about the OT screw-ups and the NT glory

A couple years ago on staff at the church, we took a 90-day challenge to read the Bible from start to finish in three months. The challenge is the 15 chapters a day I’d read, in addition to my regular quiet time, prayer, worship, etc. I’ll be honest, it wasn’t easy, and for me it was more of a 100-day challenge by the time I finished. I did, however, gain a lot of insight reading through it that quickly.

When you get to the book of Matthew, you think in terms of the Gospel and story time about Jesus, fun parables, action scenes, and the like. But first you hit Matthew 1, the genealogy of Jesus. You know what I’m talking about: this guy begot that guy, that guy begot other guy, other guy begot someone else. Um, no offense, but a little boring to us Westerners. However, one of the benefits of speed reading the Bible is I began to recognize the names in Matthew as I never had before, considering I’d just read about them less than two months prior. As I went back and identified most of the people, I started figuring something out. So here goes: Matthew 1:1-16 is in bold below, with some helpful notes.

This is a record of the ancestors of Jesus the Messiah, a descendant of David and of Abraham:
Abraham was the father of Isaac.

Abraham (Abram) doubted God’s promise that he would be the father of countless people. His wife was skeptical because they were both seriously old. This is like someone telling your great-grandparents they’re about to have a kid. Gross, and also implausible. Abraham thought he’d just help God out a little and took his wife’s servant as his baby mama instead. Then, of course, Abraham’s wife regretted their servant-love decision and got paranoid and they turned out the servant and her son. God sent along Abraham and his wife’s real son at just the right time. That’s where Isaac came in. Abraham and Sarah’s impatience and doubt could have ticked God off, but he stayed true to his promise, gave them a son, and blessed the servant and her son, Ishmael.

Isaac was the father of Jacob.
Technically Jacob was the second-born but his brother, Esau, sold him his birthright for a bowl of stew. Apparently Jacob was a good cook. He must have inherited it from his mother, Rebekah, because she cooked such a delicious goat meal, she fooled Isaac into thinking Jacob was Esau. Confusing? Jacob dressed in Esau’s clothes, stuck goat skin on his arms and neck, and tricked his then-old-and-blind father, Isaac, into thinking he was Esau. The entire charade allowed Jacob to steal Esau’s blessing, which was actually a pretty sweet deal (“You’ll be master of your brothers, people will bow down to you, nations will be your servants,” that sort of thing).

Jacob was the father of Judah and his brothers.
Jacob had two wives but four women who fathered his twelve children. Jacob was promised Rachel’s hand in marriage after working for her father for seven years. (I wonder if Ronnie would have accepted that deal for me…) But on the wedding night, Jacob’s new father-in-law tricked him into marrying his other daughter, Leah. Jacob got to marry Rachel later, and he loved her more than Leah. Leah felt a little neglected and God had mercy on her, allowing her to have a bunch of kids when Rachel couldn’t even have one. That’s where Judah came from, the lonely, less-loved Leah.

Judah was the father of Perez and Zerah (whose mother was Tamar).
Okay, scandal here. So Judah had three sons. The oldest son married this girl, Tamar. He was a jerk, though, and was killed before they had any kids. So, as was their custom, the second son married Tamar and was instructed to have kids with her to make up for his dead brother. This son didn’t want to have kids with her and, um, pulled out, so to speak. (If you’re familiar with the term “onanism,” it’s named after this dude, Onan.) Thus, Onan died. Judah was afraid his third son would also die if he married Tamar, so Judah made up some BS story to keep her waiting. Tamar figured it out, dressed up like a prostitute, tricked Judah into having sex with her, and that’s where we get the twins Perez and Zerah.

Perez was the father of Hezron.
Hezron was the father of Ram.

Not much here, although if Hazron’s son Caleb was the same Caleb son of Jephunneh, I totally would have chosen to use him over this Ram guy, because that Caleb was awesome. People can’t agree whether or not the two Calebs were the same person. Otherwise, not much mentioned with these people, and I’m refraining from making a “Dodge, the father of Ram” joke.

Ram was the father of Amminadab.

Amminadab was the father of Nahshon.

