Tuesday, January 16, 2018

The Journey There

Getting from where we are to where God wants us to be is not always an eagerly taken journey.   When we think about Abraham going from where he was to where God wanted him to be we are looking at more than a physical journey from Haran to Canaan.  The other journey was a spiritual journey.  The physical part of the journey ended in Canaan.   The spiritual part of the journey ended on a mountain top where Abraham declared that nothing was more important to him than God.  Where Abraham was in his relationship with God back in Haran was not the place he was when he was prepared to sacrifice his son on Mt. Moriah as a sign of the strength of his faith.
No matter where we are in our faith journey, God is surely leading us to a place where we are willing to keep nothing for ourselves and abandon everything for Him.  While it is easy to sit in some comfortable chair and contemplate such an abandoned life, it is another thing to live with the single intent to flesh it out.  It is the hard way.  It is the way of declaring that what we want to do with our life does not count for consideration alongside of what God wants to do with it.  It is the way of sacrificing right to self so that God has all rights to our self.  It is the way of wanting nothing but what God wants.

It is not a way every believer in Christ chooses to walk.  In the beginning of the journey when the emotion is strong and the determination even stronger, we are sure there is nothing we would not forsake for the sake of Jesus.  But, as quickly as someone offends us do we discover that we are more interested in being right than in reconciliation at any cost.  And neither does it take long to start pulling back from extravagant giving so that there will be enough in case God does not provide for us as we figure we need.  Getting from where we are to where God wants us to be is the hard road and few there are that choose to walk it.  But, then I am not the first one to say such a thing. 

Monday, January 15, 2018

The Round About Way

While we are always in a hurry to get from Point A to Point B, God seldom seems to operate with such urgency.  There can be no doubt that God wanted to get Abraham to Canaan, but He most assuredly did not take the direct route.  Back when  Abraham was known as Abram and back when he was living under his father's roof, the Word says about Terah, Abram's father, and his extended family, "they went out from Ur...to go into the land of Canaan; but when they came to Haran, they settled there." (Genesis 11:31)  While in Ur with his father, Abram heard the Lord telling him to go from where he was to the land to be shown him.  This time Abram set out for Canaan and settled there.
However, hardly had he got his tent pitched when a famine forced him to go to Eqypt where there was hope of food.  After some shenanigans with Pharaoh, Abram was sent from the land of refuge a much richer man.  Verse 12 of Genesis says, "Abram settled in the land of Canaan."  He finally arrived at his destination, but it was indeed a round about way of getting there.  And, as we look at the story, it becomes obvious that God was doing the leading which makes us wonder why He chose the longer route that brought delay and doubt to Abram.
What was true then and what remains true now is the reality that God often takes us from Point A to Point B by way of Point C, or Point Z.  Never think that the leading of God can be plotted on a straight line.  The Scripture is clear that God can be counted on to move us from where we are to where He wants us to be, but never does it happen according to what we deem to be the most expedient way.  With God it is truly true that He seems more concerned about the journey than the arrival.  To go with God does not require a road map.  Only faith is needed for the journey. 

Sunday, January 14, 2018

Double Promises

The last few days have been filled with gray clouds, rain that comes and goes, and patches of sunshine which cleared away the wet weather.  Mainly, it has just been gray winter days.   But, one thing noticed in these days is an abundance of rainbows.  It seems that every day one suddenly shows up somewhere in the sky to remind us that God is a promising God.  Not only is He a promising God, but He is also a promise keeping God. 
This evening's rainbow was particularly spectacular.  The whole bow was brilliantly visible from earth to sky and back to earth again.  And, as amazing as it sounds, there was a second rainbow sitting just above the first one.  Not quite as bright, but every bit present, nonetheless.  It was the kind of moment which set this evening wanderer to wondering.  Does two rainbows mean that God is going to double up on His promises?  Oh, I know the 9th chapter of Genesis speaks of a special promise being associated with the rainbow, but who is to say that it cannot simply be seen as a sign that God is keeping not just one promise, but all of them.  As I watched and marveled, I could not help but think it might be sign that I should be looking for the promises of God in my life.
Now, I know some folks who pray and ask God for a special word as the new year begins.  They either find one or one is revealed to them and they carry it with them through the year as a special word of direction from God.  While I have never sought this discipline as do some, I have decided to take in faith the words, "the promise of God" as a word to direct my path through the days ahead.  I am going to start remembering the promises of God more intentionally and look for them to become reality in my life.  It could make for an exciting year! Who knows?  It might be a year of experiencing in a new way the abundant promises of God!

Saturday, January 13, 2018

Two Promises

It must have been quite a joyous day when Noah looked out of that ark and saw that the land was drying, the water receding.  But, it was not until God said. "Go out of the ark..." (Genesis 8:15) that Noah and company vacated the big boat.  When that was done, Noah built an altar and offered a sacrifice to the Lord which prompted the Creator of the flood to say in his heart, "I will never again curse the ground because of humankind..."  (Genesis 8:21)  It is the first promise made after the flood  and the one we think about every time we see a rainbow in the sky. 
Hardly had the first promise been spoken into existence when God made a second one.  "As long as the earth endures, seedtime and harvest, cold and heat, summer and winter, day and night, shall not cease."  (Genesis 8:22)  The second promise is the promise of order.  In the very beginning of the story of creation found in the earliest verses of Genesis, we see that order came out of chaos and that all of creation was established upon that orderliness.  In some ways this promise after Noah came out of the ark is a re-affirmation of what God set in place at the beginning.  If anyone wondered what God might do going forward from the flood, this word about order would certainly provide assurance that the order established would always prevail.
We sometimes find ourselves grumbling about the signs that speak of this order set in place by God.  In the summer, we long for winter.  When we are shivering, we look forward to sweating.  But, everything comes as it was created to come, night and darkness, seedtime and harvest.  God's plan is utterly dependable.  The changing order which we see and experience speaks to us of a God who has created and continues to sustain an order which is life giving.  It is an order which has brought us into being and an order which allows us to be blessed by the knowledge that others walk in our footsteps.  It is this unchanging and utterly dependable order within the creation which makes these blessings possible. 

