Tuesday, May 26, 2015

What If It's Not All About You?

Hashem appeared to Abram and said, “To your offspring I will give this land.” Genesis 12:7 (Tanach emphasis mine).

To the childless man God's promise sparked hope. Did I hear right – offspring? Firmly committed to his barren wife Sarai, Abram reveled in this good news. There are children in my future! Does it matter that this promised land isn't for me but for my posterity? No way. I'm going to be a Abba!

The seventy-five-year-old man's biological clock ticked away. Surely the offspring would come sooner rather than later. Not so. Eleven years of failed attempts at pregnancy passed and then Sarai conceived – Plan B. The result was Ishmael.

Another thirteen years transpired and as Ishmael approached manhood God arrived in person bearing good news. A son, via an infertile, ninety-year-old wife was in the works. In addition, God gave Abram some startling news.

“I will give to you and to your offspring after you the land of your sojourns.” Genesis 17:8 (Tanach emphasis mine).

For twenty-five years Abram roamed a land he'd never possess and now he had a home!

Why did God wait so long to spring that surprise? I can't say for sure, but I have a few suggestions.

“Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one's life for one's friends” John 15:13 (NIV).

Abram forsook all to obey God and traversed a land for the benefit of offspring that he didn't have – that's faith. This journey took him from Abram to Abraham and laid a foundation for the other patriarch's Isaac and Jacob.

Whether we like it or not, understand it or not, God's timing isn't like ours. We use clocks and calendars, He uses eternity. We're in a hurry. God has all the time in the world, no make that creation (which is ever expanding). We've got to accept that God works on a timetable uniquely His own and He's not about to change.

God's revelations are progressive. We'd prefer step-by-step plans to minimize confusion and to conserve faith. Waste not, want not. Our comfort zone is built upon concrete objectives that fit neatly into our logic and reasoning. Besides, we could probably add some nifty ideas to help God out. Maybe that's the reason he keeps all the details from us. Let us mess with His recipe and it would look more like Hell's Kitchen with Gordon Ramsey.

How about you? If God asked you to forsake all for some invisible, future generation how would you react? What dreams, aspirations and such would you passionately pursue knowing the benefits would be reaped by someone else? Could you do it, even if unlike Abram you never enjoyed the fruit of your labor? Perhaps it really isn't all about us after all.

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

The Great Adventure

Forgetting the past and looking forward to what lies ahead,” Philippians 3:13 (NLT).

The command was unmistakable. “Go!” His mind whirled with unanswered questions:

What's wrong with where I am now?”
Go? Go where?”
My support system's here. Why give it up?”
Is this really necessary?”

It was.

Willing to place his life and the lives of his household, his fortune, his reputation and his safety into the hands of his unseen God, Abram pulled up stakes and left Familiar. God required him to relinquish his past in order to find his future. Follow Him, but where?

Abram's journey mirrors our own. Like our forefather in the faith God asks us to break with the past, leave Familiar and pursue the Glorious Great Unknown. Abram was required to surrender three things: his land, his family and his father's home in order to attain one object - “the land that I will show you.” Genesis 12:1 (Tanach). Do the math. Give up three and get one in return. Lopsided trade don't you think?

A recent post “In Means In” delves into Acts 17:28. Abram's Great Adventure is another Old Covenant example of this New Covenant truth. Abram's land (live), his family (move) and his father's house (our being) had to shift from the realm of natural possibilities to that of supernatural supply in an unseen place (God). Abram did it.

Saul followed in Abram's footsteps and apprehended more than he gave up. Both men received new identities: Abram became Abraham, Saul became Paul. Both had much to lose if they followed God and both took the risk. Each faced difficulties and challenges. It's not easy pioneering a new belief system. Abraham and Paul experienced supernatural encounters with God, angels and so forth. Many believers secretly long for such experiences. If we do what these men did, we can have what they obtained.
The fact is Christianity's no cake walk if you're serious about pursuing God. There's a price to pay. It's no fun to be pruned and have your dead wood chopped off, but both are essential for new growth to appear. In the end our “land that I will show you” will be far more valuable than all we give up. It really will.

How about you? If you took drastic measures like Abraham and Paul how could your life be radically different? What would you consider too extreme? What would prevent you from entering a newer, deeper relationship with God? If so...why? Is it worth it?

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Who Are You Listening To?

"And He (God) said, 'Who told you that you were naked?'”         Genesis 3:11 (NIV) emphasis mine.

A failure of catastrophic proportion drove them to hide from their only source of help. The sound of God manifested Itself in the garden. Run. Hide. The cool evening air sent shivers through their bodies. Their glory gone, any changes in the atmosphere were now felt.

“Where are you?” the familiar voice cried out.