Nahshon was the father of Salmon.

Not much here, either, except maybe Nahshon was the father of seafood. And the color of metrosexual polo shirts.

Salmon was the father of Boaz (whose mother was Rahab).
Okay, Boaz was the old guy who married Ruth after she became a widow but stayed faithful to her mother-in-law and the family. Rahab, Boaz’s mom, was the prostitute who saved Joshua’s spies in Jericho. Sure, she had to lie to save them, but their lives were spared. In return, her life (Jesus’ ancestors’) was spared with the little help of a red rope in the window (Red Rope District?).

Boaz was the father of Obed (whose mother was Ruth).
See above. It’s actually a cool story. Plus, Boaz got a free sandal out of the deal.

Obed was the father of Jesse.
Jesse was the father of King David.

Jesse had eight sons, and David was the youngest. When God sent Samuel to anoint David, Samuel was certain David’s oldest brother was the would-be king. Apparently he looked the part. God told Samuel, “Don’t judge by his appearance or height, for I have rejected him. The Lord doesn’t see things the way you see them. People judge by outward appearance but the Lord looks at the heart.” Good verse, that one. Plus, it turned out David was pretty handsome himself and had pretty eyes.

David was the father of Solomon (whose mother was Bathsheba, the widow of Uriah).
Alright, you’ve probably heard this one before. David was pretty much the most perfect man until Jesus came along. He was hot, he was talented, he was humble, intelligent, tough, fearless, friendly, sweet—you get the idea. Every girl’s dream guy. Except he was too many ladies’ man. He had something like 10+ wives and countless concubines. And yet, as if that wasn’t enough, he went up on the roof and spied on this girl Bathsheba taking a bath (If it had been a shower, would she be Showersheba?). Bathsheba was gorgeous, but just so happened to be married to another man. David didn’t really care about that part. He got Bathsheba in the sack and she ended up pregnant, as these things tend to go. David didn’t want to admit to his sin, however, so he tried to get Bathsheba to sleep with her husband right away in the hopes of passing it off as a legitimate child. The husband was too faithful to David, however, and wasn’t sleeping with his wife at the moment. So, in return for his faithfulness, David sent him off to war and had him deliberately killed. (A similar thing happened in “Man in the Iron Mask.”) For shame. Having an affair? Bad. Plotting to have the woman’s husband murdered? Worse.
The child died as a result. Soon David and Bathsheba got pregnant again, this time with Solomon, who became the wisest man who’s ever lived (except perhaps Jesus, you know).

Solomon was the father of Rehoboam.
Rehoboam was the father of Abijah.

Rehoboam was kind of a jerk. And by “kind of” I mean “a lot of.” Once he became king, he told the people of Israel he was going to treat them like crap. Then he turned away from God and led the Israelites into doing the same. These were not good things.

Abijah was the father of Asa.

Asa was the father of Jehoshaphat.

Jehoshaphat was the father of Jehoram.

Jehoram was the father of Uzziah.

Uzziah was the father of Jotham.

Jotham was the father of Ahaz.

Ahaz was the father of Hezekiah.

Hezekiah was the father of Manasseh.

Manasseh was the father of Amon.

Amon was the father of Josiah.

Josiah was the father of Jehoiachin and his brothers (born at the time of the exile to Babylon).

After the Babylonian exile:

Jehoiachin was the father of Shealtiel.

Shealtiel was the father of Zerubbabel.

Zerubbabel was the father of Abiud.

Abiud was the father of Eliakim.

Eliakim was the father of Azor.

Azor was the father of Zadok.

Zadok was the father of Akim.

Akim was the father of Eliud.

Eliud was the father of Eleazar.

Eleazar was the father of Matthan.

Matthan was the father of Jacob.

Jacob was the father of Joseph, the husband of Mary.

Mary gave birth to Jesus, who is called the Messiah.

