Reconciling Correctly

balancingcheckbookI don’t like reconciling bank accounts. I don’t find it difficult, just tedious. I’d rather deal with words than numbers. Perhaps it’s because I can use my creativity. There’s not much creativity to matching pennies.

But reconciling needs to be done. And it needs to be done correctly. I recently encountered some discrepancies on an account at work. I had to talk to someone at the bank to get it straightened out. There’s a right way and a wrong way to reconcile.

I have to reconcile what I have with the bank. I don’t walk in and demand they correct their entries to match mine. (Yes, banks can make errors, too, but my guess is that people’s errors far outnumber bank errors.)

We have to reconcile with the bank, not the other way around.

It’s ridiculous for us to think that we are always right. Yet that’s what we do much of the time. I wonder which is more common: for people to reconcile their lives to God’s standards or project their own standards onto Him for their personal approval? Or perhaps ignore Him altogether? I know people who do that when reconciling with the bank. They believe what they think is in their account based on their own record keeping. Or they look at the bank balance and don’t consider what discrepancies might exist because of outstanding expenditures. Sometimes, we want to believe what we want to believe, and we don’t want anyone telling us we need to make adjustments.

But we need to make adjustments. Constantly. Each and every one of us. We need to check our balance. We need to acknowledge Someone might be more accurate and trustworthy than we are.


Reality Check

78c372262db9b19678466bab9dd41100_400x400There’s something about reading the entire book of Job. We all get the basics. Job was faithful but encountered  beyond what seems to be a fair share of troubles. He struggled, others got involved and gave him all kinds of advice and explanations, and God didn’t say a whole lot until later in the book. And that’s when the reality check comes in.

Basically, “Um, hello, Job. Can you stop for just a second please? Remember me? God? Let me remind you of a few things. In fact, I’ll just ask you a few questions.”

Who is this who obscures My counsel with ignorant words? Get ready to answer Me like a man; when I question you, you will inform Me. Where were you when I established the earth? Tell Me, if you have understanding. Who fixed its dimensions? Certainly you know! Who stretched a measuring line across it? What supports its foundations? Or who laid its cornerstone while the morning stars sang together and all the sons of God shouted for joy? Who enclosed the sea behind doors when it burst from the womb, when I made the clouds its garment and thick darkness its blanket, when I determined its boundaries and put its bars and doors in place, when I declared: “You may come this far, but no farther;
your proud waves stop here”? Have you ever in your life commanded the morning or assigned the dawn its place, so it may seize the edges of the earth and shake the wicked out of it? The earth is changed as clay is by a seal; its hills stand out like the folds of a garment.
Light is withheld from the wicked, and the arm raised in violence is broken. Have you traveled to the sources of the sea or walked in the depths of the oceans? Have the gates of death been revealed to you? Have you seen the gates of deep darkness? Have you comprehended the extent of the earth? Tell Me, if you know all this. Where is the road to the home of light? Do you know where darkness lives, so you can lead it back to its border?
Are you familiar with the paths to its home? Don’t you know? You were already born; you have lived so long! Have you entered the place where the snow is stored? Or have you seen the storehouses of hail, which I hold in reserve for times of trouble, for the day of warfare and battle? What road leads to the place where light is dispersed? Where is the source of the east wind that spreads across the earth? Who cuts a channel for the flooding rain
or clears the way for lightning, to bring rain on an uninhabited land, on a desert with no human life, to satisfy the parched wasteland and cause the grass to sprout? Does the rain have a father? Who fathered the drops of dew? Whose womb did the ice come from? Who gave birth to the frost of heaven when water becomes as hard as stone, and the surface of the watery depths is frozen? Can you fasten the chains of the Pleiades or loosen the belt of Orion? Can you bring out the constellations in their season and lead the Bear and her cubs? Do you know the laws of heaven? Can you impose its authority on earth? Can you command the clouds so that a flood of water covers you? Can you send out lightning bolts, and they go? Do they report to you: “Here we are”? Who put wisdom in the heart or gave the mind understanding? Who has the wisdom to number the clouds? Or who can tilt the water jars of heaven when the dust hardens like cast metal and the clods of dirt stick  together? Can you hunt prey for a lioness or satisfy the appetite of young lions when they crouch in their dens and lie in wait within their lairs? Who provides the raven’s food when its young cry out to God and wander about for lack of food? (Job 38)

