Have you ever read a portion of scripture so many times, you just gloss over it because you think you are already "familiar" with it? What happens is we tell our brains we already know the "story". It is like when we asked mom or dad to read us the bedtime story for the 2,000th time! We didn't need them to read it out loud because we could have just looked at the pictures and told THEM the story! It wasn't that we memorized it - we remembered enough of the details to "tell the story". I like to go back to some of my favorite portions of scripture frequently because they have challenged me, given me hope, set my thinking straight, etc. I count on what happened before to give me something "new" this time around. The most amazing thing about scripture - it almost always does this when we come with an open mind and a seeking heart!
God knew what he was doing from the very beginning. He decided from the outset to shape the lives of those who love him along the same lines as the life of his Son. The Son stands first in the line of humanity he restored. We see the original and intended shape of our lives there in him. After God made that decision of what his children should be like, he followed it up by calling people by name. After he called them by name, he set them on a solid basis with himself. And then, after getting them established, he stayed with them to the end, gloriously completing what he had begun. (Romans 8:29-30 MSG)
This passage is one of those places where you can find richness each time you look into it again. Here are just a couple of things which came alive to me today:
- God knows what he is doing, even before he sets out to do it. This should give us hope we don't just live by "fate" or "happenstance". There is a plan in every experience - because God designed us! Too many times, I hear people saying they will just play the cards they are dealt, as though there is no one in control of what "hand" they receive. It is like saying the thing was just unavoidable - it is just chance or luck. Let me tell you - we don't live by chance if we are God's kids. We don't rely upon luck to get us through. What we rely upon and live by is the truth and reality of being created by God, to be his kids, and to enjoy the privileges of this relationship. It isn't kismet. It isn't good fortune coming your way. It is predetermined planning on the part of our Creator!
- God shapes our lives, not into some whimsical fancy of his on a particular day, but by the "standard" of his Son. In other words, he created us and formed us in the image of who he is! Our lives follow a pretty unique "standard" - that of the life of Jesus Christ. The word "shape" here should give us a moment to pause. Shape is used as a verb here, not a noun. As such, it is a word which describes an action, not on our part, but on God's. He shapes us (from the outset) to conform to the image of his Son. In the most literal sense, this means he gives us a definite "form" by which we should live. Yet, it also means he adjust, adapts, and directs our lives so we will come into and maintain the perfect form he envisions for our lives. He makes the necessary adjustments, brings us to the place we "adapt" our behavior, aligning character, and directing our path.
- God gives us the "finished product" as an example because he knows we do better when we "see" what it is we are moving toward. It is like when we get a jigsaw puzzle in a bag. If all we have is the pieces, we struggle for a while bringing order and form to the pieces. We don't "see" how they fit. Now, give us the box it came in and we now have a perspective by which to evaluate each piece in comparison to the original. Jesus stands as our example of how to live in relationship with others - sometimes they are easier than others. He stands as our example of how to deal with temptation - using the Word to drive a wedge between the tempting thought and the right action. Having the right example helps us know how the pieces fit together in our lives.
- God is not content to just create - he also names his creation. There have been goofy comic routines throughout history where someone will introduce themselves as Larry, then introduce their brother as Larry and their other brother Larry. In essence, they are designed to poke a little fun at some corner of society, but I think we might just occasionally believe God doesn't know us any better than the guy next door. We have a hard time with this idea of believing he could know us each by name, paying close attention to each detail of our lives, simply because there are so many of us! We think it must be like him calling us Larry, our other brother Larry and his brother Larry! Truth is - we are each unique in his eyes and perfectly attended by his care.
- God is concerned with our footing. It is one thing to stand us up straight; it is quite another to give us solid footing upon which to walk through this life. The wobbliest of objects can be made to stand up with enough ingenuity. Try taking it out of its "environment" and it may not do as well! It is great to know God goes with us into our new "environment", preparing the footing we need to be able to navigate through it safely.
What God envisions, he completes. This probably baffles some of us because we struggle so much with completing the stuff we set out to do. It is indeed good news to know the Creator sticks with his Creation all along the way, so as to get us more than "established", but also totally "in line" with what he envisioned in his creative work! Just sayin!