Receiving the Inheritance (2)

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“I will give you every place where you set your foot.”  (Joshua 1:3)

My mother used to stand at the bedroom door, arms akimbo, surveying my teenage mess and say. “Don’t make me put my foot down.” It was the ultimate threat, the end of negotiation. It was decision time. Do it. Do it now.

God gave Joshua the same tough call: If you want to go on into all that God has for you, then it’s time to put your foot down.

But it’s not a demand that you clean up your act (as with my mother), but a promise of future possibility. The place where Joshua was to put down his foot was called “The Promised Land.” It’s a powerfully evocative line, isn’t it?  The same image crops up in the book of Hebrews, where believers are urged to “enter God’s rest.

“Therefore, since the promise of entering his rest still stands, let us be careful that none of you be found to have fallen short of it.  For we also have had the good news proclaimed to us, just as they did; but the message they heard was of no value to them, because they did not share the faith of those who obeyed.” (Hebrews 4:1-2)

Don’t miss out! If you hear the good news but don’t share the faith of those who who obey then you fall short of it.But God says “I will give you every place where you set your foot.”

It’s like winning a trip to Disneyland and then waiting in the car park, looking through the fence. Go on in!

This “promise of future possibility” will impact you in every area of your life, your work, your relationships, your financial situation, your family, your hopes and dreams and plans.

Put your foot down on to God’s promises.

There’s an odd verse in Matthew 11:12  “From the days of John the Baptist until now the kingdom of heaven suffers violence, and the violent take it by force.”  A commentator writes:The “violent” are men of eager, impetuous zeal, who grasp the kingdom of heaven—i.e., its peace, and pardon, and blessedness—with as much eagerness as men would snatch and carry off as their own the spoil of a conquered city.”

Put your foot down! Take what God has for you!

There are three necessary steps for making your move from the way it is to the way you want it to be. Three things you need to do in order to take leadership of your life and your situation. First of all, you need to …

  1. Turn the Page.

You need to be able to accept change in your life. You need to let go of the past. You must be willing to move forward, to start afresh, to take a new step when the time calls for it. Listen to the first words God speaks to Joshua…

(v. 2) “Moses my servant is dead.”

Turn the page. Let go of the past. It’s time to move on. Edmund Burke said “The past should be a springboard, not a hammock.”

  1. Stake your Claim.

God made a bold promise to the people of Israel. (v. 3) “I will give you every place where you set your foot…” I want you to know that God is making the same promise to you today. He wants to give you every place where you set your foot. Here’s what I mean.

  1. Claim your promise.

God said to Joshua, (v. 5) “As I was with Moses, so I will be with you; I will never leave you nor forsake you.” These words were echoed in the book of Hebrews, “Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you.” (Hebrews 13:5) And they’re similar to the last words spoken by Jesus on planet earth: “And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” (Matthew 28:20)

For those of who you are wandering in the wilderness, who need to make the migration from the desert land to the holy land, I want you to know that today is the day that you can begin. A place of promise awaits you: a place of contentment and joy and peace and abundance and satisfaction. It’s a land “flowing with milk and honey.” And God is waiting for you to enter. It’s time for you to make your move. This is how you begin to experience the fullness of God’s promises.

Turn the page on the past: Look ahead to what God will do in your life today and tomorrow.

Stake your claim on your territory: Begin to expect God to give you dominion in every area of your life.

Claim the promise of his presence: You’re not in this alone, and you never will be. He is with you always.

Are you ready to enter into his abundance? It’s time to make your move.

***

This is from Ken’s book on Joshua,  What do these stones mean? Message him for a copy.

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Receiving the Inheritance (1)

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Hello? Did you hear my great Aunt died ?–… 

Hmm? Yes, it was just last week.