Friday, January 12, 2018

Building an Ark

What God told Noah to do when He told him to build a big boat was not something which could be done in secret.  It was not the kind of project done inside the work shop.  What Noah did was seen by everyone and, surely, as the neighbors watched they laughed and ridiculed him.  Noah was obviously someone who had gone off the deep end.  Nothing about what he did spoke of logic and common sense.  Building an ark because the world was about to be flooded was the work of a fool. 

It is not likely that God is telling anyone of us to build an ark.  A promise has been made that one will never be needed as Noah needed it, but this does not mean that God will not ask us to be about some things that people around us will regard as the action of someone who is taking religion too seriously.  I remember a friend of mine who took his wife and small children to Africa because of his call to be a missionary and ended up escaping in the midst of a revolution with nothing more than his life and the life of his family.  Some no doubt thought he should have stayed home because God would never ask him to put his family in such danger, but the history of the gospel going forward is filled with folks who dared to say "yes" to a thing that defied common sense.

When God calls us to go forward in accomplishing what He has in mind, it is often the case that what God has in mind is known only to Him.  Our view of what it means to be called and to be obedient is a thing that speaks of limited vision and a faith that does not require more.  It does not have to be as big a thing as building a big boat.  It can be something as small as going to someone who has wronged us and seeking restoration even though the world says it is not our place to do so.  People may shake their head at us and call us "a weak pushover," but what those around think is nothing when God's bidding take us a different way. 

Thursday, January 11, 2018

The Grief of God

There are moments described in Scripture which create such a sense of emotions that we are often overwhelmed and left speechless.  Such a moment was that moment when the Lord God walked into the Garden looking for a disobedient Adam and Eve and opened with his question, "What is this that you have done?" (Genesis 2:13) announced that a Pandora's Box had been opened.  It is surely the question of a heartbroken God.  As we reach the 6th chapter of Genesis there is another such moment.  Such wickedness and evil had come upon the earth that the Lord was sorry He had made humans to walk on the earth. 
About that moment the Word says, "...it grieved Him to His heart.  So the Lord said, 'I will blot out from the earth the human beings I have created...for I am sorry that I have made them."  (Genesis 6:6-7)  Every now and again I hear some old timer wonder how much longer the earth can tolerate all the evil that seems to be raining down upon it.  "I don't know how much God will stand before He comes to straighten it out," is usually how the conversation ends.  Certainly, that moment before the story of Noah begins is a moment that there are limits to the evil God will tolerate before He acts.
But, it seems a more important truth being spoken in these words is the hate God has for sin.  When He sees it in us, it must make Him grieve beyond measure that anyone would have such disregard for the loving sacrifice of His Son on the hill called Calvary.  There have been those moments of hard and honest confession when we were sure that God regretted creating us because of the way we sinned against Him.  And, surely, there have been those times when we wondered if there was still any forgiveness left in the mercy of God for us.  This thing of God's mercy is truly something that leaves us overwhelmed and speechless.

Wednesday, January 10, 2018

The Dysfunctional Family

It has often seemed that the book of Genesis is about one great big dysfunctional family.  While there are many positive truths to see, it is also possible to look at Genesis and say, "This is how not to do family."  The parents of the Genesis story are not role models.  The family dynamics set forth in the stories are not to be envied.  Instead of trying to make everyone of those earlier patriarchs and their families look good, we see example after example of sibling rivalry at its worst.

Nowhere is this more apparent than in the 4th chapter of Genesis where we find the story that has those memorable words, "...Cain rose up against his brother Abel, and killed him."  (Genesis 4:8)   The moment had likely been stewing for a long time and came to a boiling point when both brothers made an offering to God.  Abel's offering was acceptable and Cain's was not.  As we read the Word, it seems that there was nothing special about the gift or the giving of Cain who "brought to the Lord an offering of the fruit of the ground."  In contrast Abel "...brought of the firstlings of his flock, the fat portions."  Cain seems to be giving out of the spirit which says, "anything will do," while Abel's gifts speaks of the spirit of "only the best will do."  Whatever the reason, Abel's gift was accepted by God and Cain's was not. 
The rejection was the final straw and sent the older brother into a killing rage.  He was angry at God so he killed his brother.  It is not an uncommon thing for us to act with misplaced anger.  While it is often hard to admit, we do sometimes get angry at God.  We get angry at God for what He has done and sometimes for what He has not done.  Admitting our anger at Him to Him is not something we do easily so we end up lashing out at some unsuspecting soul who has no idea what caused the rage.  But, here is the truth.  God can handle it.  He can hear our anger and it will not change His love and acceptance of us.  He will continue to provide for our future just as he did with Cain.