Hazy Vision

Jordan was just a short distance across the Dead Sea, but I couldn’t see it. I could see an outline of the mountains, but details were blocked by the haze that hung thickly in the air. I had stood near the same spot a few years before and seen much more clearly. Nothing had moved. Jordan was no farther away. No huge skyscraper had been built in the middle of the Dead Sea to obstruct my view. All that got in the way of my sight was air.

The air was saturated. It obstructed my view.

What gets in the way of our vision?

How do we see other countries when we stand at a distance and look through the haze of our assumptions?

Perhaps we have looked through the haze for so long that we don’t even realize how poorly we see.

We might not be looking through the haze at all…but at it instead.

What area of the world do you ignore? What nation do you look at through a haze? What people do you miss out on knowing because you focus on the space between you and them? They might be far away, or they might be right across from you. You might have to get closer and take some risks to push aside the obstructions and find truth instead.

World_map_png-6

Be Open, But Not Absorbent

The older and newer rock met with a drastic line.

11.3.14 Capernaum Synagogue (12)
©2014 PurePurpose.org

 

Despite the images of the white stones of present day Israel, much of biblical Israel would have been darker stone, lava stone. It was (and still is) used for many things, because it is porous but not absorbent. It allows good aeration but don’t easily absorb water, food particles, and tastes and scents.

That’s confusing to me. Porous but not absorbent?

It’s like living in the world but not being of the world. Being open but not easily influenced and swayed. Being able to show compassion in the trenches without getting stuck.

Sometimes, living in the world but not being of the world is confusing. I’m not sure of the line of my motivation for serving. I don’t know how much others are influencing me, even in negative ways, more than I’m influencing them, hopefully, in positive ways. I don’t know how much I should share, give, or sacrifice.

Other times, it makes sense. I know where the line is, and I respect it. But if I’m honest, I often think I know where the line is more because of where I want it to be or expect it to be than where it actually is. I base the line on my experiences or my preferences. Instead, I need to ask God to take me to the line.

The line changes. Well, my experience of it changes. I’m not saying God ever changes. He doesn’t. But He changes me. He leads me to different experiences that I can handle at the time but that also change and prepare me for the future. So, the next time, the boundary might seem a bit different, because I’m in a different place. Living in the world requires more of me, because I give more of myself for God to use in the world. Not being of the world requires more of me, too. I don’t become more isolated. I become more sensitive to the needs, dangers, and opportunities around me.

I have given them Your word.
The world hated them
because they are not of the world,
as I am not of the world.
I am not praying
that You take them out of the world
but that You protect them from the evil one.
They are not of the world,
as I am not of the world.
Sanctify them by the truth;
Your word is truth.
As You sent Me into the world,
I also have sent them into the world.
I sanctify Myself for them,
so they also may be sanctified by the truth. (John 17:14-19)

 

The Water Rose

ocean_wave_j0423051_248I will bring a flood of water on the earth to destroy all living things that live under the sky, including everything that has the breath of life. Everything on the earth will die. But I will make an agreement with you—you, your sons, your wife, and your sons’ wives will all go into the boat. Water flooded the earth for forty days, and as it rose it lifted the boat off the ground. The water continued to rise, and the boat floated on it above the earth. The water rose so much that even the highest mountains under the sky were covered by it. It continued to rise until it was more than twenty feet above the mountains. All living things that moved on the earth died. Genesis 6:17-18;7:17-21

All water is not nourishing. Water is destructive. God chose to use water to clear the earth of sinful people. He promised never to do so again, but in the time of Noah, he saw the extent of wickedness in the world. We often think we live in a world filled with evil, but as of today, God has not cleared the earth of all sin. We live in an imperfect, sinful world. God does not make this world perfect; we get to anticipate a perfect world in heaven.

Even at the time of the flood in Genesis, when God saw the extent of wickedness on the earth, he saw hope in Noah. He provided for Noah and his family but only through Noah’s obedience. Noah, even though he was a man of faith, could have chosen to question God. He could have asked for many explanations of the details God was giving him. Building an enormous ark on dry land must have seemed odd. But when God instructs us, it doesn’t matter how odd it sounds. Odd doesn’t matter. Truth matters, and we can always rely on and trust God. He is truth. He doesn’t have the capacity for anything else.

Consider a time you trusted God even when a circumstance seemed odd. How did God provide?

When you consider the destructive power of water, what situation comes to mind?

