Wednesday, October 17, 2018

The Bible and the Supernatural: Jacob’s Ladder



 Scripture: Genesis 28:10-22

Background: Many years have passed since the last passage we looked at. Abraham and Sarah have both died. Isaac has married, raised twin boys, and now is well advanced in years. But the younger twin, Jacob, has stolen Isaac’s blessing from the elder, and the elder is ready to kill the younger. So under the guise of seeking a wife, Jacob has fled his family, and one night during that journey, Jacob has a dream about a ladder which stretches from earth to heaven.

Observations: Jacob’s ladder is one of those lessons we may remember from childhood Sunday School, often favored for its surreal quality. But it is a story which we often fail to revisit as adults—maybe because of its surreal quality.

Yet these verses offer us a rare glimpse into the “other side” where the supernatural dwells. As such, it also has much to tell us about the supernatural:

1. The supernatural is active, whether we can see it or not. Jacob did not know there was anything special about this place he stopped. He himself said, “Surely the LORD is in this place, and I did not know it.” (Emphasis mine) It simply looked like a good place to spend the night; he couldn’t see the activity going on around. But the passage makes it clear that the ladder existed and the angelic activity was going on well before he began to dream about them.

2. Sometimes dreams reveal what we cannot otherwise perceive. Now many dreams are just imaginings that our brains contrive while we sleep and have no grand significance or meaning. But this passage makes it clear that at least occasionally dreams can reveal what our eyes would not see and give us ears to hear God more clearly.

3. Heaven and earth are connected. While sin caused many separations and divides, God did not throw up His hands and leave us to our own devices. Rather, as this passage reveals, God and those who serve Him continue to engage with this broken world.

4. Likewise, angels are moving between heaven and earth. Angels exist. They are active. They come from heaven to earth and go from earth back to heaven.

5. An encounter with the supernatural should move us to action. Jacob didn’t merely yawn and shrug his shoulders when he awoke from the dream. Rather, his increased awareness moved him toward the worship of God (not the angels!) and the making a vow in accordance with what God had spoken to him.

Significance: In our modern scientific world, sometimes those things that cannot be seen, touched, heard, or measured in some way are dismissed as imagination and fiction. Jacob’s ladder warns us to not be hasty in such judgments: The supernatural does exist and is currently active. While we don’t need (or want) to become superstitious, neither should we dismiss all that happens around us as a natural phenomenon.

As a result, we should develop a sensitive and discerning spirit. God may not speak via dreams often, but He does speak. He speaks through His creation. He speaks through the Bible. He speaks through the collision of circumstances. He speaks through other people and through implanted thoughts. He speaks in ways both natural and supernatural. The method ultimately is not what matters, but whether we are listening, in order that might hear and recognize His voice, whatever form it takes—and then act accordingly.

Wednesday, October 10, 2018

The Bible and the Supernatural: A Substitute Sacrifice



 Scripture: Genesis 22:1-19

Background: Several years have passed since Abraham sent away Hagar and Ishmael. Isaac has now grown up into a young man, probably dearer to Abraham than ever before, and God asks for the unthinkable: He asks Abraham to sacrifice Isaac.

Observations: Divine instructions sometimes can seem quite bizarre—even contradictory at times. Consider: God had promised Abraham that Isaac would be his heir. God had promised Abraham a multitude of descendents through Isaac. How could that ever be possible if Isaac was dead?

Yet Abraham moved ahead. He did not, at least recorded within the text, ever question Who had spoken to him, what God had said, or whether God’s instructions should be taken literally. Abraham did not dither around trying to interpret God’s meaning. Early the very next morning Abraham took Isaac, two servants, and a donkey laden with wood for the sacrifice.

How could Abraham possible do this? Didn’t he believe what God had promised him concerning Isaac? Indeed he did, as his words to the servants showed: “we…will return to you.” We. As in Abraham and Isaac. They would return, despite God’s instructions. This is why Hebrews 11 says that Abraham believed God could raise Isaac from the dead. Never mind that Scripture records no such an act before this point.

But even though Abraham believed God could raise his son from the dead, Abraham did not stubbornly cling to God’s instructions to sacrifice Isaac. When Abraham was instructed to stop later, he stopped, no questions asked. He willingly changed course and sacrificed the ram caught in the nearby thicket instead.

