What is God Up To?

At Triumph, we are currently working through The Story. Here is a post I wrote for Chapter 9: The Faith of a Foreign Woman.

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What is God up to?” It is a question that I have pondered from time to time. I live with the Biblical understanding that God is sovereign over all creation. As a result, when events in life happen, whether it is tragedy, “coincidence”, or good fortune, I can’t help but ask the question, “What is God up to?”

I also wonder if that was a question asked by Naomi and Ruth. Their situation was less than ideal, both experiencing the death of a husband and Naomi also struggling with the death of two sons. In those life events, did Naomi and Ruth ask What is God up to?

Jack and Sarah -&- Travis and Nikki

Many have looked at the story of Jack and Sarah Keller and asked that question… “What is God up to?” Jack and Sarah have suffered so much earthly tragedy, so much pain, and so much loss. In all that mess, what could God possibly be up to? The answer to that question for one young couple…a lot!

Travis and Nikki came to Triumph in May of 2011 because of a phone call I had made regarding the Keller Benefit. Travis is part owner in a marketing company that I used to do business with at my former employer and I wanted to pick his brain on some social media marking ideas to spread the word about the benefit. Based on that phone call, and the 30 minute conversation that ensued, Travis and Nikki were looking for a new church. They decided to attend Triumph West and found it a place they enjoyed coming to and a place where the people were friendly.

At one of our New Crew BBQs, Travis and Nikki decided to stick around and had the opportunity to meet Jack and Sarah, who also decided to hang around. A friendship was born; and what a friendship it would be. As it turned out, that friendship would lead to a conversation in the Keller’s living room about 4 months later. In that conversation, Jack asked Travis and Nikki and important question, one that would change their lives forever: “If the roles were reversed, and you were sitting here with an oxygen tube and death coming, would you know where you are going?” The answer to that question, and the time spent in the scriptures, led Travis and Nikki into a relationship with Jesus that they had never known before; having their eyes opened to the free gift of the Cross for the first time!

“As it Turned Out…”

When Ruth went to glean wheat from the fields, the scriptures say “As it turned out, she found herself working in the field belonging to Boaz…” (Ruth 2:3, NIV) Why Boaz’s field and not the field next to it, or the one down the road a little? As it turned out, that was the field chosen by Ruth.

The story of Jack and Sarah & Travis and Nikki has several “As it turns out” moments:

  • As it turned out… Jack needed a double lung transplant 7 years ago which led to skin cancer, which led to that cancer spreading, which led to a benefit auction to assist with financial pressures…
  • As it turned out… Jack and Sarah were looking for a new church and God brought them to Triumph…
  • As it turned out… Travis and Nikki were looking for a new church…
  • As it turned out… Doug called Travis for advice on the benefit fundraiser…
  • As it turned out… Travis and Nikki decided to stay for a New Crew BBQ (something Travis wasn’t planning on doing because he wanted to get his kids home)…
  • As it turned out… Jack & Sarah decided to stay for a New Crew BBQ (Jack was on a special diet and wouldn’t have been able to eat any of the food we served and Sarah’s parents were in town from Montana!)…
  • As it turned out… Jack’s recent diagnosis provided a platform for Jack to ask a question that got to the heart of the matter for Travis and Nikki…

“What is God up to…” right now? What is he up to? What is he up to in the life of the coworker in the office next door? What is he up to in the life of the neighbor that lives across the street? What is he up to through the tragedy we have felt recently here at Triumph?

If there is one thing (although there are many) that I have seen and been reminded of through our time in The Story this year at Triumph, it is that God is always working out his Upper Story Plan through the lives of the Lower Story Participants. As we have read, it may take 450 years in the Lower Story for the plan to make sense, but it ALWAYS makes sense and it ALWAYS points to God’s goodness and kindness and his never-ending pursuit to draw His people back to himself.

What is God up to?

Well, “as it turned out,” for Naomi and Ruth, God was up to something. God used the death of three men to drive Naomi and Ruth back to Bethlehem where they met Boaz, who married Ruth, and bore a child that would ultimately lead to Jesus. So, was God up to something? Yea, he was up to something that changed Ruth’s life, and ultimately our lives, forever.

Well, “as it turned out,” for Travis and Nikki, God was up to something. God used a series of events to get the attention of a husband and wife and revealed Himself to them through the church and the words and actions of Jack and Sarah.

My Question Now for Us:

So, the question for me, and all who read this is simple: Number 1: What is God up to? Pray that God will give us the eyes to see what he is doing in the lives of those around us. And number 2: How can we be the second half to the “as it turned out” statement? Is there a phone call we need to make? Is there a prompting we need to listen to? Is there a smile we need to give? How is God planning on using us? May it be said of us, “As it turned out, God used ___ and what they did/said to change my life forever!”

What was the Purpose for the 10 Plagues?

At Triumph, we are currently working through The Story. Here is my post for Chapter 4: Deliverance.

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As Israel is held in captivity, God steps in and uses a series a plagues to draw his people out of Egypt (you can read about it in Exodus chapters 7-12). Each plague increased in severity. But what was the purpose of these plagues? Did they simply exist to frustrate an Egyptian leader and “break his will” in order to let the people of Israel go? This was the understanding that I grew up with. God did these plagues so that Pharaoh would let His people go.

However, I would like to propose another view for the reason God initiated these plagues. The plagues were designed for two groups of people. First, they were designed for the People of God. The Israelites lived in Egypt for 430 years. During that length of time, they were surrounded by the gods of the Egyptians. They held onto their understanding of God (Yahweh), but the influence of foreign gods would have been great. In Exodus 4, Moses asks God, “What if they do not believe me or listen to me and say ‘The LORD did not appear to you’?” God then gives Moses a series of signs, signs that point to the power of God. Those, combined with the great plagues against Egypt served to remind and teach the Israelites that Yahweh was the one, true God.

The second audience for the 10 plagues was the Egyptians themselves. Like many of the people of the region during this time, the Egyptians were polytheistic, meaning they served many gods (one scholar pointed to over 1,500!). They served different gods depending on the time or season of year. However, Yahweh set out to show the Egyptians he was the one true God. Each of the 10 plagues has been shown to be an attack on one of the gods of Egypt! And in Exodus 12:12, God says that he will bring judgment on all the gods of Egypt. But more than simply proving his dominance over these false gods, God desires to draw people to himself.

As Moses approaches Pharaoh (considered to be a god himself by the Egyptians), he refuses to recognize Yahweh as God (Ex. 5:2). God refused to not be acknowledged by the people of Egypt. In Exodus 7:5, God says this: “And the Egyptians will know that I am the Lord when I stretch out my hand against Egypt and bring the Israelites out of it.” As God preformed these signs, He would show the people of Egypt that He was the one and only God to be served. The result? Well, many believed and followed Yahweh. As the People of God were leaving Egypt after the final plague, we read this: “…Many other people went up with them” (Ex. 12:38).

Our God, the God we serve, the one true God, the God of The Story, is always drawing others to himself. Even as he works to free His people, God is drawing others to himself. The plagues were more than acts designed to frustrate Pharaoh into freeing the people of God; they were signs the pointed to Himself. An act that resulted in many others following Yahweh.

The Story of God: He is a God that draws people to himself.

-Pastor Doug

Thoughts or comments? Let me know…Post them below!