Follow the Way of Love

July 11

Follow the way of love…” (1 Corinthians 14:1)

Yesterday, we talked about a prevalent attitude that is infiltrating the minds of many believers these days. It is seen in the exclusive way we think about other believers and churches. And in how we tend to evaluate all other churches by our own narrow viewpoint – and criticize, judge, and condemn other believers without ever taking the time to know them (or to even understand their viewpoint).

The basic problems boil down to… 1) A consumer mentality; 2) Judging others because they are different; and 3) Major rejections over minor issues.

Over the next few days, we will look at these one at a time…

1) The problem of a consumer mentality. Addressing a consumer mentality is as simple as helping people to see what is really going on within their hearts and minds. In a ME-first mindset, it is so easy to begin to see church as something that exists to help ME, to serve ME, or to meet MY needs.

ME first

“Help and serve others? Great. I’m all for it… But not until my needs are met.”

The problem is that those “needs” are seldom met – because they are so often tied with the desire to please ourselves (a desire that is NEVER satisfied; Eccl. 1:8; 4:8).

complainerWhile standing in the foyer (after church) have you ever heard anyone say something like: “Well, I didn’t get anything out of that message.” Or “that one song was terrible.” Or: “that visiting family’s kids were so disruptive – it just ruined everything!” Or: “Someone should have thanked me for what I did the other day!”

Unfortunately, it is becoming common to judge our church “experiences” by how it benefits us – or by how certain events detract from our benefit.

This ME-first, consumer mentality needs to be exposed in the light of God’s love. The Biblical principle is to “speak the truth in love.” (Ephesians 4:15) That means, as Christ-followers, we need to commit to investing our lives in each other… to the point where we earn the trust of those who may need to hear some truth about their lives. We also need to be receptive to others watching over us, in return.

speaking the truth in love

In most churches, correction comes with plenty of truth spoken… but, so often, in anger or frustration. This approach can only lead to more injured souls.

Love is the bridge – the only bridge – that can find a way into people’s hearts.

The consumer mentality, at its root, is a heart issue. It is directly tied to the sin nature. All selfishness is. The only solution is to get our eyes “off of ourselves” and lovingly help someone to see what they cannot see for themselves. Self-centered people cannot see their selfish ways for themselves.

This is why we need each other in the Body of Christ. We all need loving eyes, assisting us to see what we cannot see for ourselves.

And we all need loving hearts – those committed to loving others, just as we are loved by Christ. We need to treat others as God treats us (with acceptance and love) to be able to sow truth into each other’s lives.

Sooth-with-Compassion

At the heart of all this is a very important question… WHY do we go to church?

Is it to get.

Or is it to give.

Any Scriptural study of “how we should meet” is replete with the notion that we gather together so that God, in me, can minister to you – and God, in you, can minister to me. Though this is much more difficult now (because of how we do church services) there is still ample opportunity to be led to give what God puts within us, to others (wherever people gather… there ARE needs that God can meet!).

helping others

When we are ALL giving… everyone also receives – and the whole Body is encouraged and built up. This has always been God’s design for His people, in Christ.

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Posted in Acceptance, Daily devotional, Giving of Ourselves, Serving, True Christianity | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

Churches and Choices

July 10

Recently, I watched a video about a vacationing couple who were doing their best to honor God (on the Lord’s Day) by finding a church to attend. The entire video was the couple driving around to the many (and various) churches in town, and about the “good” reasons why they could not possibly attend each and every one.

couple in car

The video was intended to be humorous (and it was!) but it points out something that is becoming deeply embedded within most Christians’ minds.

We are becoming quite adept at dissecting and criticizing believers we have never met… just because of a church sign (or what we think that sign represents). The “label” over the door immediately suggests why we would not belong, or enjoy, or be comfortable worshiping God with anyone who might be even slightly different from our point of view.

This leads me to some observations about some real problems in today’s believers…

One) It is easy to start seeing church from a consumer mentality. We go to church because of what WE get out of it – and if we stop getting what we think we need, we will find somewhere else that will cater to our “needs” – or we will stop going altogether (and feel justified in our choice).

Church-Have-It-Your-Way

At the heart of this mindset is the thinking: “Church exists to help ME… and if it isn’t helping ME then it’s a “bad” church.” This is a consumer mentality… “Use it. Then, lose it!”