Significance: This passage reveals at least four things about the instructions and provision of God.

1. God’s instructions don’t always make sense from our perspective. He is God, after all, and we are not. So it’s only logical that His instructions will seem weird, illogical, bizarre, and even contradictory at times. That doesn’t excuse us from obeying what He has told us to do.

2. God’s instructions are usually to be taken literally, even if they don’t make sense. Nowhere does Scripture make understanding a prerequisite to obedience, as far as I am aware of. In face, we are often asked to obey before we fully understand—to act by faith, not knowledge. Interestingly, understanding often comes afterward, as it did for Abraham when God explained why He asked what He did (v. 12).

3. God can change personal, specific instructions at any time He wants. The Bible, God’s universal instructions, His general rules of living—these kinds of things are eternal and do not change. But He also provides specific instructions for specific people for specific circumstances, as He did for Abraham in this passage. These instructions He is free to adapt, shift, or even abolish altogether. So just because God gave you one set of marching orders at one point doesn’t mean those are your marching orders for the rest of your life.

4. Supernatural provision can be a natural provision given at the perfect time. Sometimes we dismiss provision as chance or coincidence because we can explain away the provision’s presence. For example here, a ram wandered away from a flock and got itself stuck. A normal enough happening. However, natural circumstances don’t negate the reality that God was behind the scenes, orchestrating events so that the provision would be at the right place at exactly the right time.

Friday, October 5, 2018

New Interview

I have a new interview up at my publisher, Enclave! I don't know if it was intentionally planned this way, but October marks the official release date of Beast exactly two years ago. So I'm saying this is a new interview to celebrate the two-year anniversary. So have a little fun, and check out it:


Monday, October 1, 2018

New Christian Fiction - October 2018

More in-depth descriptions of these books can be found on the ACFW Fiction Finder website.

Contemporary Romance:


A Christmas to Remember by Julie Arduini, Valerie Comer, Janet W. Ferguson, Kimberly Rose Johnson, Deb Kastner, Elizabeth Maddrey, Lindi Peterson, and Ginger Solomon -- Eight authors from the popular blog Inspy Romance each share a Christmas-themed novella to put you in the mood for the season. (Contemporary Romance, Independently Published)

Their Family Legacy by Lorraine Beatty -- Annie’s inheritance will provide a home for her twins and all she had to do is keep a man paying for his mistake forever. (Contemporary Romance from Love Inspired [Harlequin])

The Return by Marianne Evans -- A prodigal who never wanted to return home must repair his family farm and rush back to the big city before an old love convinces him to stay. (Contemporary Romance from White Rose Publishing [Pelican])

A Harvest of Blessings by June Foster -- When Nadia accidentally sits on a stranger's lap in the graveyard where her late husband is buried, she's horrified to learn the good-looking guy with salt and pepper hair is her new boss. Jared is intrigued by this beautiful woman who puts God first in her life, but his daughter isn’t ready for him to move on after his wife’s death. As Nadia and Jared try to cultivate a relationship, will they reap a Harvest of Blessings, or a season of drought? (Contemporary Romance from Forget Me Not Romance [Winged Publication])

A Sparkle of Silver by Liz Johnson -- Ninety years ago, Millie Sullivan's great-grandmother was a guest at banker Howard Dawkins' palatial estate on the shore of St. Simons Island, Georgia. Now, Millie plays a 1920s-era guest during tours of the same manor. But when her grandmother suggests that there is a lost diary containing the location of a hidden treasure on the estate, along with the true identity of Millie's great-grandfather, Millie sets out to find the truth of her heritage--and the fortune that might be hers. When security guard Ben Thornton discovers her snooping in the estate's private library, he threatens to have her fired. But her story seems almost too ludicrous to be fiction, and her offer to split the treasure is too tempting to pass up . . . (Contemporary Romance from Revell - A Division of Baker Publishing Group)

