Who’s Really in the Details?

It’s everywhere – movies, magazines, the evening news. “The devil’s in the details.” Oh really? Since when?

I mean, it has a nice alliterated ring to it but since most movie scriptwriters and pop culture media generators don’t even give credence to the reality of a devil, it strikes me as odd that they throw this phrase around so much.

Might it be that it’s the other way around? The specifics, the seeming minutia, added to story accounts in scripture are merely a curiosity to some. But to those who hunger after God, who long to know he is with us—watching and aware with an eye of love—the preciseness we encounter both in scripture and our own circumstances are a sure sign that God is in the details.

For Instance

Reading in Matthew 14 about the little guy’s shared lunch, a meager five loaves of Eastern flatbread and two scrawny fish, we wonder at all the details. Five thousand men, who undoubtedly brought wives and children, probably swelled the crowd who ate that day to 13,000 or more. Jesus gave specific instructions to settle them on the grass in groups of 50s and we’re given the spectacular report that when all those thousands of people spread in little clusters about the hillsides had eaten as much as they wanted, the leftovers filled twelve baskets to the rim.

Was the devil in those details?

The New Testament is brimming with fish stories and I think of another that took place after the resurrection. We might be led to think that Jesus, after that glorious event of coming forth from the tomb, was now so holy that he couldn’t be approached until we read the fish tale in John 21.

Discouraged and disillusioned by events of previous days, some of the disciples have gone back to their fishing trade. To add to their misery, they’ve worked all night and come up empty-handed. They don’t even have enough for breakfast. Can’t you picture them, sweaty and grimy from tossing and pulling nets all night, sitting in the boat dejected?

Along the shore someone shouts over the water – “Hey friends, do you have any fish?” They aren’t up for explanations so they just respond, “No.” Then this stranger on the shore makes what must have seemed to them a suggestion only an amateur would make. It was more of an instruction than a suggestion because he said, “Throw your nets on the other side and you will catch some fish.”

Don’t you wonder why they did it? They could have blown him off as an idiot who knew nothing about fishing, but they picked up their nets one more time and cast them in the opposite direction. Immediately the nets were so full of fish they couldn’t even get them in the boat, so they dragged the netted catch to shore. Except Peter, who happened to be fishing in the nude, and when he saw the catch of 153 fish, he shouted, “It’s the Lord!” and jumped overboard.

Might it be that Peter remembered another time when Jesus asked him to leave the nets and follow him? That he would teach him how to catch men and not fish. Might he have needed that reminder precisely at that moment?

We can almost smell the wood smoke, the fish on the coals, fresh bread waiting and the Savior King in his glorified body saying, “Come and have some breakfast.”

Both stories allow us a momentary glimpse of how intimately Jesus cares about each of us –our breakfast and lunch, our need for hope – and how present he is to those needs. He brings the provisions, blesses them, and gives to us. Such beautiful details.

Nothing is Random

It reminds me of something that happened to us in the 1970s when we were looking for a house to rent in Jacksonville. Bob had enrolled in Luther Rice Seminary and we were a family of five at the time. We left everyone – along with our collie and her nine pups – with Bob’s sister, Sallie, and the two of us drove to Jacksonville on a cold January morning with one day to find a house.

Our plan was to find the house on Saturday, call Sallie and Ron who would come up the following day in the moving van with the kids and dogs, and we’d move in Sunday. Bob’s classes started Monday. (Only young naïve people who either have a lot of faith or no sense would try something like this!)

We bought a newspaper and starting looking up the rental ads. Jacksonville happens to be the largest county, land wise, in the state of Florida, and we knew zilch about the city. We searched all day long and found nothing – caught no fishes, so to speak. By nightfall, so disheartened we could hardly talk to each other over dinner, we rented a hotel room, prayed for his help, and went to bed.

Around 1 AM we were awakened by loud voices, shouting, a chorus or two of song, and just general disturbance. We looked out the window and saw a number of inebriated guests leaving the hotel bar, which happened to be situated right below us.