Two) It is easy to start judging churches because their different point of view doesn’t appeal to ME. Let’s face it… different churches have different worship styles, different rituals, different ways of praying, different church structures, and different points of emphasis. But for the most part, every one of these churches is just trying to love and worship God in a way that is meaningful to them. Just because WE would never do it that way… doesn’t mean they are wrong.

catholic mass modern-worship traditional worship

Last time I checked (and I check often) the Bible seems to be saying that God is looking into our hearts. It is our hearts that He is seeking. The externals (that are often so important to us) matter little to Him. What matters is a heart that is seeking to please and honor Him – and there are more ways to do that than we often realize.

Besides, God tends to really frown on this whole judging others thing.

Three) Major rejection… over minor issues. Many Christians are experts at “throwing out babies with the bath water.” In other words, we are almost looking for something (with which we disagree) so we can summarily reject a particular denomination or church group. If one minor thing seems even slightly askew – we “throw out” that whole group. Permanently!

baby & bath water

For example, I once had a friend tell me that he could no longer “have fellowship” with me because I didn’t believe what he believed about the Lord’s Supper (The Eucharist). It didn’t matter that I regularly celebrated the Lord’s Supper (as decreed by our Lord) – I didn’t do it the right way (his way!) so we could no longer be “brothers in Christ” for that reason.

Babies and bathwater… both thrown out.

Are there any solutions to these disturbing problems? YES!

Over the next few days, we will look at how to approach these issues – because the way we so often judge and condemn churches is no laughing matter…

Posted in Acceptance, choices, Daily devotional, Judgmental Attitude, True Christianity, Uncategorized, worship | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

The Significance of Insignificance

July 9

Do not think of yourself more highly than you ought…” (Romans 12:3)

At one time, I had aspirations to be a professional singer/songwriter/musician.

piano entertainer

But I could never quite overcome my lack of ability… and “unmarketability.” The sudden realization that you don’t quite have “what it takes” is devastating. It was especially hard for me, because I still had a burning passion to write and perform music – and I always felt that God was in all that!

I gave up on my dream to be a professional singer and settled into recording some albums to share with friends… and playing and singing on our church worship team.

The thing is… people have always told me that I have a real “anointing” for worship – which made it even more difficult that I felt my talents seemed to be “wasted” on such a small audience of friends, family, and fellow-believers. Over the years, I would often revisit my hopes of being “more widely received” – but would always come crashing back to reality. The “anointing” may be there… but the ability just wasn’t.

There are so many lessons to share about this musical trek of mine. Lessons about humility. Lessons about pride. Lessons about trusting God when He seems to be leading you somewhere… only to meet dead end after dead end. Lessons in resigning yourself to the fact that God is the One Who must be exalted (when everything in you wants to be recognized as special or important).

humbled

But the lesson I want to share, in our time together, is an essential reminder that happened to me today. I did my usual part of playing and singing – and after the worship service, someone came up to me with a story to tell…

It was about the death of her mother (several years ago), and about how hard that was for her to accept. She told me about the depth of pain that she was enduring, and how she just couldn’t seem to gain a peace in her heart. Even though her mother had certainly gone to be with Jesus – she couldn’t get beyond her own grief.

hurting.jpg

Then she said: “Several months after Mom died, I was in a worship service that you were leading – and God touched me and healed me. I was just weeping and rejoicing as God ministered, through you, to meet me at my place of deepest need. I don’t think I’d ever told you – but I just thought you should know.”

Then it hit me. In all the times (just like this) where people have shared of God’s great work that came through something I sung or said – I was never even aware it was going on! God was moving, doing something that only HE can do in people’s lives, and I had absolutely no clue!

I am reminded how often I tend to crave people’s recognition. How much I want to be praised for God’s handiwork. How often I do something (for God) yet want some kind of personal reward or applause for doing it.

And how selfish that really is.

selfish

I’m pretty sure that God brings these types of testimonies into our lives to remind us of three things: 1) He is always working; 2) sometimes He chooses to do His work through us; and 3) it’s only important that HE gets the credit.

I am learning that we may never know (this side of heaven) how our lives have been used to touch the lives of others. And that’s really okay. Nothing is insignificant when God is in it. And part of a true faith is understanding and acceptance of that fact.

Posted in Daily devotional, Disappointment, humility, Significance in Christ, True Christianity | Tagged , , | 2 Comments

Psalm Eighteen: 20-26

July 8

Psalm 18 20-26

In this portion of the Psalm, David brings up a principle we need to consider.

