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Majoring on the Minors

Majoring on the Minors

The Bible is the most read book in the history of mankind and in 2 Timothy we are told that “all Scripture is inspired by God and is profitable for teaching, for rebuking, for correcting, for training in righteousness” (2 Timothy 3:16-17). Note that it said ALL Scripture. It is not hard for us to see the profitability of the gospels, the usefulness of the epistles, and the equipping that comes from books like Proverbs. But when we come to the middle of the Scriptures we come to what are likely the least understood and most skipped words ever written. Yes, I am talking about the prophets and especially the minor prophets. Though the word “minor” is in reference to the length of the books, I think it is easy to see these books as having minor relevance for our lives. 

They have weird names, confusing and sometimes even disturbing imagery, and at face value we struggle to see their relevance to modern-day life. So why even try to read and understand these strange books? When we treat the minor prophets as of minor importance, we forfeit much wisdom and beauty. And though not an exhaustive list, I want to look at three of the prophets and the message that reoccurs throughout the rest. 

 

God’s Justice in Nahum

One of the most repeated questions in the Bible is “how long, O Lord?” and perhaps you have joined in that cry. We do not have to look hard to find a world saturated with sin and suffering. Any time we hear the news there are examples of war, disaster, abuse, etc. If we worship a just God, “how long” will he seemingly do nothing about these headlines? The prophets do not give us a timeline, but they reveal to us the character of a God who takes into account the sins of his people and the sins against his people. 

The book of Nahum’s focus is the city of Nineveh in the nation of Assyria, which was used by God as an instrument of discipline against Israel for their rebellion against him. Though an instrument of God, Nineveh was not innocent of sin in their treatment of the Jews. In response to the wickedness of Nineveh we are told “The Lord is slow to anger but great in power; the Lord will never leave the guilty unpunished” (Nahum 1:3). This passage references God’s self-description of himself from the book of Exodus, but with slight differences. Hundreds of years prior, the Lord revealed himself to Moses as “slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love” (Exodus 34). 

So why does Nahum focus on God’s power and justice instead of his love? This is because God’s power and justice are not distinct from his love, they are aspects of it. If we worshiped a God who did not take evil and injustice into account, he would not be a God worth worshiping. If God was a capricious God who angrily annihilates his enemies, we would be hopeless. The prophet Nahum helps us see a God who perfectly holds justice and grace in balance, and therefore we have hope. 

 

God’s Sovereignty in Habakkuk

Another question we have likely asked of God is “are you there? If you are, do you care?” Amidst our suffering we like to have an understanding of the reason for the pain we experience. We want a diagnosis so we can get a prognosis. Sometimes the answer is not always that clear. Sometimes when we get an answer it’s not the answer we expected or wanted. In these moments we are tempted to doubt that the Lord truly has things under control. 

The prophet Habakkuk was weary of seeing the people of God engage in outright rebellion against their God, and he wants to know if God is going to hold them accountable. God’s response: “I am going to send Babylon as my tool of judgment.” Initially Habakkuk becomes even more enraged with this solution. Babylon? They are even more wicked than Israel! The Lord responds to the prophets’ understandable confusion with: “But the righteous will live by his faith” (Habakkuk 2:4). Note that he does not say the righteous will live by knowing the time, place, and purpose of all things. No, he says they will live by faith. God will use Babylon to overthrow Judah but he will also hold Babylon accountable. 

As the book comes to a conclusion, we find the prophet no longer lashing out at God but instead we see a resolute dependance: “Though the fig tree does not bud and there is no fruit on the vines, though the olive crop fails and the fields produce no food, though the flocks disappear from the pen and there are no herds in the stalls, yet I will celebrate in the Lord; I will rejoice in the God of my salvation.” (Habakkuk 3:17-18). We have and will continue to see such times when there is “no fruit on the vine,” but when we look to the prophets we have the invitation to join in a long history of prayers of trust that come from confused and hurting hearts that find their peace in an all powerful, victorious God. 

 

God’s Faithfulness in Micah

At other times, we are so humbled by the glory of God that we ask “how could God still want to do anything with a sinner like me?” Many have asked a similar question; upon approaching the throne room of God in a vision, Isaiah said “Woe is me for I am ruined because I am a man of unclean lips” (Isaiah 6:5). After seeing a miracle of Jesus, the disciple Peter said to him “Go away from me, because I’m a sinful man” (Luke 5:8). How could God’s faithfulness endure my unfaithfulness? 