Okay, you get the idea. There’s more we could say about the people in the paragraph above, but we’d be here all day. So here’s the deal: Jesus, as we know, sums up God’s greatest glory. Jesus was perfect, holy, completely sinless. That’s a big deal. As a result, I’d assume Jesus’ lineage would be equally holy, or at least slightly more so than it actually was. Would we really expect God to bring his son to earth via such fallen people? Surely he wasn’t rewarding Abraham’s disbelief, David’s affair, Judah’s lies, Jacob’s charade, Tamar and Rahab’s prostitution. No, he wasn’t rewarding it; he was redeeming it. This is what it looks like, the position of Christ the Redeemer in our lives. God used some of the biggest screw-ups in the Bible to bring about his greatest glory. He could have used one of David’s original wives to bring about Solomon rather than the adulteress. He could have used Esau, Isaac’s actual firstborn son, rather than the son who stole and tricked his way into the firstborn position. He could have brought Jesus to earth through countless ways and people, but he chose to redeem their sins through both the birth and death of Jesus.

And what this means for me, for us, is he’ll do the same for us. Just like Romans 8:28, all things work together for both our good and God’s glory. Even if we’ve screwed up big time in our lives, God can—and will—still use it. In fact, he knew in advance all the decisions we’d make and used those in his plan for glory. This isn’t me saying, “So do whatever you want, ‘cause God can use our screw ups.” This is me encouraging you, saying, “Don’t stress so much about your failures. What we see as failures, God sees as important parts of his great plan.” Sure, we have to suffer the consequences of our mistakes and bad decisions here on earth, but if we keep our faith in God, when we get to heaven I’m confident he’ll reveal to us, “Look how this worked out for my best.”

about how maybe God hates yeast

Yeast freaks me out. I think I’m stuck with an image in my head I developed during childhood. I remember standing in our kitchen and asking Mom about the little yellow package. Somehow in my mind I formed a picture of little bugs crawling around inside the package and the idea we would eat them traumatized me forever. Vomit.

So imagine my joy when, while reading through the Bible a couple years ago, I suddenly came to one striking conclusion: God hates yeast.

Don’t believe me? Here are a few samples:

I repeat, during those days you must not eat anything made with yeast. Wherever you live, eat only bread that has no yeast in it.
Exodus 12:20

You must not offer bread made with yeast as a sacrifice to me.
Exodus 34:25

So Moses said to the people, “This is a day to remember forever — the day you left Egypt, the place of your slavery. For the Lord has brought you out by his mighty power. (Remember, you are not to use any yeast.)
Exodus 13:3

Do not use yeast in any of the grain offerings you present to the Lord, because no yeast or honey may be burned as an offering to the Lord by fire.
Leviticus 2:11

For seven days, you may eat only bread made without yeast. On the very first day you must remove every trace of yeast from your homes. Anyone who eats bread made with yeast at any time during the seven days of the festival will be cut off from the community of Israel.
Exodus 12:15

Eat only bread without yeast during those seven days. In fact, there must be no yeast in your homes or anywhere within the borders of your land during this time.
Exodus 13:7

Convinced yet? The Old Testament has at least 30 verses like this. My personal favorites are Exodus 12:15 and 13:7—not only could the Israelites not eat yeast, but they couldn’t even have it in their homes. Or anywhere in their land. God hated yeast so much he even created a festival, the Feast of Unleavened Bread (i.e., yeastless bread). And if anyone ate yeast during this feast they’d be exiled. What the heck. I guess God knew what the little bugs were like, crawling around in the package too.

I asked my former pastor why God hated yeast so much, and he offered some theology about yeast representing the religious guys, and yes, that’s very true come Matthew, Mark, or Luke. But it never quite answered my question. I could do a quick search online and easily find several explanations for the use of unleavened bread in religious rituals, but this week God opened my eyes to another aspect of it entirely. Turns out, he doesn’t hate yeast at all. (If he did, would he really have compared the Kingdom of Heaven to yeast in the Gospels? Doubtful. That’s like saying I hate dog poop and then comparing my marriage to dog poop. Probably not a good idea.) What I think all this means is: following God requires instant movement.