At first glance, we might conclude that God does wonderful things in David’s life because David does his best to honor God. In other words, David follows God’s laws (and does his best to live righteously) and God is obligated to reward him.

This manner of thinking is deeply embedded in our minds. IF we do good, God has to do good by us. So, in a very real sense, we feel that we can control God (and His favor) by doing a bunch of good or religious things.

This is a deeply religious mindset – and crosses over into witchcraft (our actions control God). MY good actions, MY righteousness, MY devotion, MY sacrifices MERIT the actions, righteousness, devotion and attention of God. This mindset reduces God to “the genie in the bottle” that we keep handy… and use to grant all our wishes.

magic_genie

But this is not really what David is talking about. Sure, he mentions his own righteous actions and he credits God with responding to his righteous actions – but he goes on to give us the proper framework for his observations.

The key is found in verses 25-26. Here, David tells us that it is God’s nature (and God’s choice) to respond in like manner to how we treat Him. If we honor Him, God chooses to honor us (and bless us immensely).

Ps 29 2

But if we choose to dishonor Him, He will choose to dishonor us. If we ignore Him, He will give us every impression that He is ignoring us. If we choose a path of wickedness, God will appear “torturous” to the wicked. If we chase after other pleasures, other pursuits, other gods – He will not chase after us… but will “give us over” to those pleasures, pursuits, and gods (see Romans 1:18-32!).

In common language, He gives us enough rope to hang ourselves (even though the “hung” will surely find fault with His methods).

David is not telling us about an incantation or magic formula for controlling God or gaining God’s favor. He is simply giving us what God has established from the beginning of His interactions with us… the cause and effect of how we choose to treat Him.

This is summarized by God Himself, when He brought His people out of the bondage of Egypt:

choose life

We do not control God by either our good or bad behavior – but we decide the path of our own lives by how we treat the One Who made us and Who seeks to fill our lives with His powerful love.

Posted in Being blessed, choices, Daily devotional, Glorifying God, Pleasing God, True Christianity, Wickedness | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

Gradual Processes

Speed of Particles

July 7

The hallmark of evolutionary thinking is that all life is a matter of slow, gradual, nearly imperceptible changes – through massive amounts of time. Every living thing on the face of the earth came to be, because of these minor positive changes that helped them survive the dangers and challenges of living on this earth.

This slow, time-intensive process is believed to have begun in a single cell that (somehow) came alive (nobody really knows for certain HOW this happened!). Through time, this single-cell creature grew and adapted, developed and changed, until (after millions of years) we have the myriad of species that we see today. That it all happened by slow, gradual processes is the dominant explanation accepted by most scientists and taught as fact in nearly all of our educational systems.

slow change

But there are huge problems that hardly anyone ever talks about. If this gradual evolution is fact – why have we never found any direct evidence for it? And: If one species is slowly changed into another species… how does it survive while it is evolving?

We have talked about this before, but it bears repeating. Evolutionists look at micro-evolution (small changes that occur as a living things adapt to their environment) and make the massive leap to macro-evolution (one thing evolves into another thing through the accumulation of many of these small changes). They conclude: “If small changes are readily observed, why not major changes through the course of time?”

But there is a problem. If evolution were true, shouldn’t we be able to observe at least ONE transitioning creature now? Or shouldn’t we, at least, find evidence of such a transitioning creature in the fossil record?

dinosauroid

But this is not the case. We have NO observable evidence… and no fossil evidence to even hint that macroevolution takes place (either in the present or in the past).

Franklin Harold (a professor of biochemistry and molecular biology) put it bluntly in his book, The Way of the Cell: “There are presently no detailed Darwinian accounts of the evolution of any biological or cellular system, only a variety of wishful speculations.”

As an example, nearly all evolutionists believe that birds evolved from reptiles.

Shrinking Dinosaurs

This conclusion is drawn almost entirely from the similarities in skeletal structure between most reptiles and birds. For evolutionists, this similar structure (called homologous in most scientific circles) is a direct “indicator” of a common ancestor. Certainly, this is a reasonable inference. We should expect that the evidence supporting this inference would also be reasonable.

But it isn’t.

Take a simple thing like the necessity of reptilian scales evolving into feathers (which is the most common belief of how birds got their feathers). When you listen to the possible explanations of HOW this could occur, it sounds less like good science and more like a bad science-fiction movie.