In the book of Micah we are shown a holy God who appears in an unholy land and as a result, “The mountains will melt beneath him and the valleys will split apart, like wax near a fire, like water cascading down a mountainside.” (Micah 1:4). But in the “last days” it says that instead of a melting mountain, God will draw to himself those from many nations who will come to the mountain of the Lord where “He will teach us about his ways so we may walk in his paths” (Micah 4:2). And what are the ways of God? They are what God commands of his own people: “to act justly, to love faithfulness and to walk humbly with your God.” Throughout the prophets we see God enact perfect justice while maintaining faithfulness to his people. Therefore, we can come humbly to God because he “will vanquish our iniquities” and “will show loyalty to Jacob and faithful love to Abraham, as you swore to our ancestors from days long ago” (Micah 7:20). God has every right to hand us over to our sin but his faithful love overwhelms our rebellion. 

 

God’s Justice, Sovereignty and Faithfulness Is For Us, Too

The prophets are difficult to understand, there is no getting around that, but that does not mean we should avoid digging for the gold that each book contains. We forfeit too much hope and comfort if we do. Each of the prophets reveal a God who has ordered history for his glory and deserves our reverence. I pray that as we enter this new year, intentional time spent in study of the prophets will lead to new and greater insights into the character of our great God. Let us not neglect the hope and awe that the prophets beckon us to. 

How to Minimize Worry

How to Minimize Worry

When I was in high school, I got my driver’s license. Perhaps you did too. And when I got my license, there was one thing I heard again and again. Every time I’d get ready to leave the house, my mom would shout: “Call me when you get there,” which is the last thing any 16-year-old wants to hear from a parent.

“Call me when you get there,” she’d say as I was heading out.

“Call me when you get there,” she’d repeat as the door closed behind me.

“Call me when you get there.”

I’d get so mad whenever she said it. But no matter how much I protested, she didn’t stop. It was like a playlist on repeat.

So one evening, as I was walking towards the door, those familiar words followed after me. And I erupted.

I turned around and said, “Mom, you have GOT to stop saying that. It’s driving me crazy.” And I’ll never forget how she responded. She looked at me, knowing I was so mad, and said, Tyler, I’m sorry, but I’ll always be your momma.”

Her words were profound. “I’ll always be your momma…”

It was her way of saying, “Because of who I am, I can’t help but be concerned about you.” 

“Because I’m your momma, I’m compelled to tell you to call.”

“Because I’m your momma, I think about you when you leave.

Because of who I am, I have these concerns.”

And this is how it works, isn’t it?

Because of who we are, there are things that concern us.

Because we’re recent graduates, or because we live on our own. Because we’re in between jobs, or because we just got promoted. Because the test is coming up. Because the rent is almost due. Because we’ve reached a certain age, a certain income, or a certain low point in life.

Because of who we are, there are things that concern us. And that’s not always a bad thing. Some concerns are good concerns. They motivate us to plan for the future, or to cut back on our spending, or to eat like we know we should.

But there are times when our concerns become our worries. 

There are times when what concerns us comes to consume us. And when that happens, following Jesus tends to get placed on the back burner. Which is ironic because Jesus had a lot to say about worry.

In fact, one day Jesus told His followers: “I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear.”

Imagine how audacious this must have sounded to Jesus’s original audience.

When Jesus spoke these words, food supplies were entirely dependent on how much it rained and whether or not a farmer could protect the crop from pests. A year of drought or a swarm of locusts could mean starvation. You couldn’t drive down the street to the grocery store. There was no safety net. If food ran out, it was over.

Nevertheless, Jesus instructed His disciples not to worry about what they were going to eat or about what they were going to drink or about what they were going to wear.

And here’s why:

Jesus mentions these specific necessities of life—food, water, and clothing—as a way of helping His followers understand that His solution for worry reaches all the way down to their most fundamental concerns. Jesus suggests that He knows a reason not to worry that will bring encouragement and comfort even when what’s most basic seems to be in jeopardy.

And then He makes His point.

“Look at the birds of the air. They do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they?”

“Consider the lilies of the field, how the grow: they neither toil nor spin, yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these.”

“If God so clothes the grass of the field, which today is alive and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will he not much more clothe you?”

Are you following His logic?

Jesus says, do not worry about your life because your Father in heaven cares about you. You’re valuable to Him. If He makes sure the birds are fed and the fields look gorgeous, don’t you think He’ll watch out for you?

Jesus says you don’t need to worry because you’re valuable to God.

This is not to say that God doesn’t care about the Earth He made or the creatures in it. Nor is it to say that we, as responsible stewards of His creation, shouldn’t feel responsible and care for the natural world.

But, it is to say that when God made all that there is—the land and sea, the sky, the birds and fish and animals—He loved everything He formed. In fact, the Genesis account says He called every element of creation “good.” But then, He topped off all of creation with the stamp of His own image. God made humans and called them “very good,” marking us as special and treasured in His created order.

