Border Fries

Border Fries

 “Oh, that You would bless me indeed and enlarge my border …and God granted him what he requested.”        I Chronicles 4:10

         What if God had a drive-thru window in which we could place our orders?  What if the “Golden Arches” truly were golden archways to short-order blessings?  If so, would our American mindset be evident as we rolled down our window, casually leaned out, and said,

                                           “I’ll have the border special, please.”

                                          “Would you like that super-sized?”

                                          “Why, yes, please super-size my border.”

And, in keeping with the fast food analogy, would we check our order when it was handed to us and complain if we didn’t get all we asked for?  I’m thinking that’s exactly what would happen.  Missing ketchup packets and napkins are one thing, but getting a child-sized border when a ¼ pound border was ordered is another matter altogether!  While blessings are not something we can just “order up”, they are requests we make to our Heavenly Father that are often times not handed to us the way we “ordered”.  And, because our eyes are often bigger than our stomachs, regular-sized orders are not quite good enough…we want our requests super-sized.

I thought about this recently while reading over Jabez’s “run for the border” order recorded in 1 Chronicles 4:10.  Perhaps this request took longer to fill than it appears, but the text rendition sure makes it sound like a drive-thru order…that was super-sized.  “Oh that You would bless me indeed and enlarge my border, and that Your hand might be with me, and that You would keep me from harm that it may not pain me!” And, within that same verse, the order was made, packed, and handed out the window.  “And God granted him what he requested.”  Order up.  Order out.  Order completed.  I bet there were even extra napkins and ketchup packets in the bag!

I don’t know about you, but I’ve had some late night hankerings for “border fries”; for a super-sized order that increased the territory God had given me.  Perhaps you’ve had a similar craving.  A desire to reset fence posts, to clear new land, to move beyond the river.  It seems like a purposeful craving…a prosperous hunger.  After all, if the extra land is desired to be used for God, isn’t the request a righteous one…and shouldn’t our order be filled as quickly and completely as Jabez’s?  And Jabez pulled up, rolled down the window, held out his hand, “And God granted him what he requested.”

So, why aren’t our orders filled like Jabez’s?  Why does God allow us to pull up, pull out, and find that what’s in our bag isn’t at all what we ordered?  I believe it’s because God, not unlike our earthly parents, wants us to clean our plates before He gives us more to chew on.  I think that, while our eyes are on the lands beyond, His are on the ground beneath; beneath our feet, that is.  Enlarged territories are good, and we should want them.  Expanded borders are great, and we should request them.  But, what is true physically, is also true spiritually… our eyes are often bigger than our stomachs and our petitions are often larger than our preparations.  If we have not fully cleared and inhabited the land that we’ve been given, why should we be given more to care for?  The need for enlarged borders arises when growth has been curbed due to a lack of expandable space.  When we are closed in by our current borders, God resets our fence posts.  When we’ve been faithful with a little plot, God not only answers our request for more territory, but He supersizes our order!

In Scripture, we find examples of people who fully inhabited their territory of faith and, when they came dangerously close to the edge of their turf, they found their boundary lines extended.  There’s the widow who gave all her flour and oil to prepare food for Elijah (I Kings 17); she found her border enlarged at the end of her provisions.  Then, there’s the widow whose two-bit offering was a bit too generous; she found her border expanded at the end of her stewardship (Luke 21).  And the boy with the loaves and fish (John 6:9)?  He found his border stretched at the end of his imagination.   And then there’s Mary and Martha who, after burying their brother, found their border broadened at the end of their applied hope (John 11).  In each example, the borders were not extended until the present land had been fully inhabited and the need for further territory was completely evident.

And isn’t that how it should be?  Isn’t that what God created us to do?  To inhabit our land so that He could reestablish our borders and let the process start all over again?  I think that’s what Jabez did and that’s why God filled his order so (seemingly) quickly.  I think Jabez needed a larger territory because he had outgrown the one he was in.  He needed God to move his fence line back or he’d cease to be productive.  When you’ve cultivated, planted, and harvested the fields you have, it’s time for more land.  When you’ve been faithful with a little, then God will be faithful to entrust you with a lot (both figuratively…and, sometimes, literally!).