The floods, tsunamis and hurricanes of today do not only impact wicked people. Even among destruction, how do such forces and tragedies provide opportunities for God’s goodness to be lived out and revealed?

Live It. Look around you today and notice someone whose life is flooded. Perhaps it’s a physical flood but more likely you’ll readily find someone who is flooded with stress, confusion, decisions, unhealthy relationships, overwhelming emotions or burdensome past. Consider how you can provide relief to the person. Trust God to guide you in words and actions.

In The Beginning

In the beginning God created the sky and the earth. The earth was empty and had no form. Darkness covered the ocean, and God’s Spirit was moving over the water. Then God said, “Let there be light,” and there was light. God saw that the light was good, so he divided the light from the darkness. God named the light “day” and the darkness “night.” Evening passed, and morning came. This was the first day. Then God said, “Let there be something to divide the water in two.” So God made the air and placed some of the water above the air and some below it. God named the air “sky.” Evening passed, and morning came. This was the second day. Then God said, “Let the water under the sky be gathered together so the dry land will appear.” And it happened. God named the dry land “earth” and the water that was gathered together “seas.” God saw that this was good. Genesis 1:1-9

We don’t proceed into God’s Word long before we find water. It’s foundational to the earth. It’s foundational to our lives. About 70% of the earth’s surface is water, and about 60% of the human body is composed of water. Water nourishes us. It provides a shock absorber system for us. It contains life-sustaining oxygen. It helps us move. We wouldn’t survive without water.

We often think of man being the dust of the earth, but before the dust was formed, water existed. God knew to separate the water so that the water above and the water below would cycle to nourish the earth. God keeps the earth nourished so we can be nourished. Our water supply is refreshed with rain. Our crops grow with rain. We’re not limited to the water supply we see. God provides a system to refresh and nourish us.

Aren’t you glad God pays attention to details? His plan was clear to him as he hovered over the formless earth. He knew at that time where you would live and when you’d be born. He knew your needs and struggles. He provides for your needs and for many of your wants. Praise him for knowing all and providing for you today.

Live It! Sip on water throughout the day today. Unless there is a medical reason you shouldn’t, sip only on water for the entire day. You don’t need to gulp. Simply sip consistently. With each swallow, let God remind you of how he fills you. He doesn’t leave you parched. He will always fill any space you invite him into. Your capacity for God is much higher than you might expect. Let him soak into every part of your heart, mind, body, and soul.

King of the Mountain

kingofthemountain“I. Am. King. Of. The. Mountain!”

It was the best feeling, standing on top of the mound that seemed unconquerable, especially when others were scrambling up the side, grabbing ahold of you and trying to use the momentum of pulling you back to push themselves up the mound even further. You knew exactly what they were doing because you did the same thing when given the chance. Getting to the top required some sacrifices, and it meant sacrificing of others as much as sacrificing some skin as you ascended.

Ascending seems critical in life. Better house, more money, job promotion. More experiences. More education. More. More. More.

But more by the world’s standards isn’t more by God’s standards.

There’s a difference between ascending and descending in life. It’s a difference between a worldly perspective and a godly perspective. Ascending by the world’s perspective isn’t usually ascending by God’s perspective. In order to ascend by God’s perspective, we have to descend by worldly perspective.

Those who try to keep their lives will lose them. But those who give up their lives will save them. (Luke 17:33)

He must become greater, and I must become less important. (John 3:30)

God’s not saying we have to literally lose everything in order to gain him (although sometimes, that’s the path we’ll take). We don’t have to physically lose our houses, bank accounts, jobs, families, and so on. We have to lose our hold on them. We need to loosen their hold on us. We have to realize that everything we have, from the tangible possessions to intangible characteristics, are not our own. When we’re willing to give it all to God, realizing anything we have is his anyway, we gain a perspective where loss is gain, death is life, poor is rich.

This counter-intuitive perspective is why Jesus said to his followers, “I tell you the truth, it will be hard for a rich person to enter the kingdom of heaven. Yes, I tell you that it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich person to enter the kingdom of God.” (Matthew 19:23-24) A rich man had asked him about eternal life, and Jesus had instructed him to obey his commands…and go and sell your possessions and give the money to the poor. If you do this, you will have treasure in heaven. Then come and follow me. (Matthew 19:21) The rich man walked away sorrowfully. The price was too high.

