Getting What You Want

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Today’s readings (click below to open in new tab/window):
Psalms 65; 147:1-11, 1 Samuel 12:1-6 (7-15) 16-25, Acts 8:14-25, Luke 23:1-12


The musical Wicked is a study in contradictions. The Wicked Witch is a misunderstood outcast whose best intentions are used against her. Glinda the Good Witch has charm that hides her manipulative and ambitious nature. As in real life, no character is completely good or evil, but a complicated mix of motives and circumstance. As the second act opens, Glinda has gotten the boy and the fame she hoped for, but at the cost of her dear friend who has been slandered as wicked. As she celebrates her good fortune she also begins to realize it may be the very thing unraveling her happiness. She sings: “Because happy is what happens when all your dreams come true. Well, isn’t it?”

The people of Israel got the king they wanted when God appointed Saul. Yet, Samuel warned them, it was not what God wanted for them. If they or their king rebelled against their Lord, that Lord would turn against them. Once we get what we’ve asked for, we have to live with it … which can turn out to be more complicated and less satisfying than we’d anticipated. And if we’ve really pushed for it – alienating God, friends, or family in the process – we have few options left.

Centuries later the people of Israel got a different kind of king in the person of Jesus, and they didn’t want him. For a while they loved him, but when it became dangerous they turned on him. The authorities arrested him, mocked him, and twisted his words and teachings to convict him. Eventually Jesus just stopped answering questions; no matter what he said, it would be used to condemn him. Maybe that’s a sign that we’ve hardened our hearts too firmly toward what we want (or don’t want): we can’t even hear conflicting opinions.

Life constantly teaches us the differences among what we want, what we should want, and what we need. While we chase our dreams, let’s not trample the blessings we already have. As the Psalmist says, “We shall be satisfied with the goodness of your house, your holy temple.”


Additional Reading:
For more about today’s passage from Acts, see Money For Nothing.

Comfort: True happiness lies in seeking the Lord.

Challenge: Pray regularly about your goals and dreams to discern whether they are right for you; pray also to be grateful for what you have now.

Prayer: Thank you, generous Lord, for providing for my needs.

Discussion: How do you know whether you’re making a sacrifice to follow the right dream, or being stubborn and following the wrong one?

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The Long Game

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Today’s readings (click below to open in new tab/window):
Psalms 97; 145, Deuteronomy 8:1-10 (or Deuteronomy 18:9-14),  James 1:1-15, Luke 9:18-27


Great coaches do not hang their hopes or reputation on any single game, tournament, or season. They focus on long-term goals for the team and the program. Fans and players who demand short-term results can quickly become disgruntled. No one likes to see their team lose. No player likes to sit the bench, especially a former star in high school, college, or the minors. Despite complaints, good coaches stick to the strategy, put in players who prioritize the needs of the team, and patiently mold a team into its optimal form.

God also plays a long game – the longest. As the Israelites entered the Promised Land after forty years of wandering the wilderness, Moses explained how their trials had prepared them. Their faith was tested, and refined when found lacking. As their endurance was pushed to its limits, they became a people who could face adversity and come out the other side. No matter how much they complained, God forcefully but lovingly stuck to the program for benefits they couldn’t foresee. In the end they learned the problem was not the program, but their ability to accept and live it.

Under the best circumstances, people appreciate great coaches. Under the worst, they replace them with someone who promises more immediate results. Like the golden calf worshipped by the Israelites while Moses was on the mountain, cheap substitutes satisfy the present urge, but fail to build character that sustains the team for the long haul.

Jesus understood the importance of long range planning. When Peter admitted he thought Jesus was the Christ, Jesus told him to keep that information under wraps until all that needed to happen had happened. Events might have unfolded differently if the Jewish authorities had believed Jesus was the messiah – different in ways that could have been easier on him – but he chose to stick with the program.

A good program adapts to the needs of the team, while simultaneously moving each team member closer to the goal. God can work similarly in our lives – if we are open to the program. Let’s come ready to play.

Comfort: Patience is not the same as doing nothing.

Challenge: Write down some long range goals. Pray about and revisit them regularly.

Prayer: God, thank you for your patience and guidance when I wander. Amen.

Discussion: When are you tempted to take shortcuts in life?

Join the discussion! If you enjoyed this post, feel free to join an extended discussion as part of the C+C Facebook group. You’ll be notified of new posts through FB, and have the opportunity to share your thoughts with some lovely people. Or feel free to comment here on WordPress, or even re-blog – the more the merrier!