This process of habitation is not only true in how we inhabit that which God has given us but also in how the Holy Spirit indwells that which God has given Him.  In much the same way, the Holy Spirit’s borders are determined by our willingness to allow Him complete access to areas within us.  Here too we tend to offer up supersized orders.  We want to be Spirit filled, but then we start fencing off plots and, often times, we even erect ‘No Trespassing’ signs on some posts.  Until we allow the Holy Spirit to fully indwell the territory that He’s claimed, He won’t move beyond the borders we’ve set, but will wait for there to be a need for extension…a neediness for expansion.

As we prepare to step out of the perimeter of one year and into the boundaries of another, perhaps it is a good time to walk our fence line, survey our territories, and see just how well we’ve inhabited that which God has entrusted to our care.  Are we fully using all God has given us?  Are we about to outgrow the area we’re in, or do we need to go back and rework some sections?  Have we come to the edge of our provisions, our stewardship, our imagination, and our applied hope?  If not, then it’s not our borders but our spiritual muscles that need stretching.  And, when those late night cravings for supersized “border fries” hit, we would all be wise to remember that we can’t have seconds until we’ve finished our firsts!far-side-cow-philosophy




Sidebar…that’s oddly enough located at the bottom…about those cartoons.  Well, I have a thing for the Far Side.  Gary Larson’s insights (if I may elevate his humor to the status of deeply perceptual) crack me up.  That’s it.  I just chuckle when I see the illustrations and capsize when I read the dialogue.  One of my favorites is the one posted at the top of this post.  The reference to being territorial and the obvious presence of fence lines just made this seem like a good fit.  The cow philosophy?  Well, who doesn’t get a kick out of a cow in a toga?  Am I right?  As to either of these being remotely connected to Jabez, prayer, or spiritual borders…they aren’t.  I just wanted you to know that I know that.  So, now you do.  I still hope they make you laugh! 


And the Award Goes to…Hope, for Best Virtue in a Lead!

And the Award Goes to…Hope, for Best Virtue in a Lead!

“Sustain me as You promised, and I will live; do not let me be ashamed of my hope.”   Psalm 119:116

 Hope, it’s a word we love to use and long to hear.  Phrases like, “I hope you get better soon,” or “I hope to see you next week,” roll off our tongue with little effort and, far too often, with little thought.  But true hope, real hope, is a God-given virtue that has every right to take center stage.  And so, that’s what I want to do!  I want to call on Hope to take its rightful place, as lead performer in a life…because nobody puts Hope in a corner!  (Oh, I know it’s bad, but I just had to!  Feel free to groan; I deserve it and, hey, I can’t hear you anyway!)

We have seen Hope cast in many roles, but usually as a supporting virtue.  For example, there’s its placement in the distinctive trilogy of Faith, Hope, and Love, for which Love received the “Best Leading Virtue” award as recorded in I Corinthians 13:13 (“and the greatest of these is love”).  Then, there’s its appearance in Hebrews 11:1 where it again stepped into the sidelines so that Faith could receive its accolades (“Now faith is the evidence of things hoped for, the substance of things not seen”).  And so it goes that, time after time, Hope is beautifully cast alongside its counterparts of Faith and Love, where it selflessly lends its support, but today, it’s time to nominate Hope for “Best Leading Virtue” in the docudrama:  My Christian Life.

There are three reasons for which Hope deserves this nomination.  First of all, Hope should be recognized for its stellar portrayal of a place.  Secondly, Hope should be acknowledged for its incredible representation of a Person.  And thirdly, Hope should be heralded for its exemplification of perpetual peace…of permanent peace.

Let’s first take a look at Hope’s performance in There’s No Place Like Home.  Truly, Hope’s portrayal of the life that is yet to come has caused souls to long for eternity since its debut!  Reviews recorded in the book of Titus give us insight to Hope’s rousing presentation:  “So that being justified by His grace we might become heirs according to the hope of eternal life,” (Titus 3:7).  With this review, we learn that one of Hope’s roles is to cause us to long for Heaven, to long for our eternal home.  Hoping for trips to the beach or tours of the Bastille fade away in light of what we should rightly hope for…treks along pearled shores and visits to the pearly gate.