Gerhard Heilman, in his book The Origin of Birds, talked about this evolution of scales into feathers: “By the friction of air the outer edges became frayed, the fraying gradually changing into still longer horny processes which in the course of time became more and more feather like.”

Picture this: Heilman proposed that some early reptiles started climbing trees so that they could “glide” down onto their unsuspecting prey. Through the magic of time, the scales on their front legs began to fray and the fraying continued until, one day (eons later), full-fledged wings had formed (the ability to fly soon to follow)!

rept to bird

Small adaptations + much time = a new species! Simple.

But when you look at the real science involved you notice some major obstacles to the plausibility of this evolutionary tale. As Michael Denton, in his book Evolution: A Theory in Crisis, points out: “Any degree of fraying would make the scales pervious to air, thereby decreasing their surface area and lift capacity.” In short, frayed scales take the ability to fly in the WRONG direction – essentially making flight impossible.

And what about this tree-climbing, dive-bombing reptile while he is waiting to get his wings? His scales become less and less effectual in their protective functions while he waits for the slow, gradual transformation to feathers to occur. The advantage of his scales becomes less and less, making his survival far less likely.

To get to functional wings, he has to gradually lose the functionality of his scales (and his front limbs) – making his species increasingly vulnerable to elimination.

The scale to feather problem is just one of many. Birds and reptiles may have homologous skeletal structures, but that is about all they have in common.

A bird’s lungs and respiratory system are drastically different (unique among all species!). Their heart, cardiovascular system, and gastrointestinal system are vastly dissimilar to reptiles. These would also have to undergo the time-intensive gradual transformations necessary to become something entirely different (also with the same problems of non-functionality while becoming something else!).

Blood System Ppt Tag: Reptile Circulatory System Ppt - Anatomy Body Structure

Denton concluded: “Altogether it adds up to an enormous conceptual difficulty in envisaging how a reptile could have gradually converted to a bird.”

At some point, a reasonable mind would have to say: “It couldn’t have happened that way – it’s just not plausible.”

But that leaves us with only one other reasonable option. Maybe, just maybe, reptiles and birds were separate species from the very beginning. Maybe they didn’t have to become something else (or something better). They could just be what they were made to be. Maybe a Creator made them exactly what they are.

birds of the air

I know that sounds like faith… and it is. But it is faith that is backed by the actual evidence that we see… and that we have discovered in the fossil record. We have reptiles. We have birds. There are NO half-reptile/half-birds.

Someone has said: It takes more faith to believe in evolution than it does to believe in a Creator. When evolutionists finally get around to explaining HOW they think evolution occurred, we can see why.

Posted in Belief, Creation, Daily devotional, Evolution, God as Creator, Intelligent Design vs. Evolution, Science | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

Focus, Pt. 4

Focus 1

July 6

Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable – if anything is excellent or praiseworthy – think about such things.” (Philippians 4:8)

We have been talking about how life is a matter of focus. About how the things that capture our attention can dominate (and determine) our direction in life.

This is why the apostle is most concerned with what we “think about.” Our thought patterns, our mindset, what we focus our thoughts on, shapes our attitudes, influences our actions… and, eventually, determines the course of our lives.

mindset

This is no small thing. No trivial detail. This is foundational to our Christian lives.

And also one of the most difficult things to do.

This world bombards us with every reason to think negatively, to make us angry, to keep us in worry, anxiety, and turmoil. Which leads us to believe that if we get angry enough, or frustrated enough, or provoked enough… we can do something drastic to change what is going on around us – the things that make us so angry, frustrated, or provoked.

But this is a dead end street.

dead end street

As we have all noticed… anger and frustration are unleashed all around us (with upheaval and protests galore) but everything seems to be getting worse – more angry, more frustrated, etc.

Unrest never leads us to peace – it only leads us to more unrest.

I find the apostle’s solution to the world’s problems quite fascinating.

He seeks to encourage us to lift our eyes away from all that is false, vile, wrong, unholy, ugly, shameful, broken, and “newsworthy” and fix our focus on better things – godly things, beautiful things, true things…

What we really need is peace in the midst of the storm. Hope in the midst of the onslaught of hopelessness. Calm in the midst of the crisis.

calm in the chaos

And it only comes when we focus our thoughts on things that make us mindful of the beauty, majesty, integrity, and goodness of God. Things that are…

True = in accord with how God sees things… as taught through Scripture, by Jesus and the Holy Spirit.