–Thank you, no, no, I didn’t know her very well- but, well, she died and I was her sole beneficiary. It was quite a shock. …

What? No, not the death itself, so much as the money. …

Hmm? Oh, quite a lot, really …

Yes, you’re right, I have been struggling with credit card debts for a few years. Never seem to get clear. One thing after another. Letters –even debt collection agencies, I’m afraid . Talking bankruptcy in fact. Or at least an IVA for three years. …

No, no, that’s all finished now. …

The legacy? Well, it’s a little short of twelve million pounds …

Imagine if it had been you on that one-sided phone conversation. Imagine the incredible change in your life. Imagine how all the things that held you back and restricted you were now all things of the past. You have come into your inheritance! You know you don’t deserve it, but you have simply received it. It’s a gift, free gratis. Absolute grace. No strings attached.

And imagine if, like so many, you had been bound with the restrictions of debts mounting. You were receiving unpleasant letters. Every morning you looked at the postman with something like dread. And you could see no way clear, no matter how responsibly you tried to live.

And now it’s all changed because you have received an inheritance.

Someone suggested that this was how we should listen to the Bible -to see what we can get out of it! That sounds a bit self-serving, but it has a wonderful truth about it. When you listen to the “Reading of the Will” you are tuned in to just one thing – the mention of your own name! Everything else is prelude.

And our Bible is split into “Testaments” isn’t it? So as we listen to the “Last Will and Testament” of our elder brother, Jesus, we want to know if this relates to us in some way.

And it does.

There is a legacy waiting for you’ You stand to inherit so much that it will certainly change everything forever.

This is how Paul teaches us about the new life of faith in Galatians. In 3:25 he says: “When faith comes, you are no longer under the supervision of the law.” He sees the life of the Pharisee as joyless and restrictive –do this, don’t do that- like living in debt.

But the life of faith is essentially that of coming into your inheritance. Your real status before God is not that of someone bowed down with worry, striving to do your best (and failing) …not at all. In Gal 4:7 he says that because of what Christ has done “You are therefore no longer a slave but a son and if a son, then an heir of God.”

An heir! The legacy is yours. Right now.

I think I need to get a whole lot more excited about being a Christian.

So what are the details? Paul calls it “the blessing of Abraham.” Here’s the context in Galatians 3:

Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us, for it is written: ‘Cursed is everyone who is hung on a pole.’  He redeemed us in order that the blessing given to Abraham might come to the Gentiles through Christ Jesus, so that by faith we might receive the promise of the Spirit. …  If you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise.” (Gal 3:13,14,29)

The “curse of the law” is expounded in horrific detail in Deuteronomy 28:15-68. Read it and weep. Basically it’s that old life of debt and worry and fear.

But God has something else planned for you!Abraham’s legacy has your name written on it. Read Deuteronomy 28: 1-15 as a picture of total blessing in body soul and spirit.

There are just a couple of points however, before you receive the inheritance:

First: you have to belong to the family of Abraham. Obviously you don’t qualify for the inheritance unless you’re a family member, right?

Second, you have to know your rights, and claim them. Much of what I do as a preacher is not to provide inspiration so much as information. So much of what God has for us remains unclaimed, like those legacies that you hear about for which the beneficiaries cannot be found.

And third, you do have to stick to your word on this. This is how the “reading of the will” begins in Deuteronomy 28: If you fully obey the Lord your God and carefully follow all his commands that I give you today, the Lord your God will set you high above all the nations on earth. All these blessings will come on you and accompany you if you obey the Lord your God.”

This isn’t a nit-picking, joyless routine of rulekeeping. Think of it as family loyalty, of knowing who you are, to whom you belong, and living with the honour and privilege of that belonging.

So: Point 1: Are you children of Abraham? Galatians 3:29 (NLT) clarifies the point: “And now that you belong to Christ, you are the true children of Abraham. You are his heirs, and God’s promise to Abraham belongs to you.”

Point 2: Are you ready to claim your rights by receiving Christ? John 1:12,13: “To all who did receive him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God- children born not of natural descent, nor of human decision or a husband’s will, but born of God.”

