As it is written, “Jacob I have loved, but Esau I have hated.”–Romans 9:13
Oh, the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are His judgments and His ways past finding out!
“For who has known the mind of the Lord?
Or who has become His counselor?”
“Or who has first given to Him
And it shall be repaid to him?”
For of Him and through Him and to Him are all things, to whom be glory forever. Amen.– Romans 11: 33-36
When we read Romans 9:13, most of us wonder why did God hate Esau? If you read through the passages about Esau, they show that he was a man of flesh and impulse, but mostly he seemed to have a total disregard for the covenant that God made with Abraham (his birthright).
Perhaps the better question is why did God love Jacob? Was it because Jacob was “a man after God’s own heart” like David was? Or was it because Jacob lived so righteously and piously that God loved him? Certainly not. Jacob was an underhanded, self-serving usurper from the start. Most everything he did was motivated by self-interest.
This begs the question of why does God love us? Any of us? He knows us down to our motivations. He knows that in and of ourselves, we can do nothing with a pure motive. In essence, he knows the heart and that is one thing that Jesus emphasized. As Jeremiah 17:9 says: “The heart is deceitful and desperately wicked. Who can know it?”
“There is none righteous, no, not one;
There is none who understands;
There is none who seeks after God.
They have all turned aside;
They have together become unprofitable;
There is none who does good, no, not one.– Romans 3:10-12
It is easy to see why a righteous God would hate all of us sinners, but why would He love any of us? God’s love obviously has nothing to do with who we are or what we do. What then, is the reason that God loves us? Our answer is plain and short. It is because of who He is. God is love.
He who does not love does not know God, for God is love. 9 In this the love of God was manifested toward us, that God has sent His only begotten Son into the world, that we might live through Him. In this is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins. – 1stJohn 4:8-10
God is love. He doesn’t just love, He IS love. This is not the squishy kind of love that Oprah and some charlatan preachers talk about. This is action!!!
May we stay mindful that God’s love has everything to do with Him and nothing to do with us.And who He is does not change, even when we "miss the mark."
How would you complete this sentence? “Life is…”
Life reminds me of a bluebonnet seed.
Bluebonnets thrive in dry, rocky places. A bluebonnet seed can remain fertile through years of drought because the seed protected by the hard coat.
There’s a painful truth about this seed.
For a bluebonnet, transformation happens in the fall when the rain finally reaches that worn out seed.
The root sprouts into the soil and the green leaves emerge above. At the just-right moment, a miracle happens, and that worn out seed bursts into life. It doesn’t matter how beat up it was. It doesn’t matter how many years it lay neglected on the ground. Because God has a plan for that little seed. If God will do that for a tiny seed, what might He do for you? What plan might He have for you?
Our lesson doesn’t stop there, because there’s another painful truth about a bluebonnet seed.
In the same way, a hard heart can prevent God’s love from making a difference in us; it can prevent transformation.
God created you, and He has a plan for your transformation; but a hard heart can prevent His good work in you. A hard heart makes faith very difficult…but not impossible; because God is patient. He loves you and He’s willing to allow time for His kindness and His love to break through our hard heart. His kindness leads us to turn away from our hardness and turn toward His goodness. His kindness draws us toward the transformation of life. But there’s a big difference between that bluebonnet seed and you. You don’t have to wait years in the dry hard places of life for your hard head and your hard heart to wear down. You can choose today, and allow God to transform you from death into life.
Just like the bluebonnet, we put down roots that transform us. We reach for the living water of God, and it reminds me of a woman who met Jesus as she was reaching for water in a well. The well was the source of life for her town. But Jesus offered her living water, an unending supply of living water, producing life from the inside-out.
Living water produces a transformation of the heart, and it results in life.Just like the bluebonnet seed sprouting into life, just like the roots growing under the frozen soil, God offers life in spite of our hardness. He offers life in spite of our brokenness, our guilt, and our shame. God offers the miracle of transformation from death into life, and it’s a gift that keeps on giving.