And, while we await our arrival to our Heavenly home, Hope fuels our longing by stretching our minds as we try to imagine light clearer than any we have ever seen, colors richer than any we have ever encountered, and music that not only surrounds us but emanates from within us.  It takes our imaginary breath away, so much so that we long to have our actual breath taken away!  Our ultimate trip is not to any location this world has to offer, but to Heaven’s courts where we’ll finally be who we were created to be and worship the One whom we were created to worship.  Hope keeps our eyes looking to the future and our hearts beating for forever.  Paul said it best when he stated, “If in Christ we have hope in this life only, we are of all people most to be pitied,” (I Cor. 15:19).  Because our hearts are stirred by Hope’s performance, our souls are stretched to long for eternity.

The second reason I’d like to nominate Hope for “Best Leading Virtue” lies in its performance in Israel’s Hope:  The Life of a Nazarene.  In this role, Hope so closely identified with its character that it literally “put on His flesh”.  When Jesus left His seat of honor at the right hand of God the Father to come to earth, He reignited Hope on earth.  Though He returned to His Father’s right hand when His work was complete, Hope remained.  The reason this performance deserves recognition is because, as seen in this role, Hope is a Person.

We’ve typecast Hope to serve in smaller roles by assigning it to those whom we admire.  We hope our parents are proud of us, we hope the doctor says the tests are fine, we hope the judge rules in our favor, we hope our team wins the championship.  All are examples of hope placed upon people, but the ultimate role of Hope is not placed on a person, but in a Person, and His name is Jesus Christ.  In Psalm 130:7, we read, “O Israel, hope in the LORD!  For with the LORD there is steadfast love, and with Him is plentiful redemption.”  And, in Titus 2:13, Hope is again depicted as a Person when Paul writes, “Waiting for our blessed hope, the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ.”  Is there any Hope apart from Jesus Christ?  Can we worship the Son and not have Hope in His supreme redemption and in His second return?  Surely, for this role Hope deserves an honor!

The third reason I believe Hope should receive the coveted “Best Leading Virtue” award is for its exemplification in The State of Permanence: A Never Ending Story.  This role required much from the substance of Hope as it pushed it into a theatrical orbit, causing even its audience to experience a gravitational spin in its collective mindset as it moved from positional thinking to perpetual thinking.  How often have we allowed hope to be stereotyped as something short-term or transitional?  We have treated Hope as if it were a wishing well…we throw in a coin, make a wish, and hope it comes true.  We have attached it to Christmas morning, hoping we’d get what we’d wished for, and to days at the lake, hoping the rain would hold off.  We’ve sometimes stretched it out as we try to cover our relationships and careers with it; we hope we marry the perfect mate, we hope we have the perfect children, we hope we land the perfect job.  We hope, we hope, we hope…but we fail to have true Hope.  We forget that true Hope is lasting hope, that perfect Hope is perpetual hope.  And so we settle for the short-term, we sell-out for the here-and-now; we toss a coin, make a wish, and call it hope.  But Hope came along and changed the scene, rewrote the lines.  Hope entered stage right…and stayed there; for the entire performance, for the second and third encore, and for all the performances that continue to play out night after night, year after year, century after century. 

Hope’s role in The State of Permanence has shown us, and continues to show us, that Hope is here to stay.  Hope isn’t temporary but is timeless.  It is what tethers believers in the present to their destination in the future, and it never wears out, runs down, or expires.  Hope is eternity that touches the present and pulls us to its anchoring point day by day, month by month, year by year, until we cease to stand in the present without also standing in the future.  Paul attests to Hope’s antiquity in Titus 2:1 when he writes, “In hope of eternal life, which God, who never lies, promised before the ages began,” and Solomon declares Hope’s longevity when he states “hope will not be cut off” (Proverbs 24:14).  So from before time until beyond time, Hope was, and is, and will be.  And so, I raise my hat to Hope; I bow to Hope; I stand for…and in…Hope!

