Are We Done Yet?

“Hasten, O God, to save me; come quickly, Lord, to help me.”  – Psalm 70:1

We see these words many times in the book of Psalms.  David was in desolation when he wrote them, in hiding from wickedness and enemies, and this is a record of his faith through the struggles that he endured.  I don’t know about anyone else, but there are days when I, like David, am literally desperate for an end to the madness of this world.  It is overwhelming at times, the depravity that we constantly see and face.  The local news alone is enough to raise anxiety levels, not to mention the national and world news networks which often ignite the already smoldering embers of intolerance and anger.  It is easy to get caught up in the tornado, so-to-speak.  We get sucked into political arguments, debates about sexuality, and (of course) arguments drawn from our cultural and religious differences…and we face every single one of these controversies several times in JUST ONE DAY!  Much like a tornado, we get sucked in, thrown around and spat out in an entirely different place than we expected…and often with our thoughts and confidences obliterated.  It’s not very difficult to reach the point of saying, “Come Lord Jesus!” 

Here’s the thing though, none of this should take us by surprise.  Right?  We know that hard times are part of the plan.  The earth is groaning in labor.  A new day is being birthed. 

3 As Jesus was sitting on the Mount of Olives, the disciples came to him privately. “Tell us,” they said, “when will this happen, and what will be the sign of your coming and of the end of the age?” 4 Jesus answered: “Watch out that no one deceives you. 5 For many will come in my name, claiming, ‘I am the Messiah,’ and will deceive many. 6 You will hear of wars and rumors of wars, but see to it that you are not alarmed. Such things must happen, but the end is still to come. 7 Nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. There will be famines and earthquakes in various places. 8 All these are the beginning of birth pains. 9 “Then you will be handed over to be persecuted and put to death, and you will be hated by all nations because of me. 10 At that time many will turn away from the faith and will betray and hate each other, 11 and many false prophets will appear and deceive many people. 12 Because of the increase of wickedness, the love of most will grow cold, 13 but the one who stands firm to the end will be saved. 14 And this gospel of the kingdom will be preached in the whole world as a testimony to all nations, and then the end will come.”  (Matthew 24: 3-14)

All of which to say that there will many more days when we cry out for an end.  Just like a mother in labor, desperate to see the child she’s waited so long to meet, who is ready for an end to her suffering and discomfort, who (while in the emotional and physical throes of childbirth) will cry out for help and wonder when it will all be over, we too will become weary and frantic. 

But please, please, please, remember that from labor pains comes new life!  Our promise is eternal.

1 Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. 2 Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things. 3 For you died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God. 4 When Christ, who is your life, appears, then you also will appear with him in glory.  (Colossians 3: 1-4)

So stand firm…in love.  Bear the labor pains with hope in knowing that a greater promise awaits.

Prayer:  Heavenly Father, as I see this world deteriorate, help me to remember Your promise.  With the help of Your Holy Spirit, I know that I can stand firm until the end.  I choose love, I choose righteousness, I choose YOU. 

Sowing Into Promise

There was a famine in the land, besides the first famine that was in the days of Abraham. And Isaac went to Abimelech king of the Philistines, in Gerar.

Then the Lord appeared to him and said: “Do not go down to Egypt; live in the land of which I shall tell you. Dwell in this land, and I will be with you and bless you; for to you and your descendants I give all these lands, and I will perform the oath which I swore to Abraham your father…

Then Isaac sowed in that land, and reaped in the same year a hundredfold; and the Lord blessed him. The man began to prosper, and continued prospering until he became very prosperous; for he had possessions of flocks and possessions of herds and a great number of servants. So the Philistines envied him. (Genesis 26)

Each day of your life is a never-ending string of choices.  Some are mundane like as selecting your wardrobe for the day or where to eat for lunch.  Other are important life-altering decisions, such as choosing your spouse, relocating to a new city, or changing career paths.  Some of these decisions are made intentionally, as an effort to accomplish a goal that we’ve set for ourselves. Other times, we are forced to react to circumstances beyond our control, and we have to decide how we are going to respond to the situation.