Jesus said, “If anyone is thirsty, he should come to Me and drink! The one who believes in Me will have streams of living water flow from deep within him” (John 7:38, HCSB).
Transformation begins the moment we accept and believe God, and it produces a steady stream of life within us. It begins when we surrender ourselves to Him, but it doesn’t stop there. Streams of living water produce life in abundance as we learn to seek and understand God. We grow roots deeply into to Him so that He becomes the source of our strength. Those roots allow us to withstand the storms of life. And as we life our life face-to-face with Him, we grow, and bloom, and produce seeds for the next generation.
A moment of transformation becomes a lifetime process of growth as we mature in Him.
Are you being transformed?
'Then Joshua said to the Israelites, “In the future your children will ask, ‘What do these stones mean?’ Then you can tell them, ‘This is where the Israelites crossed the Jordan on dry ground.’ For the Lord your God dried up the river right before your eyes, and he kept it dry until you were all across, just as he did at the Red Sea when he dried it up until we had all crossed over. He did this so all the nations of the earth might know that the Lord’s hand is powerful, and so you might fear the Lord your God forever.”'
- Joshua 4:21-24
I want to live my life in remembrance of what all the Lord has done in my life. I do not want to forget. I want to write them on tablets so they may forever be engraved on my heart. As I sit and reflect on the last 11 months of my life while on the Race... I can't help but see God's faithfulness.His faithfulness with my family.His faithfulness in friendships.His faithfulness in ministry.His faithfulness to me.
So I wanted to compile a list of 11 things God taught me in all 11 countries that point to His faithfulness. These are the things that came to heart as I sat and remembered the laughs, remembered the tears, remembered the faces, remembered the goodness of the Lord.
1. INDIA - God speaks to me and I have the ability to hear His voice. I have known this to be true, and I have even heard Him speak to me before. But in the past, when I would hear Him speak, doubt quickly followed. When doubt creeps in, it allows for mind games to be played and that is exactly what happened all those years. But for some reason something about this moment in India forever changed me, because for one of the first times… doubt didn’t win. I was sitting on the bed, and I asked the Lord: “What does reckless abandon really look like… in the everyday living? Because You are worth surrendering everything to, and I want to do that but I don’t really know what that looks like! Help me, Papa!” And He spoke. He directed me to Colossians 3, and gave me 3 things to focus on to live a life of abandonment. (1) Seek the Kingdom. Look to Me. (2) Put on love. Actively choose love, no matter the circumstance. (3) Worship through song and scripture. It finally clicked, He desires to chat with me. He wants to answer all my questions, no matter how trivial they may seem. He doesn't want His heart to be a mystery, but actually wants to whisper those mysteries directly to me. He wants to lead me into good things that He has predestined for me. All I have to do is be still before Him and listen. He will always speak. He will speak to me about my past, my present, and my future. He is even wanting to talk to me on the behalf of other people. All it takes is a teachable heart, a mustard seed of faith, and a willingness to step out.
>> more about Reckless Abandon: https://caitlincarpenter.theworldrace.org/post/reckless-abandon
2. NEPAL - The Lord fights for me and my loved ones. Leaving for the Race I thought my family would fall apart, like I had some super power that held them together. I doubted that God would move within the walls of my home… but for some reason I was still sending up my prayers in hopes that He would save my brother. Page after page in my journal, I prayed for my brother… that the Lord would just bring people into his life that would talk about you, that his heart would be soften when it came to the saving grace of Jesus. Well on September 18th, my little brother accepted Jesus for the first time. I saw that He was fighting for my family all along, from the beginning of time… way before I left for the Race. I hold onto the truth of Exodus 14:14, and on the days I don’t see anything happening I still declare it out. Because I serve a God of “do it agains” so what He is doing around the globe, I can anticipate Him to do in my life and the life of my loved ones.