Reason to Breathe by Deborah Raney -- At twenty-nine, Phylicia Chandler put her life on hold to care for her dying mother with her sisters, Joanna and Britt. Now Mom is gone and their father has run off with a woman young enough to be their sister. Phylicia feels stuck--until her father's protégé, Quinn Mitchell, presents her and her two sisters with an intriguing business opportunity to purchase a trio of cottages just outside of Langhorne, Missouri. But Phylicia is skeptical. Quinn soon finds himself falling hard for Phylicia. But how can he pursue this beautiful, talented woman twelve years his junior when she's still reeling over her father's hasty engagement to a younger woman? Quinn is determined to give Phylicia her happily-ever-after. But first, he must help her come to terms with her discovery of long-held family secrets and persuade her that true love can transcend their differences. (Contemporary Romance from Gilead Publishing)


General/Women’s Fiction


An Amish Homecoming by Amy Clipston, Kathleen Fuller , Shelley Shepard Gray, and Beth Wiseman -- A collection of four new Amish stories of coming home. (General from HarperCollins Christian Publishing)

 Miles from Where We Started by Cynthia Ruchti -- These no-longer-newlyweds want out of this road trip--and their marriage. Too bad they can't find the off-ramp. (General Contemporary from Gilead Publishing)


Historical:


When the Heart Sings by Liz Tolsma -- In 1943 Poland, the Nazis have forced Natia and Teodor from their peaceful farm to the harsh confines of a labor camp. When the couple is separated, Natia risks everything to send him messages through song as she passes Teodor’s dormitory. The stakes get higher when Natia finds a Jewish orphan on the doorstep where she works. She is determined to protect the boy and raise him as the child she and her husband were unable to bear—but if her German captors discover how much she’s hiding, both she and Teodor may pay the ultimate price. (Historical from Gilead Publishing)


Historical Romance:


This Courageous Journey by Misty M. Beller -- When Noelle Grant sets off to visit her brother in the Canadian Rockies, the prospect of making a name for herself as a news correspondent finally seems within reach. But when the dangers become more than she bargained for, she finds herself—and the mountain man she’s come to love—in a situation more hazardous than any story her imagination could conjure. (Historical Romance, Independently Published [ACFW QIP])

The Reluctant Warrior by Mary Connealy -- Union army officer Cameron Scott is used to being obeyed, but nothing about this journey to Lake Tahoe has gone as expected. He’s come to Lake Tahoe to fetch his daughter and nephew, and seek revenge on the people who killed his brother. Instead he finds himself trapped by a blizzard with two children who are terrified of him and stubborn but beautiful Gwen Harkness, who he worries may be trying to keep the children. (Historical Romance from Bethany House [Baker] Publishing)

Enchanting Nicholette by Dawn Crandall -- As she acclimates to life in Back Bay again, Nicholette Everstone meets someone she can't help but fall for. But when she learns of the danger and sacrifices Cal Hawthorne takes on for the safety of others, will her heart be strong enough to keep her fears of "what if" at bay? (Historical Romance from Whitaker House)

The Christmas Heirloom by Kristi Ann Hunter, Sarah Loudin Thomas, Becky Wade, and Karen Witemeyer -- A family heirloom brings true love to its bearers through the generations as it is handed down from mother to daughter. (Historical Romance from Bethany House [Baker] Publishing)

eart for Freedom by Janet Grunst -- Life was better than she dreamed, now the conflict between the British and the colonists threatened the loss of everything dear, even her husband. (Historical Romance from Lighthouse Publishing of the Carolinas)

Romancing the Bride by Melissa Jagears -- Marrying a stranger to save a ranch is one thing; losing the land on their wedding day is another. Desperate to keep the ranch where three of her children and a husband lie buried, Annie Gephart must marry or sell. Which of the few bachelors in town would consider a surprise proposal to wed a plain widow with a rebellious daughter, a spirited boy, and unpaid taxes—without laughing in her face? (Historical Romance, Independently Published [ACFW QIP])

The Cumberland Bride by Shannon McNear -- Thomas Bledsoe and Kate Gruener are traveling the Wilderness Road when conflicts between natives and settlers reach a peak that will require each of them to tap into a well of courage. (Historical Romance from Barbour Publishing)

Mist O’er the Voyageur by Naomi Musch -- Desperate to flee a cruel suitor, Metis woman Brigitte Marchal flees into the wilderness to find her long-lost, fur-trader father, but who will save her from the dangers of being a woman among a voyageurs’ brigade? (Historical Romance from Lighthouse Publishing of the Carolinas)