So there stands Jesus, looking at crowds of people just like us—people who are tempted to worry. And Jesus says: Don‘t fret. You’re valuable to your Heavenly Father.

Jesus insists that the key to leaving worry behind is trusting God’s concern for us.

But that isn’t always easy. In fact, most days it feels downright impossible. What makes it so tough?

I can think of three primary ways our trust for God can break down:

First, we can doubt His infinite love for us.

Second, we can doubt His infinite wisdom as it relates to our needs.

Third, we can doubt His ability to act on our behalf.

How does your trust in God get derailed?

Do you doubt God’s infinite love?

Do you believe He doesn’t love you? That maybe He loves all people in a general sense but not you specifically? And not you completely—especially after what you’ve done and where you’ve been. Do you think He loves you a little, or maybe even a lot, but not infinitely? Not enough for you to give Him your complete trust. Is that you? Do you doubt God’s infinite love?

Or Do you doubt God’s infinite wisdom?

Do you question whether He truly knows what’s best for you? Do you wonder if He really knows what you really need? Or do you feel like He knows what’s best for humans broadly, but not what’s best for you right this moment? Do you think He needs a little more input into how to respond best to your situation? Do you doubt God’s infinite wisdom?

Or Do you doubt God’s ability to act?

Do you question His power? Do you feel like He would be doing more to change your circumstances if He could? Do you feel like His hands are tied behind His back? Do you doubt God’s ability to act?

These are three primary ways our trust for God can break down.

How does your trust in God get derailed?

It’s worth knowing the answer to that question. Because knowing precisely how our trust tends to erode can help us focus our trust-building efforts.

If you’re tired of worry ruling your life, and if you’ve realized where your trust in God frequently fails, here’s one final suggestion:

Spend the next week reading and rereading Matthew 6:25-34. Reflect on Jesus’ words.

Jesus says: You’re valuable to God, and God notices what you need.

He says: The God who created and sustains the world thinks you’re the best thing on the planet, and He’s got your best interests in mind.

Remind yourself of this truth again and again and again. And as it sinks in, see if it doesn’t loosen worry’s grip. In the end, it can’t be denied: Because of who we are, there are things that concern us. And those concerns can come to consume us.

But because of who God is—because He’s our loving Heavenly Father—there are things that concern Him.

Our flourishing, our growth, our wholeness, and our relationship with Him number chief among them. So let Him focus His energy on you and your future while you focus your energy and your attention on Him and His care.

I promise, it will change everything.

Entrusting Our Children to God

My daughter just turned nine a few weeks ago, and it’s really been weighing on me in a hard way. I can’t stop thinking about the fact that in nine more years, she very well could be moving out of our home and into the next stage of her life.

I too often feel the pressure to produce character in her. Adam and I have desires for our kids and we want them to grow up becoming the kind of people we imagined they’d be…respectful, loving, thankful, kind, honest adults. We find ourselves modeling, implementing incentives, reading and following lots of advice. Can you relate?

Too often I make their character, faith, hope for the future all about me…not them. But, we are not in control. The Bible states in Philippians 1:6, 9–11:

And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ… And it is my prayer that your love may abound more and more, with knowledge and all discernment, so that you may approve what is excellent, and so be pure and blameless for the day of Christ, filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ, to the glory and praise of God.

As is stated clearly, God is the one who begins the good work within our kids. Not us. Also, God will continue to work in their lives, and no matter what, He will not give up on them but continue to see His work uncovered until the day Christ returns.

God wants our hope secured in HIM, not in ourselves. He wants us to trust Him with the kids He has given to us. Allowing these words to resonate in my life brings me great hope and puts my anxiety, fear, and worry away.

But I’m also reminded that this doesn’t mean my efforts are unimportant. I will continue modeling the things I’m saying to them. I’m sure we’ve all learned what you do carries far more influence that what you say. Adam and I will continue strengthening and doing all we can to keep our family healthy. I’m also continually needing to step back and ensure I’m not controlling the situation. Control never creates healthy relationships, but rather compliance or rebellion.

Picturing our daughter’s journey, we want to teach her to embrace her story and to acknowledge God’s presence woven throughout it. We want to pray for her to trust and believe that all circumstances, all joys, and all pains are part of The Big God Story, as well as the story our big God has mapped out for her. God makes no mistakes or missed steps; He sees everything, equips us, guides us, and builds us for the story He has prepared just for us.

When we embrace the truth that God is in control, we relinquish the heart of our child into the hands of our all-loving and powerful God. When we remember His sovereignty, we stop wanting to compose our child’s story, and we become grateful God never gave us the pen.