“The bar must be closing. They’ll be gone in a few minutes,” Bob said. We crawled back into bed.

At 2 AM – the same scenario, only a bit more raucous and disturbing. Bob called the desk and they apologized and said they’d take care of it and things should settle now. But at 2:30 it started again.

“Get up!” Bob said in a voice I knew meant business.

“What are we doing?” I asked wide-eyed.

“We’re leaving,” he thundered.

Without a word, I changed back into my jeans and sweatshirt, grabbed my stuff, and lugged it down to the lobby. Bob went to the desk, turned in the key, and said, “We’re checking out.”

“That will be $46, sir,” the desk clerk said. To which Bob replied, “I’m not paying you a cent,” and we walked out the door.

We found another hotel, checked in our room, and went to sleep. The next morning we ordered breakfast in the hotel restaurant and the waitress said, “What brings you to Jacksonville?”

We told her our story and she said, “This morning when I was leaving for work I noticed a moving van at a house on my street. Why don’t you drive over there and see if that house is for rent?”

And that’s exactly what we did. The couple moving out was breaking their lease and asked if we would like to sub-lease the house. We helped them load their moving van, called Ron and Sallie who arrived by late afternoon, and by Sunday night we were moved in – kids, dogs and all. Bob was in class Monday morning.

If someone sneezed we’d never have made that connection, but God was in the details. And he takes care of people with little sense but a lot of faith. I know that first hand.




  1. Your story about finding a house to rent in Jacksonville was no doubt orchestrated by God. I have been experiencing similar orchestrations as I have been preparing for my trip to Vietnam. Just today I got an unanticipated call from the VA hospital asking me for a time when I can come in to get immunization shots for Hepatitis A and Typhoid. The VA said they had two openings on Wednesday August 8 at 11:00 am and 1:00PM. I told then 1:00PM would be fine. Last week, I had already arranged for an appointment to get my shots with the Broward County Health Department In Pompano on Thursday August 9th at 3:00PM. The shots with Boward County would have cost me $110 whereas the VA shots will not cost me a cent. Also today as I was leaving the post office I ran into a black pastor who God wanted me to encounter. I told him about my upcoming trip to Vietnam and about my recent book, the Ultimate New World Order. He had read my first book and wanted a copy of my new book. I gave him the website for the new book and he gave me his card and ask me to keep him informed about my trip to Vietnam.

  2. When I needed it most, I found the only acupuncturist in the entire state who practices 5 element old world acupuncture less than 10 minutes away from where I am. He took me in today because the spirit simply told him he needed to. He had a full schedule, is going out of the country for the next 3 weeks and he just knew he needed to with no knowledge of me at all. I informed another holistic practitioner I have an appointment with and she wrote back and said she was just about to suggest acupuncture and she knew the reputation of the man I was going to see and she knew this was quite simply a God thing. My yin and yang were completely disconnected and I was “stuck” in the most extreme way. Three perfect strangers connected today thanks to the prayers of my sister when I was no longer capable. God is so much in the details.

  3. Like pages from a devotional book, the timing of your blogs are so perfect! Thanks for this word of assurance that God’s timing is perfect… ours is so flawed by our own “urgency”. This morning I will take a deep breath, make a cup of tea and be filled with His peace as I watch and wait. I am ready for His plan for what’s next.

  4. Your words, as always, are so encouraging. Just as you walked out of that hotel, in faith, and walked into the perfect opportunity, you and Bob have walked out of one door only to open another so many times since that moment. I so believe that for your whole family.
    I am encouraged in my own walk. The minute we walked into a little church up here we were embraced and used immediately. Time has lapsed. We are no longer needed. We have been ‘called’ to walk out that door and enter a very foreign space. It does not seem logical. Yet we know God is so in the detais. We continue to walk in faith. Who knows what is behind this next door but our love for the Lord and His blessings have more than filled our hearts.

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