Romantic Suspense:

Five Years In Yemen by Luana Ehrlich -- When the President issues a memorandum to bring home a military scientist who went missing in Iraq, CIA operative Titus Ray has been given the assignment. However, when the mission takes an unexpected turn after his contact is murdered in Riyadh, Titus is forced to make changes in the mission’s protocols, changes that endanger his operational team and have lasting consequences for his future. (Romantic Suspense, Independently Published [ACFW QIP])

Hidden Peril by Irene Hannon -- A woman who owns a fair trade shop and a police detective find themselves plunged into international intrigue—and danger—when people connected with her shop begin dying. (Romantic Suspense from Revell - A Division of Baker Publishing Group)

Burden of Proof by DiAnn Mills -- A hostage negotiator is thrust into danger and betrayal when a frazzled young woman shoves a crying baby into her arms, then disappears. (Romantic Suspense from Tyndale House)


Supernatural Thriller:


Surrounded by Darkness by Rachel Dylan -- When attorney Olivia Murray opens a legal clinic for victims of domestic violence in Windy Ridge, she knows she will face legal and spiritual opposition. The New Age presence has grown stronger as alliances form between groups hoping to spread their destructive way of life and gain a stronghold in the community. While the forces of evil target Olivia’s new clinic, her legal partner Grant Baxter, and her relationships, she refuses to let them stop her quest for justice. Will Olivia’s and Grant’s faith be strong enough—in God and each other—to prevail in the battle that threatens to bring darkness to the entire town? (Supernatural Thriller, Independently Published [ACFW QIP])


Speculative:


A Dance of Shadows by Erica Marie Hogan -- Ten days have passed since Sundragon blood was shed for a sacrifice by Raphaela Kael. Ten days since Lathan and Maxx Jandry fled the city in search of Princess Damari Kael and their niece, Noelle. Brecken Jandry, Brae’s loyal husband, remains a tortured prisoner in the Kael dungeons and no one in Sunkai is safe from Roderick and Raphaela’s wrath. Damari Kael flees Sunkai with little Noelle Jandry, determined to deliver the child to the safety of the Shadow Lands, even as her own power emerges within her. The Eventide Sisters embark on a mission to join the Winter Queen. Across the land, Clea Jandry arrives in her birthplace of Molderëin where she is met with a savagery she thought long dead. Afra Malaki seeks the Creator’s will and the Queen of the Woodlands prepares for battle. In the peaceful city of Quintaria, the Winter Queen grieves. But the shadows are coming for her. They carry a message for Adlae Sundragon, and they will not rest until all is revealed. (Fantasy from Elk Lake Publishing, Inc.)

Body By Blood by Dr. Patrick Johnston -- In the not-too-distant future, where cloned bodies are marketable commodities among the super-rich, leaving graveyards of trampled dehumanized classes in science's wake, the richest man in the world who pioneered the breakthrough technologies learns the meaning of true love from a disabled granddaughter. (Speculative Action Adventure from Ambassador International)

Mercury Rising by Tim and Gail Sattler -- Four ordinary people are thrown into an extraordinary situation when they are thrown into a diabolical plot hidden under the guise of global warming. (Contemporary Fantasy from Mantle Rock Publishing)

The Awakened by Richard Spillman -- If Lazarus didn't die a second time what would he be up to today? (Speculative from Mountain Brook Ink)  

Monday, September 10, 2018

New Christian Fiction - September 2018

More in-depth descriptions of these books can be found on the ACFW Fiction Finder website.

Contemporary Romance:


A Baby for the Minister by Laurel Blount -- Jilted at the altar, Natalie Davis has no one she can turn to—until Jacob Stone steps in. The single minister’s drawn to the beautiful mommy-to-be and wants to help…even if it goes against his congregation’s wishes and could cost him his job. But when she refuses to accept charity, can he convince her she’s more than a ministry project? (Contemporary Romance from Love Inspired [Harlequin])

Courting Her Secret Heart by Mary Davis -- Deborah Miller lives a double life as an Amish woman—and a fashion model! All photography is forbidden in her Plain community, so she must keep her job a secret. But when Amos Burkholder starts helping at her family’s farm, hiding the truth from him is impossible. And soon she must choose between the Englischer world of modeling and the Amish man she’s come to love. (Contemporary Amish Romance from Love Inspired [Harlequin])