>> more about Mason accepting Christ: https://caitlincarpenter.theworldrace.org/post/add-one-to-the-scoreboard
NEPAL 2.0 - God’s creation has nothing on His created ones. I had the opportunity to see Mount Everest on my birthday weekend and I will never forget the emotion that came over me when I first caught a glimpse of Mount Everest out of row 2 seat A. I was overwhelmed with the beauty that I was getting to soak in. And in that moment, God whispered into my soul: “Cait, the way that mountain took your breath away, You do the very same thing to Me.” God made literally everything in this world: Mount Everest, the Salt Flats, the most beautiful wildflowers, and He said those things were merely “good”. But when He created me, He said I was “very good”. How can it be?!
>> more about the Mount Everest experience: https://caitlincarpenter.theworldrace.org/post/on-top-of-the-world
3. THAILAND - You gotta love the one in front of you. When I surround myself with people who love wholeheartedly on a daily basis, it becomes contagious. Getting to do life with Pat, my ministry host, taught me that love is not stationary. And when I look in scripture, I see Jesus ALWAYS loving someone… so I can't help but take that as a command to do the same. To love when it is costly. There is always someone in need of Christ’s love which gets to be displayed through me. Simple, real, contagious love is going after the one.
>> more about Pat and how he taught me to love: https://caitlincarpenter.theworldrace.org/post/be-like-christ
4. CAMBODIA - There is no striving for God’s love and favor. I have struggled my whole life to let this truth sink in. I always tried to be the best volleyball player, or the MVP in softball, the best daughter, the best student… all so that my coaches, parents, and teachers would love me more. Man, how skewed my vision was! I had this picture of a sticker chart in my head, always trying to do more to earn more stickers. In Cambodia, that chart got ripped down. The Lord used little orphans to show me that I didn’t have to earn their love, that I already had it... just like I already have His. Striving for people’s love and God’s favor is exhausting. It is so freeing to be able to say, “I am loved and chosen” knowing I don’t have to do anything to accept it.
>> more about the sticker chart being ripped down: https://caitlincarpenter.theworldrace.org/post/the-sticker-chart
5. VIETNAM - There really are people who will love all of you and steward your heart well. We had our first team changes this month, and I was terrified. I didn’t know what to expect. I was going to have to start from scratch once again and choose to be vulnerable with five other strangers. Little did I know, some of my best friends would come from that season. True friends might be hard to find, but they are out there. I encourage you to find them. I learned not to settle for mediocre friendships. But I also learned to be that kind of friend to others. To heighten someone else’s joy for God. To fight the them. To communicate my feelings. To remind them of God’s goodness and glory. I want to reflect Jesus in a way that makes my friends want to love Him more. Not only do I need to be that kind of friend for other people, I need to find those kind of people for my life. Friends that make me want to love Jesus more.
6. ETHIOPIA - Loving sacrificially is so worth it. Loving people are worth it… even if my heart will get hurt in the process. In Ethiopia, I met a three-year old little girl who stole every part of my heart. She made me want to give up everything, just to bring her home and love her forever. But what sucked was that I knew a goodbye was coming at the end of the month and she wasn't coming with me. I had a choice, do I keep her at a distance so that I don't feel pain, or do I go all in and love her reckless. I am so thankful I picked the latter, because God used her in ways that she will never understand. I learned that when I love, I willing give my heart to others to handle (and I pray it is handled with great care). When I love others, I am spilling Christ’s love over onto them. He first loved me, unselfishly, so I can extend that same love to others.>> more about Senna Baby: https://caitlincarpenter.theworldrace.org/post/senna-baby>> more about the process of love: https://caitlincarpenter.theworldrace.org/post/when-love-hurts
7. RWANDA - If you just say “yes”, the Lord will use you. I never in a million years thought I would create a website from scratch… why, because that is out of my skill set. Yet, when I make my hands available to the Lord, He will partner with me to do more than I could ever think or imagine. He will create opportunities for me to use my God-given talents to impact those around me. While reflecting on this, God reminded me that every significant event that ever happened in the Bible happened because someone said “yes” to God. So I want to jump into action. Allow God to use the tool and talents right in my hands to minister to those around me for the sake of the Gospel.