Point 3: Are you determined to be loyal to your “family”? That was the question that Joshua  set before his people in  Joshua 24. “Now fear the Lord and serve him with all faithfulness. Throw away the [foreign] gods …and serve the Lord. But if serving the Lord seems undesirable to you, then choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve, …But as for me and my household, we will serve the Lord.’ “

I have a little prayer card in my Bible here. Let me just share it now, as the very first baby step in receiving all that God has for you.

A Prayer of Commitment

Lord God, Please forgive me for all the things I have done wrong. I turn to you and turn away from sin.

[Pause. Silently ask forgiveness for anything you know is keeping you from God.]

Jesus, please be the center of my life. I welcome you personally as Lord and Savior of my life. I ask you, Holy Spirit, to fill me and empower me to live as a [son or a daughter] of God. I want to have your grace to truly live a new life. Thank you for hearing my prayer through Christ our Lord.

Amen.

 

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Receiving “the things promised” (Hebrews 11)

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“Most of us stand poised at the edge of brilliance, haunted by the knowledge of our proximity, yet still demonstrably on the wrong side of the line, our dealings with reality undermined by a range of minor yet critical psychological flaws (a little too much optimism, an unprocessed rebelliousness, a fatal impatience or sentimentality). We are like an exquisite high-speed aircraft which for lack of a tiny part is left stranded beside the runway, rendered slower than a tractor or a bicycle.” (Alain de Botton)

We’re almost…. but not quite.

Almost an exquisite high-speed aircraft, but lacking just one tiny thing and so rendered slower than a tractor or a bicycle.

I want to consider that “one tiny thing” and then think about what happens when it is installed in the aircraft of my faith-life. Hebrews 11 is explicit about what is lacking: it’s an unfulfilled promise….

The author draws up a grand list of wonderful people who sought God and lived by faith but then concludes:

“All these people were still living by faith when they died. They did not receive the things promised ;they only saw them and welcomed them from a distance, admitting that they were foreigners and strangers on earth.” (Hebrews 11:13)

They were still living by faith when they died
Everyone dies (apart from the odd Enoch) but some are “still living by faith when they died.” There’s something in them, (even if they’re moving as slow as a bicycle), that acknowledges that they are intended for supersonic flight.

They died believing. Believing what? Abraham died believing in the land promised, and Joshua saw what Abraham believed. Isaiah died believing in the one by whose stripes we would be healed, and we see what he believed! These people were the Lord’s own, living in the faith of the promised Messiah, and they died according to the life of faith they lived, and the doctrine of faith they professed. But they did not receive the things promised.

“They only saw them and welcomed them from a distance…”
What an amazing statement! And Jesus confirmed it in John 8:56: “Abraham rejoiced when he saw my day.”

And they lived and died in faith of that missing part that would turn their speed supersonic. What was it? Well, it was the day of Jesus that Abraham rejoiced to see. It was the  fulfiment of prophecy about the promised Messiah, the establishing of a”better covenant” in the blood of the lamb of God. It was the coming of the Spirit on the people of God. Paul spelt it out in Galatians 3:14: “He redeemed us in order that the blessing given to Abraham might come to the Gentiles through Christ Jesus, so that by faith we might receive the promise of the Spirit.”

So the big question is: what is the blessing given to Abraham which is now given to us?

 

In Genesis 12, God pronounced a seven-fold blessing over Abraham, and these seven things belong to you and me.

The first thing God said to Abraham was:

1. I will make you into a great nation.

God birthed the nation of Israel through Abraham:  “I will multiply you, increase you, and make you powerful!”

That’s what God wants to do in your life. This is your legacy and your inheritance. God wants to increase you in every area.

2. I will bless you.

The Amplified Bible says, “I will bless you with an abundant increase of favors.” Abraham was blessed with abundance. In fact, Genesis 24:1 says that Abraham was blessed in every way.

What were his blessings?