12 Gifts of Christmas by Lena Nelson Dooley -- Can Malcolm MacGregor, a contemporary descendant of Scottish lairds, capture the heart of Brazilian-Italian beauty, Alanza Cantalamessa, in 12 days? (Contemporary Romance from Whitaker House)

All Made Up by Kara Isaac -- Katriona McLeod has never gotten over Caleb Murphy, the one guy she's ever loved. When she accepts a job as a make up artist on the latest looking-for-love reality TV show, Falling for the Farmer, she discovers to her horror that Caleb is the leading man and she's cast as one of his harem. But she hides a secret that means that even if she wanted a second chance with the guy who broke her heart she could never have it. (Contemporary Romance, Independently Published)

An Amish Holiday Wedding by Carrie Lighte -- On the brink of losing her bakery, the last thing Faith Yoder’s interested in is courting—until Hunter Schwartz returns to Willow Creek. After hiring him to deliver her treats to a Christmas festival, Faith’s determined their relationship will stay strictly professional. But despite a secret that’s kept her single, Faith can’t help but wish she and Hunter could become husband and wife. (Contemporary Amish Romance from Love Inspired [Harlequin])


Cozy Mystery:


Deadly Holiday by Marissa Shrock -- The Christmas season greets Georgia Winston with a new boyfriend (maybe), a Christmas program to run, and a man dying at her feet. (Cozy Mystery, Independently Published)


General Contemporary/Women’s Fiction


From the Lake to the River by JPC Allen, Bettie Boswell, Carole Brown, Sandra Merville Hart, Tamera Lynn Kraft, Sharyn Kopf, Michelle Levigne, Cindy Thomson, and Rebecca Waters -- Set in Ohio, in the past and present, these nine short stories and novellas by Ohio authors cover a wide range of genres, topics and locations. From Troy in the west to the North Coast and south-central Ohio. From Lake Erie to the Ohio River. From romance to YA adventure, with touches of mystery and humor. Dealing with historical events and situations, such as floods and the lasting effects of the Civil War. With characters involved in square dancing, theater, and music. Dealing with loss and danger, a second chance at love and taking a chance on love for the first time. Chances are good, no matter what you have a taste for reading, you'll find something to like. Welcome to a taste of the Buckeye State! (General Contemporary from Mt Zion Ridge Press)

Place Called Home by Brenda S. Anderson -- While building his graphic design company, Nate Brooks is focused on the future he's dreamed of: traveling around the country from the comfort of his renovated school bus. But when he picks up a wounded, mysterious hitchhiker, those well-laid plans take a backseat to protecting her. Hobbled by her injury, and unable to keep running from her controlling ex, Tessa fears she'll never find freedom. Or has she found it with the family who graciously opens their home to her? And will Nate's protection put his family--and his heart--at risk? (Women’s Fiction, Independently Published)

Swimming in the Deep End by Christina Suzann Nelson -- Jillian Connors has big expectations for her teenage daughter, Gabby, an Olympic hopeful---until Gabby becomes pregnant with her boyfriend Travis's child. Meanwhile, Margaret Owens is furious that Gabby's condition jeopardizes her son's baseball scholarship. In the midst of the family drama lies the fate of the unborn baby. What does the future hold for him? (General Contemporary from Kregel Publications)


Historical:


Hidden Among the Stars by Melanie Dobson -- A gripping time-slip novel about hidden treasure, a castle, and ordinary people who resisted the evils of the Hitler regime in their own extraordinary way. (Historical from Tyndale House)

Everything She Didn’t Say by Jane Kirkpatrick -- A Victorian woman who traveled 15,000 miles by stage between 1870-98 decides to tell the story behind her memoir believing her husband will never see it. (Historical from Revell - A Division of Baker Publishing Group)

Enya’s Son by Cindy Thomson -- This retelling of the early life of St. Columcille and his mother will usher readers on a fateful journey through ancient Ireland’s monastic centers, her wild coastline islands, and the land Columcille believed was filled with holy angels, a place where he felt safe … yet was destined to abandon. (Historical, Independently Published)