In Genesis 26, we find Isaac in just such a place.  There was a famine going on and as the head of his household he was responsible for the well-being of his family and servants. He knew that something had to be done, but what should he do? He moved his family to Gerar, and that’s when the Lord spoke to him.  God made him a promise that if he would remain in the land, that he would follow through on the covenant that he had made with Isaac’s father, Abraham. 

So what did Isaac do? He not only stayed; he took it to the next level. Isaac responded to God’s promise by planting crops…in the middle of a famine! If God was going to give him the land, then Isaac was going to invest in it.  He poured time and resources into it. In return, God blessed him with a hundredfold harvest. Imagine the wealth, influence, and power that comes with being the man with all the food and resources in a time of want. Isaac became rich and powerful so quickly that the Philistines became jealous and the king even asked him to leave because he couldn’t handle the competition!

When we examine this story closely, we a couple of principles in action that lead to Isaac’s blessing:

  • Communication — There was an established relationship between Isaac and God.  In this passage, it does not indicate that Isaac sought God’s direction yet because of the relationship that existed between them (Isaac had seen God’s hand in his own father’s life), when God spoke Isaac listened. Too often we plan our lives and try to figure out our problems without God’s input, and that’s where we end up in trouble.  And then when God does speak, we must be willing to listen.
  • Investment — Isaac understood the principle of sowing and reaping, of investment and return. So when God made a promise, Isaac had faith enough to sow into that promise. God is constantly at work and it is our responsibility to make sure that we are on board with what he’s doing in our lives, families, and communities. Wherever God has planted you, make sure that you have bought into the vision.  Give of your time and resources to advance the kingdom.  God sees and rewards the sacrifices we make.

Where has God planted you?  Are you investing in yourself…your family…your church…your career…your community?  The blessings of God are real.  He’s waiting to pour them into you, but you have to sow before you can reap!

PRAYER: Father God, thank you for being a God that we can count on. Your words are sure, and you desire to bless your people.  Help us to be wise enough to follow the path that you lay before us and invest in that promised future.  Bless the seeds that we sow to ensure a bountiful harvest of blessing in our lives, the lives of those around us, and souls won for your kingdom.  In Christ’s name, Amen.

“There Will Come a Day”

I heard a loud shout from the throne, saying, “Look, God’s home is now among his people! He will live with them, and they will be his people. God himself will be with them.  He will wipe every tear from their eyes, and there will be no more death or sorrow or crying or pain. All these things are gone forever.”  And the one sitting on the throne said, “Look, I am making everything new!” And then he said to me, “Write this down, for what I tell you is trustworthy and true.” And he also said, “It is finished! I am the Alpha and the Omega—the Beginning and the End. To all who are thirsty I will give freely from the springs of the water of life. All who are victorious will inherit all these blessings, and I will be their God, and they will be my children.  (Revelation 21: 3-7, NLT)

Of every promise in the Bible, this is the one that I hold onto with the most desperation.  I can’t tell you the many times that I have had to close my eyes for just a moment to meditate on this very thing – to know, on the bad days…when I am hurting…when I am frustrated…when I am lowly and discouraged, that one day I have the promise of EVERYTHING being made new…restored…perfected…that one day my tears will forever be wiped away by the very hand that created me.  That’s something I can be comforted by no matter what happens.

I can’t help but wonder…what will that feel like?  It is truly unimaginable!  We live amongst so much heartache and hatred.  We face it every day of our lives.  It’s in everything that we watch and listen to, and it’s on the faces of strangers that we encounter, and even in the eyes of our loved ones.   Because of the rapid progression of sin in our world, hostility, distrust and heavyheartedness have become commonplace for us all.  We are used to it, so a life lived without that is not something that I think any of us could ever envision.  However, even though I can’t fathom it, I desire it.  Life without worry, pain, uncertainty, and depression – without hatred, vengefulness, mockery, and prejudice – without death, destruction, destitution, and despair – I don’t know this life…but I want to live it.  I am not worthy of this sort of freedom, but because of God’s love for me, for us, it is a gift that He stands holding out to us.  We simply have to reach out to Him and accept it.