>> more about my dad’s yes: https://caitlincarpenter.theworldrace.org/post/guest-blog-the-blessings-in-saying-yes
8. BOLIVIA - God filled yet another part of my heart when it comes to marriage. I learned through the discipline of prayer that only God can go to those places in my soul. No man will ever be able to satisfy the deep longings of my heart. I have to continue to pray for my husband all while praying the same exact prayers over myself… because I can’t expect him to be someone I am not willing to be myself. The oneness I desire, I have already with the God of this Universe. Everything else, like a hot Jesus-lovin man… is just extra.
>> more about praying for my husband: https://caitlincarpenter.theworldrace.org/post/a-man-with-no-face
9. PERU - Don’t forget the beauty found in sunrises and sunsets. While on the Race, I experienced some of the most beautiful sunrises and sunsets. Like tear worthy sunsets. When I gaze at the blazing ball of fire setting in the sky making the most gorgeous of colors, I can’t help but worship. I can’t help but be moved. Even on the days I anticipated a glorious sunset/sunrise and I got a gloomy cloudy one… God still spoke. All I have to do is open my eyes and get out so I can bask in the beauty of God’s masterpiece. I encourage you to find a safe haven, a rooftop, a cliff, a place you feel closest to God and see all He painted in the sky for you to enjoy.
>> more about sunsets/sunrises: https://caitlincarpenter.theworldrace.org/post/cotton-candy-skies
10. ECUADOR - Worship like ain’t no body watching. I had this moment under a huge tree where I worshipped with my Savior. I danced. I sang. I yelled at the top of my lungs. I fell to my knees and prayed. The Lord used that moment to teach me that being with Him through worship, changes me. I become free. I become free of distractions. Free of the busyness of life. Free from my fears. And through that freedom, I am able to be undone before the Lord. I can get buck-wild for my Jesus. I am able to be unveiled, face to face with God. I get transformed more into His image.
>> more about worship: https://caitlincarpenter.theworldrace.org/post/songs-for-the-season
11. COLOMBIA - Hold tight onto His promises. He has spoken and placed specific dreams and promises over me. Like being married, having a family, having a community that reflect the early church in Acts 2, speaking about His goodness to a crowd of people, and much more. I have to keep proclaiming them over myself, even in the waiting. I have to keep believing even when I don’t see evidence. He is faithful and good, and won’t let me down… so I can place all my trust in Him.
What I love about God is that He is a God of do-it-again and He doesn’t pick favorites. So all these things the Lord showed me over the last 11 months, can be for you too if you want them. They might be written differently, but the truth and storyline behind them still remains the same.He wants to speak to YOU, and He has given YOU the ability to hear His voice.He will fight for YOU and YOUR family. YOU take His breath away. He will partner with YOU to love the one in front of YOU… it could change their life. YOU don’t have to strive for God’s love. He loves YOU just the way YOU are.He wants to put people in YOUR life that will love all of YOU… just like He does.He loved YOU first, so YOU have the ability to love others sacrificially. YOUR “yes” could spark a much needed revival in YOUR city, in YOUR family, in YOUR community. He wants to fill all the canyons in YOUR heart with His love. He has made His creation for YOU to enjoy. YOU can freely worship in His presence, and feel the shift in YOUR heart.He has spoken promises over YOU and has placed unique dreams in YOU.
“Vanity of vanities,” says the Preacher;
“Vanity of vanities, all is vanity.”
