the hard truths about the sinfulness of man and the holiness of God.
And then I came to one of my favorite passages in the Bible:
Bear fruit in keeping with repentance. And do not presume to say to yourselves, ‘We have Abraham as our father,’ for I tell you, God is able from these stones to raise up children for Abraham. Even now the axe is laid to the root of the trees. Every tree therefore that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. (Matthew 3:8-10, ESV)
Isn’t that amazing? From these stones. That’s the image John the Baptist used. It was a figurative way of teaching a fundamental truth about God: God is able. He is the Creator. He makes ways when men let you down. He is faithful when we sinners are unfaithful. He is consistent. God can, John the Baptist was teaching, create a people for himself who are not consumed with their genealogy, their spiritual resume, their legalism, their facades. God can create worshipers in spirit and truth from the very stones. Why? Because he created them, just like he created all things.
Takeaway: It is easy to forget, to underestimate the God of Scripture, the only God who is. There are, of course, lots of non-God gods, targets of paganism, but they’re crafted of wood, hay, and stubble–idols fashioned by fallen sinners longing to escape the holiness of the triune God who is.
Isaiah put it this way:
They have no knowledge who carry about their wooden idols, and keep on praying to a god that cannot save. Declare and present your case; let them take counsel together! Who told this long ago? Who declared it of old? Was it not I , the LORD? And there is no other god besides me, a righteous God and a Savior; there is none besides me. (Isaiah 45:20b-21, ESV)
The axe is laid at the foot of lies, in short. That was one of John the Baptist’s messages. God is not mocked. The God of Scripture is grander, better, more beautiful, more loving, more grace-bestowing, more creative, more willing to show mercy to us fallen repentant creatures, than I often appreciate.
But when one has a long week, when one has fretted and tossed and paced and exercised and gone without sleep … and then finds–once again–that God has shown him grace and mercy and favor, he cannot but appreciate the fact that … from these stones, God is able.