The big deal about yeast started the night of the Passover. The Israelites had been slaves in Egypt for a gazillion years and God sent Moses to lead them out of Egypt and into something better. First, of course, Moses has to go toe-to-toe with the Pharaoh to convince him to let the Israelites leave. This includes something like ten terrible plagues, the first nine of which fail to convince Pharaoh that letting the Israelites go is a good idea. (If it were me, I would have let them go the first time all the water in the country turned to blood. Frogs in my bed? Being covered in gnats or festering boils? No thanks.) The final straw, of course, was the night every firstborn in the nation of Egypt was killed, whether human or animal. The Israelites would be spared from losing their firstborns, but only if they followed certain rules. You can find all these in Exodus 12, but basically they had to find this specific animal and kill it, smear its blood on the doorposts, and eat the meat that night, subsequently deemed Passover (as the death angel passed over their house). Now, this is where God first says “NO YEAST” which is a little strange out of context. Then you read what they were instructed to wear while they ate the meal: they had to be fully dressed, shoes on, and their walking sticks in their hands (12:11). I guess that means they ate one-handed.

Exodus 12:39 echoes the same sentiment: “Whenever they stopped to eat, they baked bread from the yeastless dough they had brought from Egypt. It was made without yeast because the people were rushed out of Egypt and had no time to wait for bread to rise.” And that’s it, that last part: “because the people…had no time to wait for bread to rise.” God said, “I’m going to take you from this life of slavery and into something incredible, but you have to be ready when I tell you to go.”

And there’s the application to my life. God always has something better planned for me than I have for myself. He wants me out of a life of slavery permanently. But when he says it’s time to go, I need to be ready to go. Whatever it is, wherever it is. Right then. Without taking the time to put on my sandals or get dressed or grab my walking stick or let the bread rise. Which, in my case, usually looks something more like taking the time to get financially settled or ease slowly out of uncomfortable situations or make sure I’m not hurting anyone’s feelings or offending anyone with my movement or just generally making sure everything is squared away before I take even the first step. God doesn’t want me to wait for the bread to rise. He wants me to move when he says to move.

But don’t just take my word for it. Jesus reinforced this same idea, so I’ll end with that:

[Jesus] said to another person, “Come, be my disciple.” The man agreed, but he said, “Lord, first let me return home and bury my father.” Jesus replied, “Let those who are spiritually dead care for their own dead. Your duty is to go and preach the coming of the Kingdom of God.” Another said, “Yes, Lord, I will follow you, but first let me say good-bye to my family.” But Jesus told him, “Anyone who puts a hand to the plow and then looks back is not fit for the Kingdom of God.
Luke 9:59-62

about the exodus journal

When I read through Exodus, the Israelites really piss me off. God sent them a great leader in Moses. He led them out of a life of slavery and promised to bring them to a great land. In the process, he led them in a roundabout way for genius reasons that would require another blog post altogether. So there the Israelites are in the desert, and they start complaining about being hungry. And God gives them food. From heaven. Nice. They’re all happy and yay, God is awesome, until something else comes up and they start complaining again. Or Moses goes up on the mountain for a while and they decide, “Well, he’s not coming back, let’s just pool our jewelry and make a gold calf out of it and worship that instead.” So God punishes them and provides for them and they’re happy again and they love him and life is great. Until again, something happens and they get derailed. What the heck. They’re all, “We’d rather be slaves in Egypt forever than die out here in the desert,” blah blah blah. As if the One who sent them food from heaven wasn’t capable of bringing them through the desert. Geez, Israelites, get over yourselves.

So there’s that.

In part of preparation for writing, I’ve been transcribing my old journals from the past couple years. These are journals I use in my quiet time. I write words of worship and praise, my prayer list for each day, any insights God’s giving me, questions about Scripture, and—the worst part—sins I’m confessing. That part’s not fun, seeing it in print. But I write them, and I confess them. And then I do them all over again.

