Foreword:

Ever wonder what God might have to say to YOU today? Here are things to ponder, and things to receive into your heart. If you have a question, put it in the comments. I respond as much as I can.

A note for all my readers: I've been experimenting with YouTube videos for Bible teaching for a while, and I'm working through Revelation here. My YouTube videos are currently short studies in Matthew, and at present I'm posting videos on Revelation as well. Both appear on the blog, which is turning into a Vlog. I encourage you to subscribe to my YouTube channel for better coverage.

Friday, July 24, 2015

"He went out, not knowing where he was going."

The quote above is from Hebrews 11:8, and it's about Abram (later Abraham); Abram was called by God to go to a distant land (600 miles or so away)--to move his household, his fortunes, his entire life to a place he did not know.
The unknown country is probably the scariest thing we face.  Waiting for the test results from your doctor. Waiting for the exam results. Waiting for approval of your dissertation. Waiting for the results of an oral exam. Waiting for the results of a trial.
Sometimes the fear is so great you can all but cut it with a knife.  So what makes it possible to "go to the unknown country," taking each step in order, and minimize your fears?

  1. Take action.  This is perhaps the greatest thing.  Abram didn't wait (I doubt waiting was even in his nature--see Genesis 22, where it says "He arose early..."), didn't procrastinate.  He got things ready, and moved on. Sometimes you cannot take action.  You have to wait, because waiting is what's called for, but you can still move. Paralysis (as I've found) doesn't contribute to your life, especially if it's linked to some problem you're facing. So instead of waiting, sitting in your room and worrying, do something. Anything.  Action often drains us of fear, and makes us able to cope with what is happening, even if it has no relation to the issues at hand. Sometimes you need to go camping. Or to take a hike. Or go ride your bike. Or have a nice dinner. Anything that moves you away from focusing only on the one thing you fear.
  2. Focus on the future.  This is also of great importance.  In Hebrews 11:10, we read the following:  10 for he was looking for the city which has foundations, whose architect and builder is God.  There was no "city of God" in the Canaan of Abram's day--it was in the far future--but that's where Abram's focus was.  In the future. Many times the present is pretty bad. We fail the exam.  We're permanently injured at work. The doctor's tests on our child give us no hope. And so on. The key thing to remember is that the future that's yours is in the "city of God (the real one)," not tomorrow or the next day.  It's where God makes things right, and "wipes away every tear," and we live with Him forever.
Remember that "weeping may endure for a night, but joy comes in the morning"--and morning always comes.

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

What would you do?

Suppose that you and your family moved 700 miles from home, settled there, and made a new home. Then your father dies, and you are left with your wife and your nephew, who is married and has no children.
What do you do? Stay where you are? Move back home? Go somewhere else?  What would make you move?
These were precisely the questions Abram faced in Genesis 12.  "What to do?"
Sometimes the answer is not the "easiest thing;" it's a decision that comes from deep within your soul, based on the purposes of God for your life.
Abram's Dad has died.  He's facing the future without the rest of his family, whom they left in Ur, about 700 miles to the North, and he's living now in Haran (modern day Turkey).  There are no computers, no Skype, no telephones, and no regular postal service.  Abram is about 75, still a young man (for those days), and he is seeking...seeking a homeland, a place to be, a place that "fits him;" discontent is often the soul of direction from God, and moving is sometimes the way to accomplish what you really are supposed to do in life.
This is Abram's situation, and in the midst of his dilemma and discontent, God speaks to him (heavily paraphrased):
"Go. Leave here, and let Me show you where to live. When you go at My direction, I'll bless you, make you into a great nation, and make your name great.  I'll also make you a blessing to all the nations of the earth."
This is really pretty vague, although it's astounding in its scope,  but it was enough for Abram.  He left,  took Sarai and Lot and began his journey with everything he had.

This kind of direction has been enough for people who are seeking God since the beginning of time. We don't know where we're going, but we know He has told us to go. So we go, because we believe that God has a plan for us elsewhere or doing something else with our lives.
Where are you today?  Is God calling you to somewhere else? Something else?
The Scriptures tell us, "He went out, not knowing where He was going."
In other words, Abram, having tested in his mind and heart that God was moving in his life, obeyed without actually knowing his destination. All he had was the promise of God.
How could he?  he had never been there, and God didn't even tell him exactly where.  Most of his life had been spent either in Iraq or Turkey, and now he's being told to go on foot "to a land which I will show you. (about 600 miles, as the crow flies).
So he goes out, "Not knowing where..."
And the question the text asks us is, "How about you?"
Do you have a sense that you're through where you are?? Are you willing to go where God sends you?
Abram was, and did, changed himself and his destiny, and genuinely changed the world forever.
You never know what a step into the will of God can bring, unless you take that step.  God generally couches His promises of this sort in vague terms, because he wants you to believe before you see.
Can you do that? Listen to God with your whole heart? Change the direction of your life forever, just to satisfy Him?
If you're smart, you can and will, because God never calls like that unless He intends to bless you, and because the collateral benefits are indescribable.  Right now, all the promises God has for you are bound up in  a package, and tied with string, so to speak.
To open the package, you have to take the first step.
Take that step now.  You'll never see inside unless you open the package.

