Reading the Celestial Tea Leaves

Sunday May 16, 2021, The Seventh Sunday of Easter (Cycle B)

The tie in between today’s readings: The General and Specific Wills of God

Psalm 103:1-2;11-12;19-20, Acts 1:15-26, 1 John 4:11-16, John 17:11-19

The important things in life are never more in focus as when you are about to die. The Last Supper is no exception. Our gospel reading in John 17:11-19 lets us listen in as Jesus intercedes for His friends. In this section of His High Priestly Pray, Christ is looking past the cross to His Ascension. The training wheels are coming off the bikes and the disciples, soon to be Apostles, are going to have to ride without their Lord standing next to them. It’s going to be rough out there for His fledgling Church. The world hates them and the Devil, though defeated, will come at them with a vengeance. But the Lord will not leave them as orphans. He, who is the Truth, prays that they will have the power of God’s truth also. The truth will unite them. The truth will sanctify them. The truth will protect them as they invade the dominion of Satan, the liar. The truth will bring them joy and with the truth, they will overcome a hate filled world by proclaiming the gospel boldly, plainly, and in love.

Our reading in 1 John 4:11-16 connects the truth of the gospel with the love of the Father which provided our salvation in Christ. This love works personally between us and the Lord who, by His grace, saved us from an unimaginable fate. God’s love in us cannot be contained within us and, by necessity, must extend outwards to our neighbors. The Holy Spirit within each believer keeps it all working together. He testifies and keeps us in the truth. He also convicts us of our unloving acts (sin) and calls us to repent. This is reinforced in today’s Psalm 103 excerpts, where King David tells us to bless the Lord and never forget His mercy in removing our sins as far as the east is from the west. Along with that is his emphasis that God is sovereign and must be obeyed. To conclude then, even in Christ’s most desperate hour, His pressing concern was for the Church to grow in His truth and love. Even now, we have the Holy Spirit to guide us in this lifelong endeavor. This is the foundation of God’s will for our lives. May we never tire of pursuing it. While this, the general will of God, is all well and good for our day-to-day Christian conduct, what about the specific decisions we have to make like: marriage, taking a job, moving away, or whatever?  It can be hard to read the celestial tea leaves as we walk by faith and not by sight. How can we know the Almighty’s plan for us in these circumstances?

First off, you have to get out of your own way. Are you genuinely seeking the Lord’s guidance in the situation or just His rubber stamp for your almost made-up mind? God’s specific will for you will never direct you to go against His general will. If there is a hint of sinfulness or selfishness, then stop. Secondly, it’s almost guaranteed that He will take you out of your comfort zone. The Bible is full ordinary people who were apprehensive in their first encounter with the Lord’s directive but, they obeyed and became great pillars of faith. Go with it or…you can do it the hard way and take the Jonah route. Your choice.  The Father wants you to grow in faith and you never will until you get onboard with His agenda. After that, here are some good principles to follow: meditate on God’s word, focus on prayer, evaluate the circumstances, think it through logically, seek the advice of someone competent, to name a few. It might be a good idea to start preparing to step into your next move as you feel the Lord’s leading. Timing is important too. Abraham (Genesis 16) got into trouble by jumping the gun and trying to help God out in fulfilling his destiny. Take a breath. Don’t worry. Doors will open. Lastly, after faithfully following your due diligence in discerning God’s purpose, you can still get it “wrong”.

Case in point is our reading in Acts 1:15-26. A question lingers of whether choosing Matthias as an Apostle to replace Judas was a mistake. Looking at the text it seems that Peter checked off all the right boxes: he had the indwelling Holy Spirit, there was scripture to back him up (Psalm 69:25, Psalm 109:8), the Church gave consent, they all prayed, and sought God’s will between two potential candidates. Welcome Matthias! And yet…who is this Saul of Tarsus guy who comes along eight chapters later to become the bona fide Apostle Paul? Hmmm. The bottom line is that the Lord is bigger than us. He knows what we’re doing and why we’re doing it. Right or wrong, Matthias stands as a legitimate Apostle of the Church, and I believe that he played his part in the development of Christ’s Body whether he was the intended fulfillment of scripture or not. The Lord is gracious toward the motives of His faithful and can reconcile our frailties with His plan.  All things work together for good…Romans 8:28.

But suppose that you have really blown it and have strayed way off the path, all is not lost. It happens to the best of us. To show the Hebrews that he was their liberator, Moses murders an Egyptian in Exodus 2. As a result of taking matters into his own hands, he loses his throne and flees for his life to the backwoods of Midian. While in exile, Moses finds himself in the most humiliating job of his time: tending sheep…and they weren’t even his sheep. But God, who never condones sin, did not abandon him, either. The Lord used Moses’ circumstances to forge a humble heart within him. God gave him forty years in Pharoah’s palace to learn how to be in charge. Then He used forty years in the wilderness for him to learn compassion for his charge. So that when the time was right, God could use him to lead his countrymen out of slavery and into the Promised Land. Moses could never have been usable without either of these components. The Lord is the God of the second chance…and the third…and as many as you need. He is never done with you. His wants to give you a future and hope (Jeremiah 29:11). So then if you need to, ‘fess up and look up. The Almighty will restore you.  

To sum up, live in truth and love. Seek out the part that the He has for you to play for His glory here on earth. That is God’s will for your life and Jesus’ dying wish before His cross. It is exciting and a little scary, but It is why you are here. Amen?

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