Will you cast your vote for Hope as “Best Leading Virtue”?  Truly, it could not be successful without its two leading counterparts, Love and Faith; but because every attribute deserves its time in the spotlight, today I nominate Hope for its depiction of a Place, its representation of a Person, and its exemplification of a Permanence.

And the award goes to…Hope! 

Where do I put my hope

The (Ultimate) Giver

The (Ultimate) Giver

“Now hope that is seen is not hope. For who hopes for what he sees? But if we hope for what we do not see, we wait for it with patience.”  Romans 8:24-25

               There is a book written by Lois Lowry entitled The Giver whose scripted “truths” often come to mind when I’m reading certain Biblical truthsIt has an interesting story line and if you like a plot that is layered with inference and symbolism, then you are likely to enjoy this book.  The setting of the story is a utopian society in a futuristic world.  Within these “perfect” communities, efficiency is valued over emotions and the uncertainties that erupt from personal choice are replaced with the assurances that emanate from prescribed control.  Every part of life is calculated, contrived, and contained.  There are no surprises.  There is no supposing.  Everything is mapped out and the course is navigated accordingly.  No mistakes, no mishaps, no mayhem; only perfect peace in a perfect society.  But, since control is sometimes hard to…well…control, there is a trap door just in case. Just in case there is a surprise, just in case something doesn’t go according to Plan A, there is a Plan B…or, more accurately, a Plan G.  Enter the Giver. 

               In this perfectly programmed community, the Giver is the one person who still has knowledge of the world as it used to be; he alone holds the memories of ages past so that history may stay historical and never again repeat itself.  He is known as the Giver because not only has he been given all the memories of the past, but in turn he will give these recollections to another; he, the Giver, will pour all he knows into the mind of a chosen Receiver who will eventually become the next Giver…and so on.  My point in all of this is to present the context from which one element in the story will be extracted:  the element of “seeing beyond”.  In this fictional story, a person can only become the Receiver if certain capabilities are evident.  One of these is the ability to “see beyond”.  In a world where people have been told what to see and how to see it, blindness has shrouded the eyes of those who have ceased to look…ceased to observe…ceased to perceive.  But, if in the midst of this greyness, one dares to see color…one dares to “see beyond”…to him is given all the shades that others can’t see and all the sights that others won’t know.  It’s a rare gift in this futuristic utopian society and it’s a rare gift in our current very unutopian world.  But, I believe it’s a gift we can actually receive because I think it’s a gift God wants us to have, I just think He calls it by a different name.  In God’s vocabulary bank, I believe the term for the ability to “see beyond” is hope.

In Ephesians 1:18, Paul prays that God will open the eyes of believers’ hearts that they may “see the hope of His calling,” and in 2 Cor. 4:18 he reminds us to “fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen.  For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.”  This ability to have hope is nothing more than God granting us the capacity to “see beyond”.  Because of hope, we can see beyond our current circumstance, around our present obstacle, and through our temporary darkness.  With hope, we learn to see not with our eyes but with our hearts; in hope we are forced to walk by faith and not by sight (2 Cor. 5:7) and in that place…in that place where eyes fail but vision flourishes…we look to the One who sees us and guides us with His eye.

Have you ever seen someone looking intently at something and, out of curiosity, your eyes follow their gaze as you try to see what they see?  That’s what I picture when I read Psalm 32:8, “I will instruct you and teach you in the way which you shall go: I will guide you with my eye.”  I imagine myself looking up to God and then following the direction of His gaze and, though I can’t see what He sees, I find comfort in knowing that He is looking at something!  His eyes aren’t closed…they’re looking ahead, they’re looking out, they’re seeing beyond…they’re providing hope

C. S. Lewis wrote about hope. Here is how he described man’s desire to “see beyond”:

Most people, if they had really learned to look into their own hearts, would know  that they do want, and want acutely, something that cannot be had in this world. There are all sorts of things in this world that offer to give it to you, but they never quite keep their promise.”

 “We do not want to merely “see” beauty–though, God knows, even that is bounty enough. We want something else which can hardly be put into words–to be united with the beauty we see, to pass into it, to receive it into ourselves, to bathe in it, to become part of it.”