A mistake of that magnitude hasn't been replicated, by humans at least. Satan experienced his own fall from grace before the first couple met their downfall. In an attempt to conceal their altered status, the pair traded glory for fig leaves. That didn't work.

Had an omniscient God really lost track of Adam and Eve? Not likely. He knew exactly where they were, but did they? With His perfect creation reduced to chaos one could expect God to react with anger: yell, scream, threaten, throw things and stomp around. Maybe give Adam some applied “five-fold ministry.” He didn't. Instead He asked a simple question - seven words. “Who told you that you were naked?” Did it really matter? They were.

In the beginning, God and then Adam had the power to create with spoken words. The bible states that the couple actually saw their condition had changed and that they were now naked. God didn't declare that over them. This left only Adam and he got what he said.

It's fascinating that God's first reaction wasn't, “What have you done?” but “What have you become?” What if instead of hiding the pair had run to Him immediately for help? What if they took full responsibility for their actions and not blamed them on others? Could things have been different? Maybe.

God asks us the same question today. “Who told you that you were....stupid, unworthy, unlovable, a failure?” Insert your own favorite brand of derogatory remarks. God didn't call Adam and Eve naked and He's not the author of many of the demeaning labels we don. Too often we too try to hide. We already feel guilty, we don't need to face an angry, disappointed God. But is He really upset?

God never responds negatively to a “broken spirit or a contrite heart,” Psalm 51:17. These the psalmist stated, “God will not despise.” He's quick to forgive and start the restoration process. He'll even endeavor to mitigate the disastrous consequences of our sins. He's more interested in healing and inclusion than in punishment and exclusion.

How about you? What negative labels have you taken ownership of? How does this belief system affect your life? If you knew for certain that these aren't God's view of you, how would your relationship or lack of one with Him change? Why not stop hiding and find out? 

Tuesday, May 5, 2015

I Want to be the Shoulder

"Jesus replied, 'Foxes have dens and birds have nests, but the Son of Man has no place to lay his head.'” Luke 9:58 (NIV).

Poor Jesus. On a journey to Jerusalem accommodations were hard to come by; a recurring theme in His life. Incensed with a display of inhospitable behavior, fellow travelers and disciples James and John prepared to pull out the big guns. A little fire from Heaven could teach anyone some good manners and hospitality. Aware of the power of spoken words, Jesus wisely shut them up. His primary concern wasn't a place to stay. Read His words again carefully.

Dens and nests are places to give birth and raise offspring, not to crash for the night. Jesus had nowhere to rest His spiritual headship; there was no Body of Christ to receive it. He handled all the responsibility which was a daunting task. His comment focused on the need of an Operations Center for the Kingdom of God, not the lack of a Motel 6 close by.

Handel's Messiah placed Isaiah 9:6 in the minds and on the lips of millions of listeners.

“For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given; and the government shall be upon his shoulder...”

The next time Jesus returns, it will be to rule. He'll come with His bride who'll reign with Him. The thought occurred to me. Believer's are the Body of Christ, however, Isaiah mentions only a shoulder will carry His governmental responsibilities. I know this much about anatomy – a shoulder does not a body make. Where are the hands, feet and so forth?

Much emphasis in Christianity is on doing – get everyone involved. If we all do our part, the job will get done and Jesus will return. This reminds me of the Jewish belief that if every Jew perfectly kept the Law for one day, the Messiah would come. Looks like Christians followed their example, put a different spin on it and jumped on the hamster wheel to make it so. No wonder we're all worn out!

"Many will say to me (Jesus) in that day, “Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy by thy name, and by thy name cast out demons, and by the name do many mighty works?” Matthew 7:22 (ASV).

Wow, these folks must be superstars – they did the stuff! Why wasn't Jesus impressed with their accomplishments?

"Then I (Jesus) will tell them plainly, 'I never knew you, away from me you evildoers,'” Matthew 7:23 (NIV) emphasis mine.

Ouch! That hurts! How can anyone do the right things and reap such a stern rebuke?

Again, look closely at Jesus' words: “I never knew you.” According to Jesus it is possible to do great works and still not know Him. The gifts of God are irrevocable; once given they operate regardless of one's spiritual condition. It's important to remember that the gifts are just that, gifts. They aren't indicators of maturity. We've seen it before. Men and women achieve notoriety because of things they've done but later their lives are revealed to be a sham. As a result, more harm than good occurs.

Jesus desires intimacy, not close encounters or casual acquaintances. Many (present company included) have substituted the study of Scriptures as a means to know about God, which is not the same as knowing Him. God's Kingdom manifested on earth won't be engineered by happenstance. Intimacy with the King will be the key.

How about you? What does a face-to-face, Moses type encounter with God look like to you? If you've spent time learning about God, how can you shift in order to know Him personally? What issues, hurts, mindsets and beliefs block you from pursuing intimacy with God? Are you willing to let them go? I hope so.