Historical Romance:

Victorian Christmas Brides by C.J. Chase, Susanne Dietze, Rita Gerlach, Kathleen L. Maher, Gabrielle Meyer, Carrie Fancett Pagels, Vanessa Riley, Lorna Seilstads, and Erica Vetsch -- Faced with the daily extremes of gluttony and want in the Victorian Era, nine women seek to create the perfect Christmas celebrations. But will expectations and pride cause them to overlook imperfect men who offer true love? (Historical Romance from Barbour Publishing)

Esther’s Temptation by Lena Nelson Dooley -- Saddle weary, former deputy US Marshal Jac Andrews rides into Denton, Texas hunting a swindler-and-daughter criminal team and finally feels he’s caught up to them. Unfortunately, he becomes distracted by the lovely redhead, Esther Brians. Esther, feeling like an old maid surrounded by all her close friends who are happy married couples, is drawn to the intense gaze, blue as the Texas sky, of an unknown cowboy. But several things cause her to become wary of his intentions—and his spiritual well-being. Has this unsaved lawman captured Esther’s heart or will the Lord deliver her from the temptation of Jac’s presence? What will it take for Jac to win this lovely lady and become Esther’s husband? (Historical Romance, Independently Published)

The Sound of Distant Thunder by Jan Drexler -- Katie Stuckey and Jonas Weaver are both romantics. Seventeen-year-old Katie is starry-eyed, in love with the idea of being in love, and does not want to wait to marry Jonas until she is eighteen, despite her parents' insistence. So much can happen in a year. Twenty-year-old Jonas is taken in by the romance of soldiering, especially in defense of anti-slavery, even though he knows war is at odds with the teachings of the church. When his married brother's name comes up in the draft list, he volunteers to take his brother's place. But can the commitment Katie and Jonas have made to each other survive the separation? (Historical Romance from Revell - A Division of Baker Publishing Group)


Romantic Suspense:


Loving the Texas Negotiator by Mary Connealy -- Beth Garrison is the top hostage negotiator in Rocky Ridge Texas. She's called in to a task force to investigate a killing that is a copy cat of her first bust as a rookie cop. The Valentine Killer. Tate McCade, with the best arrest record on the force and a reputation for steamrolling anyone who gets in his way, heads the task force. He's had a run-in with Beth and her oversized ego. He's got a bruise on his face to prove it. Rather than have the pleasure of busting her back to walking a beat, he has to work with her. And the clock is ticking because there's a woman and child missing and nothing about the crime adds up. (Romantic Suspense, Independently Published)

Speculative:  


 Guardian of Ajalon by Joan Campbell -- The poison tree path is Shara’s road home. . .if she and her companions can survive the journey. In the danger and darkness of the forest, her only respite is in the story unlocked in the Old Tongue book. In this vivid world, Shara finally discovers what she has longed for all her life: the key to the secrets of her past. Yet time is running out for Shara—and all of Tirragyl—as Lord Lucian, King Alexor, and the royal army attack the Guardian Grotto to claim the powerful Guardian Rock. Unwilling to sit idly by as her kingdom is destroyed, Queen Nyla leaves her hiding place to recruit a most unlikely army—the Charab. But how can she win over the infamous assassins who have been oppressed by her family for generations? (Speculative Allegory from Enclave Publishing)

Wednesday, August 22, 2018

The Bible and the Supernatural: Water for Ishmael



Scripture: Genesis 21:14-19

Background: After the miraculous birth of Isaac, problems arose between Abraham’s sons and their mothers. So at Sarah’s demand and with God’s approval, Abraham sent Hagar and Ishmael away. They ended up wandering the wilderness, using up their supplies. Soon Ishmael was dying of thirst.

Observations: The desert was hot. The supplies were gone. Ishmael was dying, and there was nothing Hagar could do about it. Indeed, her despair was so great, the situation seemed so impossible, that she didn’t cry out for deliverance, nor did she plead for a miracle. No, in her anguish her only request that it may not be made greater by witnessing her only son die.

Then God showed up, providing everything she needed.