C. S. Lewis knew we all have this longing, this hope untapped and perhaps unlabeled. It’s how God wired us so that, until we see Him face to face, we are ever wanting to see beyond this temporary world and into our eternal home. It’s where our faith is grown; “faith [which] is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.” (Heb. 11:1).  And, until our vision is complete and our faith becomes sight, what are we to do?  Where are we to look?  To El Roi, the God-Who-Sees.  In Genesis 16:13, Hagar’s plight is recorded.  When she was unable to see beyond her circumstances, she cried out and God showed up to guide her with His eye.  He spoke words that enabled her to see beyond her present situation; He gave her hope.  This is the first place in Scripture where God is referred to as El Roi, which means “The God Who Sees”.  In some places, this name is expanded to “The God Who Sees…me.”  I like them both; I need the God who looks outward and sees everything…and I need the God who looks downward and sees me.  When my path is too curved to “see beyond” the next bend, I can fix my eyes (and my hope) upon the One who sees everything.  When I feel invisible and shrouded in uncertainty, I can find comfort in knowing that El Roi always has His eyes upon me.  Is there a greater source of hope?  Is there a better way to “see beyond”?

Lois Lowry wrote about the ability to “see beyond” in The Giver but it pales in comparison to what God wrote about hope in the Old and New Testament.  Surely we have been given the capacity to see beyond our present life and into the life that is yet to come; the real life…the one that holds colors we have never seen but longingly imagine.  It’s the hope of all saints; it’s the hope of salvation; it’s the hope that sees…“as yet through a glass, darkly; but then face to face:  now I know in part; but then I shall know even as also I am know.”  (I Cor. 13:12).  For then, I shall finally “see beyond ”.

eye has not seen

The Whole is Greater than the Sum of Its Parts

The Whole is Greater than the Sum of Its Parts

“That they may be one; even as You, Father, are in Me and I in You; that they also may be in Us, so that the world may believe that you sent Me.    -John 17:21

 I love science.  I am neither scientific nor do I understand half of what is collected in science textbooks.  I did not grow up asking for chemistry or electricity kits and, while I am a teacher by trade and have taught science, I do not consider myself to be a great science teacher.  So, where does this appreciation for science come from and to what end does its admiration lead?  The only connection I have dissected is that science, to me, is one of the languages of God.  I realize that Almighty God is multilingual and speaks to us through varying sources and subjects, but next to the Bible (and the woods), science is the language through which He most readily communicates with me.  I think it’s because of the elements we find in science that align so closely with their Creator.  Where else are we not only asked but required to use our five senses to gather information about that which we are examining?  And then, to increase our bank of personal knowledge, we are asked to measure and record that which we have found.  Once this has been done, we are led to formulate a hypothesis and then to test it for accuracy.  In some cases, our tests are inconclusive and we realize more information is needed; in others, the accuracy is such that it results in laws that govern and guide.  Oh my goodness, how can science not be a means of communication from God Most High?  I love it!  I don’t always understand it, but I recognize the voice of the One who is speaking.

There are a few lessons from past science classes that stand out in my mind.  One of them was when I was in a college biology class.  Now, at this time, I didn’t “hear” science the way I do now.  What I heard then was merely the professor and what I felt led to record was only the necessary information for an upcoming test, but for some reason…perhaps for this writing…a portion of the lesson stuck in my mind.  The lecture was on the transformation of energy during chemical changes.  (Now why would that stick in my brain?  Of all the things I’ve forgotten, why not this?  Because it’s God’s language and it has a way of sticking even when we don’t realize it.)  At some point, the professor made this statement, “The whole is greater than the sum of its parts.”  He then went on to explain that, though it might be possible to reassemble dispersed pieces after they have been decimated, the energy that was used in their demolition could not be re-contained and would therefore be absent from the new formation.  The energy was not lost, but since it could not be reinserted, the sum of the pieces would always be less than the original whole.  There would always be a missing component.