Noble = what is wondrous/majestic; whatever inspires awe in us (things like the ocean, or a mountain range, or a rainbow, etc.)

beautiful mountain

Right = in accord with how God does things (actions based in unconditional love)

Pure = uncontaminated/undefiled; things that are holy (this is drawn from a reference to cleansing/preparation for worship of God)

Lovely = that which causes us to extend our affection (like friends, loved ones…)

Affection

Admirable = of good reputation/character

Excellent = virtuous, morally upright (a model of what we desire to be)

Praiseworthy = worthy of God’s commendation, recognition, and approval – things that are in accord with (and reflect) His will and character.

When we center our thoughts on these types of things, it is amazing what we find in return. We find peace (God’s kind of peace – that fills us from the inside, out). We find perspective (God’s view of things – that gives us a constant awareness that God has a purpose in all things). We find power (God’s inner strength and confidence to believe all things, endure all things, hope in all things).

There is a good reason why we are commended to Set (our) minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth.” (Colossians 3:2) Minds that are focused on heaven, and heaven’s perspective, can have the greatest influence over things on this earth.

Aim-at-heaven

Posted in Anger, Anxiety, Daily devotional, Peace in Christ, renewing our minds, Seeing God, Uncategorized | Tagged , , | 2 Comments

Focus, Pt. 3

focus.jpg

July 5

“This one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead…” (Philippians 3:13)

As we mentioned a couple of days ago, life is a matter of focus. Whatever captures our focus, dominates our direction in life.

The apostle draws our attention to a valuable principle: the need to keep our focus on what is ahead of us (and not on what is in our past).

Often our greatest struggle is with our past…

The things that we did. Things that make us ashamed, regretful, guilty. We would do anything to go back and undo what we did (or do something differently). Make a wiser decision. React with a better intent. Choose a different course of action. Keep our mouth shut (when everything in us felt the need to say what we said). All these things are reminders of us… at our worst.

ashamed

The things that were done to us. Things that keep us in fear, shame, resentment, unforgiveness. Terrible things done by someone acting terribly. Things that haunt our memories, stifle our souls, make us feel unvalued, unworthy, unloved. Reminders of humanity… at its worst.

resentful

We need release from the dreadful things of our past – and that relief is discovered in Jesus. He not only paid the price for our sins… but everybody’s sins. The sins we committed, AND the sins committed against us. Every act that mars our past has been paid for. Those acts died with Christ – and when we died with Him (Romans 6:3-8!), so did our past. We no more have a right to hang onto our past than we do our sins.

This is extremely good news – liberating news. There is nothing in our past which can affect us ever again…

Unless we let it. By mulling it over and over in our minds. By dragging it up like some dead thing buried in our yards. By bringing our attention back to how those acts and feelings threatened to destroy us back then.

Looking to the Past --- Image by © Images.com/CORBIS

This is why the apostle encourages us to embrace the new. Leave the past in the past – it has no right to affect our future… or our today. We are encouraged to “forget it.” Refuse to call it to mind ever again. No matter how terrible it was… because of Jesus, it is NOT a part of you now!

But there is one more thing in our past that we need to forget about – and it is actually the context of the apostle’s admonition.

Also connected with the past is… our accomplishments and achievements. Our good things. Our successes. Things we can “hang our hats on” – that fill us with a sense of pride and purpose. Things to which we can point, that tell everyone we are somebody significant or special.

proud

This was actually what the apostle was talking about. He was talking about how he had impressed everyone with his righteousness, his fervor, his boldness, his accomplishments in defense of his Jewish faith. He was an up-and-comer. He was the talk of the town. He was high on everyone’s list to do great things.

And then he met Jesus – the One he was persecuting… and in one harrowing encounter, his whole perspective was changed. His focus shifted from all his own plans and achievements to… God’s plans – and, in his heart of hearts, he knew that God’s plans were infinitely better (even at the cost of personal gain).

But to lay hold of what was ahead of him, he had to let go of his past. He had to pull the plug on all his plans and dreams and let it flow down the drain.

down the drain

What WE want – what we think gives us value and meaning and purpose will always prevent us from the value, meaning, and purpose that can only come through what God has for us.

Our past (bad or good) is not what matters… it is always what is ahead of us that must keep our attention and focus – because that is where we find the rich treasure of what God has in store for us to discover.