— Abraham was very wealthy in livestock, silver and gold. He wasn’t rich when God first called him, but he became rich because of the blessing of God upon his life. (Genesis 13:2, Deut. 8:18)

He also had great favor. The people said to him, “You are a mighty prince among us.” God can supernaturally elevate you to places of favor and influence. Psalm 75:6 says that promotion comes from God.

 

3. I will make your name great.

The Amplified Bible says in Genesis 12:2, “I will make your name famous and distinguished.”

Everywhere Abraham went, people knew him. His reputation preceded him and followed him. He was a mighty prince. He was highly favored of God!

God will enlarge you and make your name great just as he did for Abraham.

4. You will be a blessing.

This is where the phrase “we are blessed to be a blessing” comes from. One of the main reasons God wants us to have more than enough is so we can bless and help others. God wants us to be generous. He wants us to be so blessed that we can give to those in need. He wants us to share our blessings.

5. I will bless those who bless you.

When people bless and help you, God will bless them. Your favor will rub off on them. Every person who touches your life in a positive way will receive a touch from God. That’s how blessed we are.

6. I will curse those who curse you.

God is serious. He is not going to bless anyone who opposes you. He said, “I will be an enemy to your enemies and I will oppose those who oppose you.” Deuteronomy 28:7 says, “The enemy that rises up against you will be defeated before you. They will come at you from one direction but flee from you in seven.”

God is going to stand with you when people talk against you or mistreat you. He said to David, “Don’t touch my anointed. He belongs to Me!” Well, you belong to Him! (Exodus 23:22, 1 Chronicles 16:22)

7. All the people of the earth will be blessed through you.

Wherever you go, people will be blessed. When you show up, God shows up, blessings show up and favor shows up.

You might be thinking, “How can I bless people all over the world?” That’s the faith that you are living in: you are part of what God is doing in the world. And everything is connected and developing until “The kingdoms of this world become the kingdom of the Christ.”

When you “receive the the things promised” you’re coming into the jet stream of favor.

He promised.

And in Christ, the promises of God are “YES”. and “LET IT BE SO.”

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Blundering in the Storm

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“How little we have, I thought, between us and the waiting cold, the mystery, death–a strip of beach, a hill, a few walls of wood or stone, a little fire–and tomorrow’s sun, rising and warming us, tomorrow’s hope of peace and better weather . . . What if tomorrow vanished in the storm? What if time stood still? And yesterday–if once we lost our way, blundered in the storm–would we find yesterday again ahead of us, where we had thought tomorrow’s sun would rise?”

That’s from Robert Nathan’s Portrait of Jennie. It’s a powerful evocaion of the littleness of life, and of how frail our defences are against the onslaught of the storm.

Whatever your storm may be.

When something truly horrible happens, it’s easy to lose our footing, to be overwhelmed with the force of sorrow and emotion, and  to “blunder in the storm.”  It’s a condition recognised throughout the literature of the Bible, and particularly in the book of Psalms. 

What impresses me right now is the fact that the Bible offers no quick-fit solution or glib retort like a stick-on plaster, but rather a nod to the journey that has to be undertaken from shock and fear, anxiety and grief towards trust and peace and perhaps, even hope.

Think of the journey undertaken by the disciples walking to Emmaus (in Luke 24) after seeing their beloved leader tortured and killed before their eyes. They are so devastated with grief that they blunder in the storm, and fail to recognise the One who comes to walk with them.

It reminds me of that awful scene in The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, when Aslan is killed. C.S.Lewis writes: “I hope no one who reads this book has been quite as miserable as Susan and Lucy were that night; but if you have been – if you’ve been up all night and cried till you have no more tears left in you – you will know that there comes in the end a sort of quietness. You feel as if nothing is ever going to happen again.”

I read the same sense of numb shock in Psalm 13. Once more, it’s a journey:

How long must I wrestle with my thoughts and every day have sorrow in my heart? How long will my enemy triumph over me?” (Psalm 13:2).