Go ahead and continue into Job 39 if you want. It’s riddled with more questions. And I always read these questions as directed not just to Job but to me. And not just to me but to people in general. I mean, what are we thinking when we try to understand what God has done, estimate what He will do, and even try to take some of that control away from Him (or refuse He has it in the first place)?

Don’t get me wrong. I think God is okay with our questions. He’s okay with our struggles. Both indicate we’re working through something, that we’re on the journey instead of indifferent.

I never want to be indifferent again. I don’t have all the answers. I have a lot of questions. Yet I am more certain about who God is the closer I get to Him and the more passionate and persistently I pursue Him.

God is God.

Don’t define Him. Let Him define Himself as you seek and get to know Him. He’s worth the journey.

Watcher of Mankind

As I read through Job, I paused at Job 7 and wrote in my margin, “And the whining drones on…” It irritated me a bit.

97980584_wideIsn’t mankind consigned to forced labor on earth?
Are not his days like those of a hired hand?
Like a slave he longs for shade; like a hired man he waits for his pay.
So I have been made to inherit months of futility, and troubled nights have been assigned to me.
When I lie down I think: When will I get up?
But the evening drags on endlessly, and I toss and turn until dawn.
My flesh is clothed with maggots and encrusted with dirt. My skin forms scab and then oozes.

My days pass more swiftly than a weaver’s shuttle; they come to an end without hope.
Remember that my life is but a breath. My eye will never again see anything good.
The eye of anyone who looks on me will no longer see me.
Your eyes will look for me, but I will be gone.
As a cloud fades away and vanishes, so the one who goes down to Sheol will never rise again.
He will never return to his house; his hometown will no longer remember him.

Therefore I will not restrain my mouth.
I will speak in the anguish of my spirit; I will complain in the bitterness of my soul.
Am I the sea or a sea monster, that You keep me under guard?
When I say: My bed will comfort me, and my couch will ease my complaint,
then You frighten me with dreams, and terrify me with visions,
so that I prefer strangling—death rather than life in this body.
I give up! I will not live forever.
Leave me alone, for my days are a breath. What is man, that You think so highly of him
and pay so much attention to him?
You inspect him every morning, and put him to the test every moment.
Will You ever look away from me, or leave me alone long enough to swallow?
If I have sinned, what have I done to You, Watcher of mankind?
Why have You made me Your target, so that I have become a burden to You?
Why not forgive my sin and pardon my transgression?
For soon I will lie down in the grave. You will eagerly seek me, but I will be gone.

God is reduced to “watcher of mankind,” as if He is not interested or invested in us? Ugh.

Or so I thought.

As I read it again, it gave me a bit of comfort. Not that I want to justify my whining. In fact, it was so ingrained in me as I grew up that whining wasn’t acceptable or worth any time spent on it, whining doesn’t even stay in my mind for long, let alone escape from my mouth very often. But I’ve done my fair share of whining with God. I might not identify it as whining, but when I honestly take a look at myself and my conversations with Him, I can see it through the years. Hopefully, less and less, but still there.

And I’m not sorry, either for my own or for the inclusion of Job 7. I certainly don’t want to drone on and on with no forward movement of faith. I suppose there are two kinds of whining: productive and unproductive. Unproductive whining doesn’t get you anywhere but stuck. It’s “poor me” with little or no acknowledgement that anything, including ourselves, will change. It’s the kind of whining I don’t want to tolerate in myself or others for long, because it digs a pit for us to camp in and feel sorry for ourselves. Productive whining is different. Sometimes we need to talk through our “woe is me” as a reality check of the way things really are…with hope, a new sunrise, and a dependable God.