Sunday, July 19, 2015

Giving up Control

Giving up control is not something I do very well.  I like to control my environment, my life, my diet, and a host of other things.
So I was reading Matthew 26 a day or two ago, and it occurred to me how completely Jesus gave up control of His own life at His arrest.
Most every Christian knows the story: Jesus goes to the Garden of Gethsemane to pray, and after His prayer, Judas arrives, leading a group of people who are going to arrest Jesus, and if possible, His disciples.
Jesus just stands there, and lets them arrest Him.  Now if you are not a Christian, that makes sense. What could he do? There are so many, and He is one man.  However, if you are a Christian, you know that Jesus has options. He doesn't have to tolerate being arrested.  He can simply say, NO! and the world changes immediately, His arrest doesn't take place, and lots of other things happen.  We see a tiny foreshadowing of this in John's Gospel, with the same scene--the troops have arrived to arrest Him.  Everyone is standing there, tense and ready to attack, run or defend.
Here's what happens (John 18:1-9, NASB):
2 Now Judas also, who was betraying Him, knew the place, for Jesus had often met there with His disciples.
3 Judas then, having received the Roman cohort and officers from the chief priests and the Pharisees, *came there with lanterns and torches and weapons.
4 So Jesus, knowing all the things that were coming upon Him, went forth and *said to them, "Whom do you seek?"
5 They answered Him, "Jesus the Nazarene." He *said to them, "I am He." And Judas also, who was betraying Him, was standing with them.
6 So when He said to them, "I am He," they drew back and fell to the ground.
7 Therefore He again asked them, "Whom do you seek?" And they said, "Jesus the Nazarene."
8 Jesus answered, "I told you that I am He; so if you seek Me, let these go their way,"
9 to fulfill the word which He spoke, "Of those whom You have given Me I lost not one."
When He says, "I am He," the entire group goes backwards, and falls to the ground.  So He asks a second time, and they answer, with their faces in the dirt, "Jesus..." So much for the arresting officers. Then He gives a command: "Let these [disciples] go their way..."
Now they all get up, dust themselves off, and in the ensuing confusion, Judas points Jesus out with a kiss, Peter cuts of Malchus' ear, and the disciples run for their lives.
The point is, Jesus relinquished control. It was never taken from Him.  He decided to go through with His own arrest and murder.
This is very clear in the Gospels.
In Matthew, He makes clear that both He and His Father are fully in control, and things are occurring this way in order to fulfill the Scriptures.
In John, His response, "I am He," petrifies them, and they fall down before Him. In Luke, He heals Malchus' ruined ear.
In every Gospel, the writers assume that Jesus is actually in control, up to the point of His arrest. Then He lets go. Events take Him.  Although everything that occurs is in some way or another a fulfillment of Scripture, He is no longer in control. He tells us so, when He says, "This is your [the Jewish leaders'] hour, and the power of darkness."
When He reviews all this, after His resurrection, He says (Luke 24:15-16, NASB),
25 And He said to them, "O foolish men and slow of heart to believe in all that the prophets have spoken! 
26 "Was it not necessary for the Christ to suffer these things and to enter into His glory?"
In other words, even though Jesus gave up control, God's plan prevailed, and God took over. What's more, God's plan was superior to Jesus taking control and ending His own arrest--look at what happened.  The resurrection.  The Ascension into heaven.  Satan conquered at Jesus' death.  A way into heaven opened for us.  The church. The gifts and ministry of the Spirit. Eternal life. A new home in heaven, with God. And much more.
All of these were dependent on Jesus allowing His life to be bounded by the Scriptures, giving up control, and following the Plan that His Father and He had made in the ages past.
This is true of you and me.  At times when it seems we are not in control of our own lives, nothing is going right, we are sick, in pain, troubled, hurting, broke, stuck in situations we hate, depressed, broken in spirit, all seems wrong, and all seems lost, it's well to remember the words of David
(Ps 139:14-16, NASB):
14 I will give thanks to You, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made; Wonderful are Your works, And my soul knows it very well.
15 My frame was not hidden from You, When I was made in secret, And skillfully wrought in the depths of the earth;
16 Your eyes have seen my unformed substance; And in Your book they were all written, The days that were ordained for me, When as yet there was not one of them.
God does have a plan for you, and for me.  Sometimes in the midst of difficulty, it seems as if He does not--but just as Jesus gave up control and followed the direction God led Him, so we should also, allowing Him to set our days and nights in order, and letting Him fill our lives with His presence and power.
I am not advocating for a decisionless life.  That's impossible.  God meant for us to decide if He gives us no clear direction, but there are things that mold our lives and make them what they are, and the results of allowing Him to take control in those things are always good. Remember, too, that the final words have not been scripted in your life, even when the life you have on this earth is over.  If you are a Christian, your life is only beginning when you pass from this earth. All of life is directed at the future when you believe in Christ, and you have no real home here.  We are like the Old Testament Saints, who "died in faith, not having received the promises, but believed in them," and who "seek a heavenly country;" God has prepared a place for them, and for us, who are "strangers and pilgrims on this earth." Your life is never over if you are a Christian.  God has planned a future for you, and it lasts forever.