We’re talking, within a month, maybe an average of 95% of each day’s entries contain the exact same sins as the other entries. And ironically, it’s usually pertaining to me opening my mouth. Gossip is an issue. Going along with or starting inappropriate jokes or comments is a huge issue. Just generally speaking things that wouldn’t make God too happy, that’s my biggest struggle. Sure, there are other ones that crop up here and there—times my selfishness gets in the way or I allow myself to get bitter about something or someone. Every day it’s something, I won’t deny that. But reading through and typing up the same confessions day after day after day was just like reading Exodus. I’d be all, “Today God did this awesome thing” or “I’m so blessed to have a house and a car and a great family” or “God really showed himself to me” and then it was a laundry list of the same sins committed over and over and blah blah blah. Geez, Rebecca, get over yourself.

Last Sunday at church the pastor made an inspired and convicting comment. To paraphrase, he said where we are is where we want to be. The things we’re struggling with—anger, addictions, even gossip and being generally inappropriate—are the things we want to be doing. Sure, overall, it may suck and we may hate it. But on a moment-by-moment basis we’re choosing each of these things over Jesus. I hate the feeling at the end of the day or my quiet time the following morning when I think of all the things I opened my mouth to say that day when I should have stayed silent. I hate it, I really do. But when opportunities to gossip or be inappropriate come up, in that moment, I’m choosing that over Jesus. I’m choosing to fit in or impress people or feel included in a group more than I’m choosing to glorify Christ with the things I say and, maybe more importantly, the things I don’t.


Funny thing is, I never would have recognized how bad it’s gotten if I hadn’t been reading through my journals. It’s easy to overlook them one day at a time, but when it’s staring up at you and you’re reading it page after page, it’s pretty hard to ignore. I wonder if the Israelites could go back and read Exodus and would feel the same way. “Wow, we acted like that?! We actually molded some animal out of our jewelry and worshipped that instead of the God who rained down food from heaven.” Maybe overall they’d say, “We were total jerks to God.” But in a moment-by-moment basis, they chose jewelry-turned-calves over God. They chose their own comfort over God.

What are you choosing on a moment-by-moment basis?

about tunnel vision skillz

I spent well over half of the past nine years working in restaurants. I like to think I was pretty good at it. I was Employee of the Month at one of them and still have the shirt somewhere to prove it. By the time I quit working in restaurants, I was the girl who could take between ten and twenty orders at a time without writing them down and get them all correct. Working as a hostess/busser/server/bartender taught me a lot of skills I’ve been able to use in everyday life, as strange as that may seem. Things like: anticipating what people were going to do or say next; knowing what’s going on around me without having to look up; focusing on facial expressions and tones of voice to remember specific conversations; knowing how to handle drunks, jerks, hecklers, and sexual harassers; and multitasking like you wouldn’t believe. I also learned how to make a darn good mojito, but that’s probably irrelevant for this blog.

One of the first lessons I learned was that tunnel vision is bad, bad, bad. Instead of focusing on going from the server station to the expo counter to the table to the dish pit and back again, I was taught to stay alert to everything going on around me. If someone walked in the front door and needed to be greeted, I should see him and greet him. If there was trash on the floor, I should see it and pick it up. If a guest at another server’s table needed a refill, I should see it and take care of it. Let me tell you: this is an easy lesson to learn for someone with rabid ADD, so I learned it quickly and I learned it well. Almost every job since that first restaurant has required my anti-tunnel vision skillz.

So here’s what God’s telling me lately: Forget all that. Get tunnel vision.

In a previous blog, I shared my Chazown–the very specific vision God gave me for my life. The writing, the speaking, all of that. I also shared how God led me to quit my job and send support letters asking for people to be a part of this vision by supporting us financially while I write. It was a very clear vision he gave me, and as I’ve followed him, the peace I have with all of it is astounding. And when I’m in tunnel vision mode, God’s vision is all I can think about. I’m committed.

But then all these “opportunities” started coming up. Well-meaning people with offers of jobs or suggestions that don’t fit into the vision God gave me. In fact, they would pull me far away from that very vision I was following when all this started. The offers and suggestions play on my need for financial stability and job security and health insurance and pride and others’ approval and, well, basically everything that contradicts faith. All these things might make sense, but choosing them is like me saying to God, “I trust in you, kinda’, but just in case, I’ll have this fallback plan.” God keeps reminding me he doesn’t need a Plan B and neither should I. He keeps telling me to have tunnel vision. Focus on his vision and block out anything else.