Maybe calling God “watcher of mankind” isn’t as bad as I thought. (In another translation, He is called “preserver of man.”) It is still acknowledging Him with some sort of authority. Maybe we all go through times when we can’t quite grasp who He is, not because He has changed but because of our circumstances. Maybe we need to work through where we are and where He is and how the two fit together, because we’re uncertain. Maybe there’s a bit of whiny involved, because we don’t like the uncertainty.

Maybe whining is the clue we need that we’re uncertain, need to wrestle a bit, and trust God enough to show us a glimpse of who He is for our tomorrows, not just our today.

“How long will you go on saying these things? Your words are a blast of wind.” (Job 8:1)

If I Were You…

301742_328847527189296_126894987384552_755324_885186947_nHowever, if I were you, I would appeal to God and would present my case to Him. (Job 5:8)

How many times do we say, “If I were you…”? The truth is: we are not. Other translations say, “As for me…” Perhaps that’s more truthful, admitting we’re really just giving the advice we most want to follow. But we’re not actually in the other person’s shoes. We don’t bring with us the same experiences, lessons, priorities, and so on.

Yet we can still give sound advice: “appeal to God.”

How can we go wrong? How can we advise wrong?

Telling people how we’d respond is selfish, but pointing them to God is not. One is self-centered; the other is God-centered. We can still support, listen, reflect, ask, and more. We don’t send people on their own way and never follow up. We continue to invest in people’s lives. But we let God do the most investing.

Because we’re not Him.

God Alone

daily-image-022813Then Hezekiah prayed before the Lord:

Lord God of Israel who is enthroned above the cherubim, You are God—You alone—of all the kingdoms of the earth. You made the heavens and the earth. Listen closely, Lord, and hear; open Your eyes, Lord, and see. Hear the words that Sennacherib has sent to mock the living God. Lord, it is true that the kings of Assyria have devastated the nations and their lands. They have thrown their gods into the fire, for they were not gods but made by human hands—wood and stone. So they have destroyed them. Now, Lord our God, please save us from his hand so that all the kingdoms of the earth may know that You are the Lord God—You alone. (2 Kings 19:15-19)

No matter what, God alone is God.

No matter the frustrations, trials, pain, suffering, grief, betrayal, or anything else. He alone is God.

That’s difficult to fathom at times. I want to try to explain everything within His perspective and will. But I can’t. First, it doesn’t all make sense. I don’t understand how everything fits together. Second, if I could completely understand everything about Him and His perspective and creation, what would that say about Him…and me?

I don’t know why one person dies while another person lives. I don’t know why one person suffers physically, another suffers emotionally, and another seems to skate through life relatively unscathed. I don’t know why some people lash out at others yet are the first ones to cry foul when something similar happens to them. I don’t know why being called to a humble, higher road is exhausting and feels unfair at times even though it is also the most rewarding. I just don’t know.

But I know God. And I trust Him. And I am thankful for Him.

The Cost of Perspective

12_ww_graphic_walk_with_humilityMoses sent for Dathan and Abiram, the sons of Eliab, but they said, “We will not come! Is it not enough that you brought us up from a land flowing with milk and honey to kill us in the wilderness? Do you also have to appoint yourself as ruler over us?” (Numbers 16:12-13)

We often refuse to submit because of our own perspective even if it skews reality. After all, we can’t understand it all. Our own perspective makes sense to us, because we’re right in the middle of it. But that’s the problem. We’re limited. There are many perspectives beyond ours. Even if we could consider them all, we might not be any closer to identifying the truth, so how can we know who and what to follow and trust?

The easy answer is “God,” but the easy answer certainly doesn’t seem so easy when we’re struggling to trust others, when we can’t possibly imagine how someone might be worthy of authority and trust.

Keep struggling. Keep asking questions. Keep moving. Keep growing.

Humility is worth the cost. It’s less about the results you’ll get and more about the faith you’ll grow.