Posted in bad things, Daily devotional, Dead to Sin, Faith, Freedom in Christ, True Christianity, Uncategorized | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

Truth and Freedom

4th-of-july

July 4

We have all heard someone use this phrase: “You will know the truth, and the truth shall set you free.” Jesus said it first – and He meant something very specific when He said these words.

You would think it is such a simple thing… know the truth = be free. But how does something seemingly so simple get so complicated, twisted, mistaken, messed up?

The whole world cries out for freedom – yet we would probably not describe the whole world as anything like free.

We all want freedom. We crave freedom. It seems hard-wired into us. Nothing devastates our spirits more than when we are trapped, enslaved, incarcerated… or addicted. When we are held by something (anything!) against our will, it is as if we are chained to what holds us. We want nothing more than to escape, to break our chains – to be free!

breaking chians

Jesus knew that. He came for just that reason. He came to make real freedom a reality in our daily lives:“It was for freedom that Christ has set us free.” (Galatians 5:1)

Yet, so many Christians are still bound to sin, or addictive behaviors… too many are chained to the past, attached to all manner of failures and weaknesses. Bent, broken, and bound… just like everyone else.

chains

Anything but free.

Apparently knowing the truth is not enough to set us free – we know so much of God’s truth, yet it hasn’t really liberated us.

Was Jesus just wrong? Was He just filling us with false hope? Did we miss that verse where He says, “Hey, guys, I was just kidding about that freedom thing.”

That seems incredibly unlikely. How could Someone so committed to truth (the very embodiment of truth) possibly lead us astray in something so vital to our souls.

Jesus is truth

No, He wasn’t joking… or talking about something unattainable… or lying.

So if we know the truth, and it hasn’t yet made us free… what are we missing?

In a word… context. Everyone quotes Jesus’ words about truth and freedom, but we seem to miss what He really intended for us to understand.

It is not just about latching on to truth, or filling our minds with true thoughts, or even seeking to find what is true (because nearly everyone has a different idea about what is true!).

To understand Jesus’ words on knowing truth and finding freedom we need to read the previous verse. This is the complete thought of what He said:

John 8 31-32

So… it is not just about knowing the truth that makes us free… it is all about our commitment to Jesus (and a full-out commitment to what He teaches) that leads us into the truth that sets us free.

In simplified form, it is: Jesus + Truth = Freedom. You cannot take the Lordship of Jesus out of the equation and come up with freedom. It doesn’t work. It cannot happen. Because truth is found only in the Person of Jesus – and we cannot really know the truth until we really know Him.

jesus-truth

Jesus IS the Way, the Truth, and the Life (John 14:6). Our knowledge of truth has no point of reference until it is measured in Him (and by Him). And we cannot really know Him until we surrender our lives to Him… and spend quality time with Him… and willingly obey the things He asks us to do.

It is never the knowledge of truth that liberates us… it is knowing (and living for) the One Who is true, that truly sets us free.

Truth is a Person

Posted in Daily devotional, Freedom in Christ, God's provision, truth, Truth of God | Tagged , , | 1 Comment

Focus; Pt. 2

 July 3

“And (Abraham) went out, not knowing where he was going.” (Hebrews 11:8)

I have always been fascinated with this statement. And it is really the essence of the faith to which God calls each of us.

In case you don’t know the story, I’ll give you a short synopsis. In Genesis 12, we find a man named Abram (at the time) who found favor with God… so God initiates a conversation with him: “Go from your country… to the land I will show you. And I will make you a great nation and I will bless you…” (Gen. 12:2)

Abraham and stars

Abram obeys God’s voice, packs up his family and all his belongings and just starts walking south. All he knows (at this point) is that God told him to move… but he has no clue as to where his journey will end (can you just imagine the conversations he was having with his wife at this time?!). Quite literally, Abram “went out, not knowing where he was going.”

After about 400 miles, and days upon days, of traveling (by foot!) Abram comes to the land of Canaan where God finally appears to Abram and declares: “You’ve arrived!” (12:7) So Abram spent all that time, traveled all that way, faced all that doubt and second-guessing(?) – to, at last, arrive where God wanted him to be. All the while, walking every step by his faith in God.

Arrival_in_Canaan

This is what impressed the writer of the letter to the Hebrews – and what caused him to point to Abram as a shining example of true faith. We discover: Faith is not knowing where we are going – but trusting in the One Who is taking us there.