Remember Acts 20:18-25?

“[Paul] declared, “You know that from the day I set foot in the province of Asia until now I have done the Lord’s work . . . I have had one message for Jews and Greeks alike—the necessity of repenting from sin and turning to God, and of having faith in our Lord Jesus. And now I am bound by the Spirit to go to Jerusalem. I don’t know what awaits me, except that the Holy Spirit tells me in city after city that jail and suffering lie ahead. But my life is worth nothing to me unless I use it for finishing the work assigned me by the Lord Jesus—the work of telling others the Good News about the wonderful grace of God. And now I know that none of you to whom I have preached the Kingdom will ever see me again.”

God gave Paul a vision very early on: to be the Apostle to the Gentiles, to share the Gospel with everyone, regardless of whether they were Jews or Gentiles. Several times, Paul’s friends and followers discouraged him from going to Jerusalem, knowing they would never see him again. But he clung tight to the vision, the Chazown, God gave him and pressed forward. Even when it didn’t make sense, Paul kept his tunnel vision. He wasn’t distracted by well-meaning people with logical opportunities.

That’s my prayer for us this morning. God, give us tunnel vision.

about the symbol of the cross

I just downloaded an iPhone app called Hipstamatic. (Sure, it’s been around for a while, but I just got it, so back off.) It’s a camera app that allows you to change film, lenses, flash gels, etc. I’m obsessed with it. If you know me at all, you probably know I love to take pictures of random things and make collections out of them. Shoes, for example. Or signs. Or textures. My latest collection happened on accident: pictures of crosses hung on walls. Everywhere I go, people have collections of crosses on their walls. We have two on our living room wall and one in our kitchen. I’ve mentioned wanting to get more for the living room. I’m not sure why, I think because there’s something strangely comforting about a wall full of crosses.

Other well-known fact about me: I love Perry Noble, the pastor of Newspring Church. I regularly watch his sermons and love just about everything he says. He’s commented before, as I’ve heard others comment, how the cross is only popular in our day. How the idea of displaying a cross would be offensive in Jesus’ day. Ray VanderLaan mentions something similar in terms of why Jews aren’t Christians. It’s offensive to Jews, he said, to wear a cross around your neck. It’d be the equivalent in our society of wearing a necklace with an electric chair pendant. There’s nothing beautiful or good about that.

And yet somehow the cross has become such a regular symbol that we see it and rarely think twice about it. People who claim to be Christians, people who are devoted followers of Christ, and people who really don’t care one way or another all display crosses on their cars, their necklaces, their clothing, their cars. Even Eminem wore one in one of his recent music videos and, sure, he’s come a long way lately, but what does he hope to convey by wearing it? The cross is nothing more than a meaningless fashion statement at this point.

So it’s gotten me thinking: do I really want to have a bunch of crosses on my wall? Do I want to wear one around my neck? What purpose do I hope to achieve in proudly displaying a cross in my house, on my car, or on my person? Is it meaningless now except as a fad? What does the symbol of a cross even mean to me?

If you bear with me as I continue to blog and, God willing, crack down on this book he’s directed me to write, there’s something I mentioned in my last blog you’re probably going to hear over and over: God’s good plan doesn’t always feel very good. But God is always good.

For a nice, scriptural example, let’s talk about Isaiah 53. Starting with verses 2-9:
“My servant grew up in the Lord’s presence like a tender green shoot, like a root in dry ground. There was nothing beautiful or majestic about his appearance, nothing to attract us to him.
He was despised and rejected—a man of sorrows, acquainted with deepest grief. We turned our backs on him and looked the other way. He was despised, and we did not care.
Yet it was our weaknesses he carried; it was our sorrows that weighed him down. And we thought his troubles were a punishment from God, a punishment for his own sins!
 But he was pierced for our rebellion, crushed for our sins. He was beaten so we could be whole. He was whipped so we could be healed.
 All of us, like sheep, have strayed away. We have left God’s paths to follow our own. Yet the Lord laid on him the sins of us all.
He was oppressed and treated harshly, yet he never said a word. He was led like a lamb to the slaughter. And as a sheep is silent before the shearers, he did not open his mouth.
 Unjustly condemned, he was led away. No one cared that he died without descendants, that his life was cut short in midstream. But he was struck down for the rebellion of my people.
 He had done no wrong and had never deceived anyone. But he was buried like a criminal; he was put in a rich man’s grave.”