What profit has a man from all his labor
In which he toils under the sun?- Ecclesiastes 1:2-3
I have seen all the works that are done under the sun; and indeed, all is vanity and grasping for the wind.– Ecclesiastes 1: 14
I can’t get no…satisfaction.– Mick Jagger/Keith Richards
Therefore, having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom also we have access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and rejoice in hope of the glory of God. And not only that, but we also glory in tribulations, knowing that tribulation produces perseverance; and perseverance, character; and character, hope. Now hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out in our hearts by the Holy Spirit who was given to us.– Romans 5:1-5
Recently, a celebrity chef/world traveler and a successful fashion designer made the national news by taking their own lives. These suicides have triggered a lot of broadcasted discussion about the rise of mental health issues in the United States. According to the CDC, almost 45,000 people committed suicide in 2016 and the suicide rate in America has increased by 24% since 1999. This is distressing.
I am no psychologist, but to me the problem is obvious – hopelessness. Is hopelessness a mental health issue? Is it the product of a chemical imbalance in our brains? Are some folks just born without hope? Perhaps, but that does not really make sense. What does make sense to me is that we have crisis of hopelessness in our country mostly because so many are hanging all their hopes on temporary and ever-changing things. A particular person or relationship, career, finances, fill in the blank. The hopelessness begins when that object of hope shows itself to be an illusion. Hope can be shattered both by obtaining that which we have craved and also by being denied the same.
King Solomon was the literal personification of that which our current culture aspires. Power – he was a king and had a vast kingdom and a feared army. Wealth – he was the richest man to ever live. Luxury – he had an immense and lavish home including servants attending to his every need and desire. Sex – he had several hundred wives and concubines. Prestige – anointed by God to be king and to oversee the building of His Temple. Wisdom – he was known and sought out by the rich and powerful for his counsel. He was as close to a rock star as his era ever produced.
Solomon wrote Ecclesiastes. He pursued these things (and others) to the hilt. He was successful in most of these endeavors. Still, he found nothing but short-term pleasure and long-term emptiness in all these temporal things. Ecclesiastes is the diary of that pursuit. If this Solomon, with his unlimited resources, could not find lasting joy and hope in these quests, how in the world can we expect to? We can’t. The average Jane or Joe can’t, but neither can the folks who seem to have “everything”.
Solomon even pursued religion and found it to be empty as well. We must be careful to note that he did not pursue God, but religion. There is a difference. In fact, he pursued many religions and seemed to consider them all to be equal. The Pharisees also pursued religion instead of God. Jesus was pretty clear about that difference.
Christians (by definition, our hope is in Christ) one would think, should be immune to this hopelessness. But this is not reality, is it? We can be just as susceptible to hopelessness if we allow our circumstances, etc. to take our focus off of Christ. We must remember that all our current circumstances are temporary. Whether we see them as good or bad; whether they be physical, psychological, financial or whatever, they are not permanent…even if they last the rest of our earthly lives. Christ has promised us eternity in His presence and we must be intentional in our pursuit of Him throughout our lives. The hope we have in Christ is the one true hope we have.
The world tells us to claim what is ours, but God asks us to surrender to His work of transformation.
The Bible tells us that we have a choice. We can be conformed to this world, or we can be transformed by God. He demonstrates this transformation in a simple seed.
When the seed sprouts into life, it does two things.
Deep roots are important for many reasons:
The bloom of a sunflower is fully open toward the sun, and it follows the sun as it makes its way across the sky. If you watch closely, you can observe the miracle of transformation at the heart of that sunflower as it produces seeds for the next generation.
Like the sunflower, when you surrender, God will transform you.You will sprout from death into life, just like that seed. You will grow roots that anchor deeply into the soil of this life. Roots that allow you to thrive during the storms of life. Roots that allow you to find the goodness of the rain in the midst of every storm.
Like the sunflower, you can follow closely after God. You can choose to be “face-to-face” in a relationship with God, because you belong to Him. He created you, He loves you, and He desires to transform you from the inside out.
Romans 12:2 says, “Do not be conformed to this age, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may discern what is the good, pleasing, and perfect will of God.”
Thought to ponder:
The sunflower reveals the miracle of transformation that you can observe with your own eyes. If God can do this for an insignificant sunflower seed, what might He do for you?