Today, God brought this lesson back to mind.  As I continue to wait to see what He will do with the fragments of my life and how He will make all the pieces fit, I remembered, “The whole is greater than the sum of its parts.”, and I finally heard the truth in this statement.  Within this declaration, we see their association to two of the four overarching narratives of Scripture:  Creation and the Fall.   (The two remaining categories, Redemption and Restoration, show us how God continues to speak into the chaos and gives us the gift of both grace and hope, two elements outside and far above the laws of science).  In the Garden of Eden, when God created our known world (an infinitesimal part of His world), everything was perfect…complete…whole.  We know this because God walked with Adam and Eve; there was no separation between God and man…no disorder…nothing was missing.  Everything was as God had created it to be because He was in the midst of it holding it all together.  Then came the fall, the great shattering, the alteration of the perfectly complete whole.  Now, with the insertion of sin, the whole was dispersed into parts and the One who held it all together stepped outside of the chaos.  (In this, again, science’s reflection of God’s personage is shown in the first law of energy which states that energy can neither be created nor destroyed; therefore it is always present.  God stepped out of the entropy that resulted when sin entered His creation; He didn’t disappear; He didn’t cease to exist; He is always present but never bound by or to our lawlessness.)

And here we are.  Pieces that were originally designed to part of something that was perfectly whole.  Now, in our disorderly state, we seek that which will make us complete, but without the missing piece, without the force that binds all things together, we move without purpose and without hope.  For particles randomly moving through space and randomly connecting and separating, the concept of hope is pointless because it is meaningless to inanimate ions; but to people, gifted with the capacity (and sometimes the ability) to reason, hope is a lifeline.  What if we could learn that our wholeness, though impossible in this continuum of time and space, was indeed (and even would be) possible in “another world”?  What if we could learn that our search for wholeness could stop because it was both futile and no longer necessary?  If this could happen, we would know the meaning and purpose of hope.  And what if the missing energy reentered the equation and wholeness was reestablished; it would defy the laws of science but for the One who writes, upholds, and executes all laws, the One to whom all laws succumb, there lies no difficulty nor inability.

Well, the “what ifs” can cease because the “what did” has already occurred.  Jesus entered the equation; He gave us hope because He showed that wholeness could be had in His Father, through His (Jesus’) death and resurrection.  Jesus pointed us to the missing source of our wholeness and let us know that, apart from God, we would never find completeness.  Now, we could stop the futile search; now we could rest in our “partialness” because Jesus, and later the Holy Spirit, would hold us together until the day of our release from this world and our entrance into the next; until we step out of the temporal and into the eternal.  Then, when in God’s presence, we will once again be complete; we will have returned to our true created, our divinely natural, state.  No more a fraction of who we once were, but now (for the first time) the entirety of who we were created to be.  Perfect in our completion; whole before, and because of, our Creator.  (Jesus’ entrance into our world and His acts of love through His death for our sins, His victory over death, and His gift of the Holy Spirit constitutes the third category of Scriptural history known as Redemption.  The fourth section, Restoration, will occur when God restores all things to their pre-Fall, their pre-chaos, state; when He “creates a new heaven and a new earth” [Is. 65:17] “for the first heaven and the first earth have passed away” [Rev. 21:1]. At this time, everything on earth is made whole because His presence is once again in the midst of all He created.)

If we laid hold of this truth, would we live our lives differently?  Would we…

  • no longer live by chance but with purpose?
  • no longer seek completeness in others but find fulfillment in God?
  • no longer live without a center of gravity, but allow God’s gravitational pull to “hold us together”?
  • no longer view this temporary world of disorder as our home but keep our eyes fixed on, and our hope placed in, our eternal home?

We can.  We should.  God hasn’t left us to go through life randomly bouncing around looking for our missing pieces.  He sent His Son to give us hope and to provide the path that leads us, connects us, with the Source in which we find wholeness.  Jesus came into our chaos to lessen our disorderly state by explaining the reason for our unrest; we are searching for that which is missing because, “He has made everything appropriate in its time.  He has also put eternity in [our] hearts, [though] man cannot discover the work God has done from beginning to end.”  (Ecclesiastes 3:11)  We seek because we are pieces in search of wholeness; a wholeness that can only be found in, and held together by, our Heavenly Father.

Science.  It holds no contradictions for the believer.  It never violates God’s laws because it is sustained by them; it never speaks in opposition to His truth because it is the language of its Creator.