Let’s just be honest here: that sucks. A lot. This perfect man was mistreated, despised, rejected, all for others’ sins. Go back and read it again. He had done no wrong, never, ever, and he was treated like a criminal and murdered. Seriously, that’s messed up. We can probably all agree on that.

And then you read verse 10:
“But it was the Lord’s good plan to crush him and cause him grief. Yet when his life is made an offering for sin, he will have many descendants. He will enjoy a long life, and the Lord’s good plan will prosper in his hands.”

That was God’s good plan?! I feel like if this were a Roland Emmerich movie and a group of people were throwing out ideas on how to save humanity and someone said, “Let’s take this perfect person and murder him,” everyone else would be like, “Dude, what are you talking about? Someone call Will Smith. He’ll know what to do.” It just doesn’t make sense. Not to me, not to us.

Finish up with verses 11-12:
“When he sees all that is accomplished by his anguish, he will be satisfied. And because of his experience, my righteous servant will make it possible for many to be counted righteous, for he will bear all their sins.
I will give him the honors of a victorious soldier, because he exposed himself to death. He was counted among the rebels. He bore the sins of many and interceded for rebels.”

It really did work. It was a crazy plan, but somehow it worked out in the end. Somehow a perfect sacrifice did the trick. And Jesus was satisfied, he was honored, he became a savior. I don’t know that I would have been satisfied with such a plan, but this is the happy ending. All the suffering is over–for him at least; for us it’ll come later–and God’s plan turns out to be really as good as he said it would be.

Think for a moment about the worst day of your life. The worst, most unimaginable thing you’ve been through. The thing that came closest to ruining you. If you’re a believer (and by that I mean a dedicated follower of Christ), was that day before or after you became a believer? Maybe that day was what spurred you on to accept Jesus, to truly follow him. Think about the suffering you’ve been through since believing. Think about the pains, the rejection you may have felt at others’ hands. Think about those days when everything seems to go wrong and you wonder where all the sunshine and butterflies and magic genies are that the televangelists promised would come if you only believe.

My worst day came after I was a believer. In fact, I was a devoted, almost fanatic believer, spending over an hour daily with God, working for a church, volunteering in almost every area of the church, and suddenly it hit. I wasn’t naive. I didn’t expect sunshine and butterflies and magic genies. I already knew about spiritual warfare. I knew to expect it and be prepared to fight against it. But I was not expecting it to come in the form of a 14-year-old boy who died right in front of me, his head in my hands, while I was sponsoring a youth small group. I wasn’t the only one in the room with him, but we were both utterly helpless to save him. That night was a nightmare, and it wrecked me. I almost walked away from everything. When I chose to stay, I repressed all my emotions for several months. They came back, and they came back hard. For the first time in my life, I admitted I needed help and went to see a counselor, who diagnosed me with PTSD. This is the short story version of it. That whole year was rough, way more than I’m comfortable admitting. But the wisdom God taught me as a result of that one night, that worst day, that most unimaginable thing, is priceless. What his good plan was for that boy I’ll never know. In fact, what his good plan for anyone is, I’ll never know. But he had me there, in that room, because it’s part of his good plan for me. And if nothing else about that night makes sense, I have to trust in that one fact.

Think back to the worst moment of your life. Now think how God has used that moment to teach you, to draw you closer to him, to reach out to others. Think how maybe–just maybe–that moment was part of God’s good plan.

That’s what the symbol of the cross means to me: God’s good plan. And maybe the cross has lost meaning for most of our culture. Maybe it’s just a decoration for some people. Maybe it’s offensive to others. But I’m going to keep crosses around me as a reminder that God’s good plan doesn’t always look the way we expect it to look, but it’s still good. God’s good plan doesn’t always feel very good, but God is always good.