Wednesday, January 24, 2018

The What-Ifs

At that time the disciples came to Jesus and said, “Who then is greatest in the kingdom of heaven?” And He called a child to Himself and set him before them, and said, “Truly I say to you, unless you are converted and become like children, you will not enter the kingdom of heaven." 
Matthew 18:1-3

 And the little ones that you said would be taken captive, your children who do not yet know good from bad—they will enter the land. I will give it to them and they will take possession of it.  But as for you, turn around and set out toward the desert along the route to the Red Sea.”
Deuteronomy 1:39-40

God holds a special place in his heart for children, it seems.  They are promised blessings, even as their parents are judged.  But why is this?  Why should children, who don't know good from bad, be promised the kingdom, while their parents are sent away?

I think it's because God knows that children still understand the "What-ifs" of life.  

The older we get, the more education we have, the more we think we have all of the answers.  We aren't teachable.  We become arrogant.  I see this in the modern church, and I think God saw it in ancient Israel, and in the Jewish Pharisees, and sometimes even in the disciples. 

There is an atmosphere in the church these days that pastors, teachers, and elders are always right.  That they know everything.  That there are no more mysteries or questions.  Only pat answers.  

Children don't think like this.  Children have myriads of questions.  They look at things with open eyes and open minds.  Not through a cloud of dogma.  And sometimes they see things that older people don't.  

It will come about after this
That I will pour out My Spirit on all mankind;
And your sons and daughters will prophesy,
Your old men will dream dreams,
Your young men will see visions.
Joel 2:28

I think we are in the days that Joel spoke about.  But we are missing it.  We are so caught up in what we "know" that we can't learn.  We aren't leaving room for prophecy, visions, and dreams.  The church is stagnant.  It is dying, because it is without imagination.  

We tend to ignore scientists because we believe they are against God.  But God made this world, and he gave people the drive to find out about it.  No other species on this earth seems to be concerned about who they are, where they came from, or where they are going.  They have done things the same way through all of the years of their existence.  Lions have always acted like lions, and apes have always acted like apes.  If their environment changes too much, they become extinct, like the dinosaurs did.  But not humans.  We have continued to adapt.  We are naturally weak, and are not suited to a whole lot of environments, but have instead managed to change our environments to accommodate us.  We have invented clothes, shelters, and ways of getting food, depending on where we live.  We can live in the arctic tundra, or the Sahara desert, by modifying the things around us.  No other creatures can do these things!  

This ability to adapt our environment, rather than ourselves, has allowed us to expand and cover the globe.  But our spirituality has stayed in one place.

I believe that the Bible is true.  But I don't believe it contains all the truth that's in the world.  I believe God created the world, but I am wary of anyone who says they know that it happened in a specific amount of time and in a specific way, regardless of if they are a preacher or a scientist.  Not one of them was there.  Scientific thought is changing all of the time, as more and more things are discovered.  And the creation story in the Bible, while beautiful, is not very specific.  I am also wary of anyone who professes to know how or when the earth will end.  Only God knows that.  I think we are missing the mark.  I think God gave men brains that ask questions.  And I think that he expects us to keep asking.  Pretending that we know everything we need to know is just arrogance.  

And I think we need to listen to our children.  It is too easy to "pull rank" on them and tell  them what to believe.  But that's not doing them, or us, any favors.  We are just pushing them down into the same tired mold that we came out of.  Joel spoke of sons, daughters, and young men.  They are our future, and the future of our faith.  The Word of God is not stagnant, nor is it set in stone.  We call the Bible a Living document, but do we believe it?  Can we accept that God may be giving our children visions that we haven't yet seen, and prophesies that we haven't yet heard?  Can they be seeing things with new eyes that are unclouded by the doctrines of tradition?  And can we learn to do the same?  I think our future depends on it.

Wednesday, November 1, 2017

Finding your Purpose

For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.  Jeremiah 29:11 (NIV)

How many times have you been told that God has a plan for you?  That He made you special?  That He made you to do great things for His Kingdom?  
And how many times have you looked at your life and wondered whether you're missing it?
Jesus said "Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature" (Mark16:15 KJV).
And here you are, sitting in the exact same house you've been in for the past 20 years, seeing the same people day after day, most of whom are related to you.
Where is the great revelation?  Where is the voice from Heaven?  Where is the instruction book?
Now I know that all of you wonderful Christian people will quickly inform me that He HAS left an instruction book, and if I would only read His Word, I would find all of these answers.
Well, I have read it, and it seems rather general to me.  All except that one time when I was a kid and decided it would be more fun to read my Bible than clean my room, and my eyes fell on Proverbs 18:9 - "He who is slack in his work is a brother to him who destroys" (RSV).  You never saw a kid clean her room so fast!