It is an understatement to say that this is a major problem for each of us. We all tend to want our lives “cut-and-dried,” we want all our “ducks in a row” before we ever step outside of our comfort zones. We would like it very much if God would give us the whole story before we ever get involved in the story at all.

But, apparently, God doesn’t choose to work that way.

He gives us just enough to get us started, then He looks for us to trust Him in what He has revealed – before He is there to give us more.

The essence of true faith is not found in God giving us what we want… but in us giving God what He values most – our trust in His faithfulness.

God is faithful

When we really think about it… none of us knows what the future holds. We cannot control our future – any more than we can erase our past.

But God knows our future. He is already there. He knows what we will face – and He knows how He plans to show Himself faithful to us in those future days.

But it all begins with a simple trust. In the God Who loves us, Who is committed to us, Who watches over us, and Who treasures us – and Who has a plan to tell the story of His wonderful care through our life’s experiences.

romans-8 28

The key is our focus. To place our complete trust in the One Who is already in our future – and Who promises to take us where He wants us to be.

Remember: faith is “being convinced of what we cannot see” (Hebrews 11:1) because we KNOW we can trust the One who is taking us there.

Posted in Daily devotional, Faith, God's Faithfulness, God's Guidance, True Christianity, Trust | Tagged , , , | 1 Comment

Focus

July 2

“Let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith.” (from Hebrews 12:1-2)

To try and stay in shape, these days, I have taken up bike-riding. This is normally a fairly moderate activity (good for us folks that are quickly developing that “look of wisdom”). But in the area where I live, riding a bike is anything but moderate. I have to traverse steep (and lengthy) hills and some fairly sharp turns in the roadways. But I enjoy the challenge (and the speed, when going down those monster hills).

bike rider

Oh yeah… That’s me!

But I didn’t always enjoy every moment of my rides. When I first began riding, I would enter those sharp turns and find myself in a full-blown panic as I was trying (with all my might) to keep myself out of the ditch. I was NOT very successful – in spite of my best efforts (Luckily… I ended up with only a few scrapes and bruises).

But then, I was listening to someone talking about learning to snow-ski and discovered my problem… and the solution – all in the same advice.

Beginning snow-skiers are prone to running into trees and fences and big rocks (etc.) for the same reason I kept running into ditches.

tree-hit

The problem for anyone moving at a reasonably quick rate of speed is a matter of focus. The key is NOT to look where you are going – but to look where you want to go… and (like magic) your body takes you there.

It’s amazing how easy it is to avoid ditches when you are NOT focusing on avoiding ditches! If you keep your eyes focused on a point around the corner (where you WANT to go) – you will find yourself going there… every time.

The more I think about it… this is exactly the advice behind our verse for the day. Life is like a race (in this case, let’s say a bike race).

bike race

As most of us can verify, life’s race is seldom (if ever) a straight and easy course. There are obstacles, there are sharp turns, there are huge hills to navigate. And if we are not very careful, we will spend all our time focused on the obstacles, turns, hardships, and pitfalls that are a substantial part of life’s race. We will become consumed with where we are, what we are currently going through, and the obstacles that threaten us harm. Our eyes will foretell our doom – and we find ourselves self-fulfilling what we see.

From our verse, it would be easy to conclude that we just need to keep our eyes on Jesus, Who waits for us at the finish line of our life’s race. This may have some application. But it is NOT the main point of the inspired writer.

The context of the verse reveals that what we are really being encouraged to do is to SEE Jesus as the Model of how we should approach our life’s race. Jesus’ race was to go to the cross and suffer for every one of us – a task that Jesus could “see” and actually desired to avoid (“If it is possible, let this cup pass from Me!”).

gethsemane

The only way He could possibly endure what He was going to face was to keep His eyes focused on “the joy set before Him.” (12:2)

Through every slash of the whip on His back. Through every faltering step carrying the cross to Golgotha. Through the piercing of the crown of thorns and every nail through His hands and feet. Through the humiliation of being stripped naked and hung on a cross. Through all the mocking and jeering of the crowd. Through every torturous breath as His body slowly waned into the grasp of death – Jesus kept His focus NOT on what was around Him, and NOT on what He was going through. Jesus kept His focus on what was ahead of Him… on US – the very people He was dying to save.

on_cross

Life is always a matter of focus. Either on what we are going through – or on our ability to see the outcome in the midst of our difficulties. Through Jesus, we can now have confidence in the midst of every challenging thing we may face.

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