Now a well showing up in the desert might not be the most astounding miracle in the Bible, it still reveals many important truths about God’s supernatural provision:

Supernatural provision is not necessary until natural supplies are exhausted. There is a reason why many biblical miracles occur in desert. God often refuses to do one until an impossible situation demands it. Why? Not only is it far too easy for us to take credit for God’s work, but there is simply no reason for Him to employ the supernatural when that natural He has already given will be sufficient. After all, God doesn’t do miracles to impress or entertain us. He does them to provide what we need. Yet how often do we forget this, demanding God supernaturally intervene without using what He has already provided us, thinking that this somehow shows great trust or dependency? Such an attitude applied to any other area—money or power, for example—would be considered greed, not faith.

God provides according to our needs, not our requests. Hagar asked that she wouldn’t see Ishmael die. God provided water. So maybe we don’t get what we desired or requested. This didn’t mean God failed to act. It simply means He acted according to what He knew was best, according to what we needed most.

Provision of the ordinary can be still supernatural. Sometimes we think impossible circumstances require the obviously miraculous solution. But Hagar’s story shows that sometimes God uses very ordinary means to solve our problems. Ishmael was dying of thirst, so He showed Hagar a well of water. Does that mean Hagar, in her anguish, simply missed a well that was there all along? Or did God cause the well to materialize out of nowhere? The Scripture doesn’t say, because truthfully, it doesn’t matter. The point is God provided the water, making it a supernatural act, whether of materialization or guidance to the right place at the right time.

Sometimes the main supernatural provision is sight. Even if the well was already there, God still needed to open Hagar’s eyes to see it. It is the same with us. Sometimes God has already provided what we needed, but for one reason or another—grief, pain, distraction, fear to name a few—we fail to see it. And it is hard to use what we cannot see. So when we ask God to provide, we should also ask for the eyes to see His provision, whatever form it may take.

Supernatural provision goes beyond the physical. God could have simply opened Hagar’s eyes to see the well. But He didn’t. Instead, He used the physical need to address the greater spiritual issues: Hagar’s fear, her loss of purpose, her hopelessness. These things may have existed from the moment Abraham sent her away, but not until here, when Hagar is at her greatest physical need, does God speak. Then after He reassured her, addressing the spiritual issues, He provided the physical.

Significance: So what does all this mean for us?

First, God is able to provide. Like Hagar, we can be easily overwhelmed by our circumstances. Impossible situations arise today as much as in Hagar’s time. But impossibilities do not baffle God. He is omnipotent, doing whatever He likes. Now His method of provision may vary—miraculous, supernatural, ordinary, natural, or some combination thereof—but that doesn’t change the basic truth of His provision: no matter what we may face today or tomorrow or any day in the future, God is able to provide whatever we may need.

Second, God has purpose. Often suffering and pain are hardest to bear when we see it as pointless, which is why I believe God took time to remind Hagar of what He had promised her earlier—that He had a plan for Ishmael’s life. So yes, our circumstances may seem random at times. Events may look accidental, and situations completely arbitrary. But God is sovereign. He is in control. Nothing surprises Him. Nor does He act capriciously. So even though we might not perceive the purpose, we can rest in the truth that God acts as He does for a reason, and His plans cannot be thwarted.

Third, God sees and hears. God’s provision does little good if He is unaware of a need or if He doesn’t care. So when God speaks to Hagar, He reassures her that He knew of her problems. Just as He saw her when pregnant with Ishmael, He heard the crying of her teenage son now. He knew where they were and what that needed, and out of that knowledge He provided. So while pain and suffering can make God seem distance, He does see our situations, He does hear our cries—and He acts accordingly.

Therefore, God is trustworthy. This is why God could assure Hagar that she didn’t need to fear, when from a human viewpoint she had every reason to fear. She was, after all, stuck in the direst of circumstances with death looming over her shoulder. Yet even here God says, “Fear not.” Why? Because He sees and hears us. Because He knows what we need, both physically and spiritually. Because He has a purpose. Because He can provide whatever we need by whatever means He chooses. In short, He is loving and He is strong. So we can rely on Him, no matter what we face.

Wednesday, August 15, 2018

Working...

Nothing special to post today. Right now all my writing energy and time is going toward revising a my latest novel (yeah!). Hopefully soon (as in within a few months--this is publishing time we're talking about) I'll have something good to announce...