But What If...we have this purpose thing all wrong?  What if the Bible is not written for you to know YOUR purpose, but to know God's?  What if (gasp!) it is all about HIM?

One of our dogmas about purpose is that God has created a special mate for each of us.  A soulmate, if you please.  If you can only find this person who you are perfectly matched to, you will be eternally happy.
What if I told you this is not in the Bible?
What if I told you this is a Greek myth, perpetuated by Plato?
I have found nothing in the Bible that says God will pick a spouse for you.  There are some guidelines as to what kind of person to look for, but nothing saying that God has "created someone specially for you."

Do you know that God is about fulfilling HIS purpose, not YOURS?
Do you know that if you choose not to do God's will, He will find someone else who will?
In Isaiah chapter 6, we find Isaiah in the temple.  He is having a vision of God.  Verse 8 states:  "Then I heard the voice of the Lord, saying, "Whom shall I send, and who will go for Us?"  Then I said, "Here am I.  Send me!""  This seems to be a situation of God looking for someone who was willing.  Do you suppose that if Isaiah had pretended not to hear, God would have said "Oh, well.  I guess no one is going."  I don't think so.  I think he would have found someone else.  His purpose would have been fulfilled.  Isaiah would have lost his blessing, perhaps, but it would not have stopped God from getting his message out.

John states in his gospel why he wrote it.  And it was not intended as an instruction book, but as a proof of who Jesus is.  John 20:31 says:  "but these have been written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God; and that believing you may have life in His name.  Paul writes to Timothy:  "All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness; that the man of God may be adequate, equipped for every good work." (2 Timothy 3:16-17)

Our instructions may not be specific.  We may never hear the voice of God.  We may never be given a "calling."  God's purpose for us is to believe in Jesus so that we may have life, and to be equipped for every good work.  

So we don't need to wait around for God to direct us.  If we have read His word, we will know who He is.  We will know His purpose.  We will be able to act in His will.  We will be able to deal with the ups and downs that this world throws at us.  Not because we know our purpose, but because we know God's.  

I'll leave you with one of my all-time favorite verses.  (Not the one about cleaning my room).  It is Micah 6:8 - 
He has told you, O man, what is good;
And what does the LORD require of you
But to do justice, to love kindness,
And to walk humbly with your God?

So today, be blessed, and be a blessing.

Friday, June 23, 2017

My War Room

Have you seen the movie "War Room"?  We just watched it this week, and I only wish I had seen it sooner.  It's one of those movies that make you see your life just a little differently.

I have to admit that I was a little dejected at first after watching it.  You see, the "war room" in the movie is a clothes closet, made over into a prayer closet.  Now, I've heard people say "when you're in your prayer closet" before, but this really took that concept literally!  I was inspired to make my own war room.  The problem is, our house boasts a total of three small closets shared by four people for all of our clothes.  No chance of a war room there.

I read in a blog since then that you can take a spot in your bedroom, "not your bed," put down a pillow, a chair, a lamp, and make yourself a nice quiet place to sit and pray...  Ummm... not likely.

You see, I don't have a room of my own.  I share every room in the house with at least one other person and cannot count on any of them being available for my private use consistently.

So you can imagine my frustration.

Okay.  That's nothing but the devil talking, isn't it?  Is God concerned about where we pray?  Are we supposed to wait until we have the perfect spot fixed up?  I'm thinking not.  I'm also thinking it's a convenient excuse to not spend time with our Heavenly Father.

So I stepped a little outside the box.  Are you ready for the big reveal of my war room?  (Drum roll, please).  My War Room Is............

..............A book.

Yep.  A cheap lined journal.  Actually, a partially written in cheap lined journal.  It won't pass the Pinterest test, but it works.  Here's how.  First of all, it's portable,so I can use it in any room whether or not it already has another person in it.

Second of all, it's quiet.  Part of my problem is that I can't be praying out loud like in the movie.  Maybe I could, but sometimes I pray things that are meant to be private, just between me and God, you know?  As a result, my prayers tend to go on inside my head, but then I tend to get off track and think about what to have for dinner or whether the kids got their schoolwork done.  So I decided to write out my prayers.  No one else can hear what I'm writing, and it keeps me on track.

So far, I have spent time in my War Room on my bed (sorry, blog person),  on the couch, and at the kitchen table. And you know what?  Once I start praying, it doesn't matter where I am physically.  I am spiritually in the presence of God.

I write down Bible verses that come to me, write what they mean to me, and then write out my prayer.  I think it will be a great help actually to look back and see what I've prayed for, instead of forgetting almost instantly.  I'll be better able to see God's hand in my life.

If you haven't seen the movie, I would highly recommend it.  But don't take it too literally!  If God didn't give you a huge walk-in closet, it doesn't mean he doesn't want to spend time with you.  Use whatever God has given you.  It's worth it!

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