It’s like a gift card.  It may not seem like much at the moment – just a seemingly small thing – but it holds so much promise!  I can tuck it away, and sometimes just knowing that it’s there is enough to make me smile.  When I am having a bad day, I know that I have the promise of something good, something that is completely free to me.  Starbucks, Dunkin Donuts, Chick-fil-A, they are all great and something nice to look forward to, but SALVATION, PEACE, ETERNAL JOY… now those are promises that I can live for each day!

Prayer:  Heavenly Father, thank You for the promise of a day when we all will forever be reunited with You.  Though things here get worse what seems like every day, there is nothing I can’t endure when I know that I have the fully redeemable gift of freedom in You that never expires.  Until that day, I will hold onto that assurance, and I will give this life the best of me while I am here.  May it be all for Your glory.  Amen.

Pit Stop!

“One day Terah took his son Abram, his daughter-in-law Sarai (his son Abram’s wife), and his grandson Lot (his son Haran’s child) and moved away from Ur of the Chaldeans. He was headed for the land of Canaan, but they stopped at Haran and settled there. Terah lived for 205 years and died while still in Haran.” (Genesis 11:31-32)

When I was in college, my parents lived many hours away from where I went to school which meant that going home for a visit was a significant undertaking. Because I was a young buck and had a pick-up truck with two gas tanks, I would try to push myself as far as I could between pit stops.  With a binder full of CDs, a couple sticks of beef jerky and a soda I could drive hundreds of miles at a time, only stopping when both gas tanks were dry.

After Elizabeth and I married and then Ben came along, my road warrior days were gone.  Whenever we would go visit family it seemed like we were having to stop every 30-45 minutes. At first I chafed against having to stop so frequently…it felt as though every time I set the cruise control I’d have to get off at the next exit. Trips that would usually take 2-3 hours turned into 4-5 hour affairs. It was so frustrating!

Eventually, I learned to adjust my expectations about road trips and how quickly I would arrive at a given destination. I’ve gotten so good at it that on our latest youth group trip to Winterfest I had to pull over several times because one of the boys was feeling carsick and I barely even batted an eye.  Just hold it in until I can get to the shoulder of the road, buddy, and it’s all good!

When you look at the story of Abram (Abraham) and how his family left the city of Ur and began the trek towards Canaan, you see that it was not a quick trip.  There were a series of stops along the way, including an extended stay in the city of Haran (Charran) where his father Terah died.  We know from other passages in the Bible that it was Abram who had received the call of God to leave his home, not Terah.  Apparently, he told his family about the experience and his plans to go and they decided to go along.  Even his brother Nahor, who stayed behind initially, eventually packed up and followed as well.

Along the way, Abram lost his aged father, his nephew Lot parted ways with him, and there were several tense interactions with local rulers that could have turned out badly for him. Many times Abram, now called Abraham, checked in with God to see if He was really going to follow through on His promises and make sure he was headed in the right direction. There were multiple distractions and opportunities for Abraham to turn aside from the plan of God, to decide he had gone far enough, but Abraham stayed focused on the journey. No matter how many pit stops he had to make along the way, nothing was going to prevent him from seeing the promises of God fulfilled.

Like Abraham, we have all been invited to join God on a road trip. When we start out, we don’t usually know where we are going to end up. We’ll pick up and lose traveling companions along the way. We end up making many unscheduled stops and detours, meaning we don’t always make as much progress as we had hoped. It can be especially discouraging when we ask God, “Are we there yet?” and He tells us that we haven’t even made it out of Kentucky yet!

I want to encourage you to adjust your expectations, just like I had to do. Rather than getting frustrated at how long the trip takes and how many pit stops you have to make, try to relax and enjoy the journey. Frustration does nothing to speed things along and it can make you miss out on the beautiful scenery right outside the window.  So put on some good music, unwrap another Slim Jim and settle in for the ride.  You’ll get there eventually…God is literally the best navigator there is! 

Prayer: Father, thank you for inviting us on this journey. When we become frustrated with our rate of progress, help us to slow down and trust that you know where you are taking us and the best way to get there. Open our eyes to see the beauty along the way! In the name of Jesus we pray, Amen.

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