Is it too high for you? Which route of ascending will you choose? The one the world says is best or the one God says is best? Will you ascend to the top of the mountain to get what you think is the most recognition, resources, privilege, opportunities, etc., yet leave God at the bottom of the heap? Or will you leave the world’s values behind and ascend into God’s presence, trusting him to use your obedience and sacrifice?

Consider the choices you’re making right now. Upon what values are they founded? What are you hoping to get in response to the choices you’re making? Where will you end up if you continue the path you’re taking? Are you willing to adjust?

There’s only one King of the mountain. And it’s not you.

Why Don’t People Listen?

listeningThe Father has loved us so much that we are called children of God. And we really are his children. The reason the people in the world do not know us is that they have not known him. 1 John 3:1

“Can’t people see what God says? It’s clearly writing in the Bible!”

NEWSFLASH. Not everyone reads the Bible. Not everyone believes the Bible is God’s Holy Word. Not everyone even believes God exists, and if they recognize any glimpse of God at all, it’s often a “Googled” God, where they’ve picked and chosen what they want to believe to be true about God. Who really wants to be uncomfortable with becoming humble, admitting you’re not in control, seeking and accepting who God is, trusting him, digging into Scripture and being changed by it, and obeying God and his Word, which requires uncomfortable and inconvenient change?

We can’t assume that just telling people what’s in the Bible is going to convict them to change their lifestyles. I’m not saying we shouldn’t share what’s in the Bible. We need to share whatever God says we’re supposed to share. And the way we know what and when and with whom to share is by knowing God. We can sometimes know the content of his Word well enough to quote it with verses appropriate for just about any situation, but that doesn’t mean God’s Word has permeated our lives and is pouring out of us. God’s Word only permeates our lives and pours out of us as we study and read it through the guidance of the Holy Spirit, then live it out loud with the same guidance. We live God’s Word out loud…and sometimes we use words.

God’s Word tells us we’re not going to be understood by everyone in the world, so why are we surprised? We feel isolated and ignored, misunderstood and mistreated, but the reality is we’re often playing a game of Sardines. In case you’ve never played, it’s a bit like Hide-and-Seek, but it’s played with a group of people who hide together while someone else tries to find the group. The group that’s hiding can have fun together, strategizing and communicating as quietly as possible, but (1) they’re in the dark and (2) they’re isolated as a group.

God doesn’t intend for us to stay in the dark, and he doesn’t intend for us to live isolated lives, even in groups. Meet God in his Word…but then live it out loud in the world. Meet with others to study and worship…but then live God’s truth and biblical community out loud in the world.

Don’t expect the world to change. Let God be in charge of you; invite him to change you. He’s in charge of the world, and he can change it in whatever timing he wants.

Jesus Is Recognizable

(Excerpted from Michael Card’s Immanuel: Reflections on the Life of Christ)

Jesus Christ, the Messiah, the Son of God, came to this world a stranger. (The apostle John said, “He was in the world, and though the world was made through Him, the world did not recognize Him. He came to that which was His own, but His own did not receive Him.”)

Jesus, Himself, said, “I was a stranger and you invited me in.” In effect, He stated that not only had He come as a stranger but He had come for the stranger.

Jesus was estranged not because He wasn’t what He should have been but rather because the world wasn’t what it should be. Even through the world had been created through Him, it didn’t recognize Him. The world suffered from the Fall as well as mankind. Even now it groans, the apostle Paul says.

Yet certainly there were times when creation recognized the authority of Jesus. At least once He spoke to the winds. “Be quiet!” He said, in a way you or I might speak to our dog, and they obeyed. To the waves He said, “Calm down!” and they too obeyed. The disciples were terrified. “Who is this?” They stammered in fear. “Even the wind and the waves obey Him!”

I sometimes ask myself if I might have felt safer that day in the water, rather than in the boat with someone who possessed such awesome power. When Jesus desired, He could life the veil of His incarnation and speak in such a way that creation could recognize Him for who He was. Most often, however, He chose not to.

Though ultimately Jesus is not a stranger, He still did come for the stranger. If you invite the stranger in, Jesus says, it’s as if you had invited Him. He has come so no one has to be a stranger ever again, including you and me (at least not strangers to each other and to Him).

After you’ve been a Christian for long enough, you discover a paradox: Once you become intimate with God you become even more a stranger to the world, for people in the world would have us groan all the more for knowing Him. If the creation did not recognize Jesus, then how much less can we expect it to recognize those who belong to Him, unless He gives us the grace, from time to time, to life the veil of His incarnation in us and show the world His wonderful work of re-creation.