That’s the first part of the journey: the churning of emotions and the wrangle of thoughts; and the identification of a real Enemy who seems to be always winning. It’s a true picture of the world of that old song:.

“When I am down, and, oh, my soul, so weary
When troubles come, and my heart burdened be…”

The thought with which I myself used to wrestle, in dark days, was along this familiar track: How could a good and powerful God allow evil to triumph?

Many get stuck on that part of the journey, failing to engage with the Christian narrative that runs from Genesis to Revelation and that yields a crosss as the symbol of its community. That is to say, the person and work of Jesus is entirely connected with that apparent triumph of evil, with the brutal conditions of our living “when troubles come”, with our blunderng in the storm of crisis.

Rob Bell put it this way:

“Our tendency in the midst of suffering is to turn on God. To get angry and bitter and shake our fist at the sky and say, “God, you don’t know what it’s like! You don’t understand! You have no idea what I’m going through. You don’t have a clue how much this hurts.”

The cross is God’s way of taking away all of our accusations, excuses, and arguments.

The cross is God taking on flesh and blood and saying, “Me too.”

God is “Emmanuel.” He is entirely and eternally with us, walking the road of our doubt and anxiety, explaining the scriptures and revealing his total empathy. He is with us.

And even though it was penned a thousand years before, that consciousness of God’s presence is the reason that Psalm 13 can continue the way it does, in its declaration that  God is always faithful and that our trust in God is never unfounded: “But I trust in your unfailing love; my heart rejoices in your salvation. I will sing to the LORD, for he has been good to me.” (Psalm 13:5-6)

This isn’t a facile optimism, but a statement of faith. “We do sorrow,” said Paul (in 1 Thess 4:13) “but not like those who have no hope.”  We grieve for loss and heartache, we grieve and rage against injustice, stupidity, folly and wickedness wherever we see it. We mourn with those that mourn, and bear the burdens, as best we can, of those overwhelmed with the weight of it. But we are not crushed by hopelessness.

Even Gandhi recognised that, in an oft-quoted remark: “When I despair, I remember that all through history the way of truth and love have always won. There have been tyrants and murderers, and for a time, they can seem invincible, but in the end, they always fall. Think of it–always.”

And for me, as a believer in the God of Jesus, I too want to stand for “the way of truth and love.” And even as we sorrow, we also dare to hope.

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Why does faith please God?

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“You cannot swim for new horizons until you have courage to lose sight of the shore.”
That’s William Faulkner. He makes the point here which is fundamental to an understanding of Hebrews 11.

In v6 comes the powerful principle that “Without faith it is impossible to please God.” 

So what is the faith that pleases God? What does that lifestyle look like? That’s the background to the whole chapter and its parade of people who did just that, living the kind of life that won God’s approval.

But before the writer commends the people of long ago for their faith-lifestyles, he commends the people of his own day. Look back to the end of the previous chapter (10:32-35) and you’ll see what I mean:

Remember those earlier days after you had received the light, when you endured in a great conflict full of suffering.  Sometimes you were publicly exposed to insult and persecution; at other times you stood side by side with those who were so treated. You suffered along with those in prison and joyfully accepted the confiscation of your property, because you knew that you yourselves had better and lasting possessions. So do not throw away your confidence; it will be richly rewarded.”

The writer is encouraging his people to stand tough, to persevere under pressure and not give in. He makes the comparison between what they presently experience and what they will later receive. But you cannot swim for those new horizons of reward until you have courage to lose sight of the shore.

And that’s faith. Faith to risk the present trouble that you can see because of the future glory that you can’t. “Faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see.”

“And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him.”

So where does this premise come from that “without faith it is impossible to please God“? What’s the basis for that claim?

He gives his answer in the last part of verse 6. First he makes the claim: “Without faith it is impossible to please [God].” Then he gives the underlying reason: You can’t please God without faith, “For (= because) he who comes to God must believe that He is, and that He is a rewarder of those who seek Him.” Because of this, only by faith can we please God.

There are two parts to faith in this verse which show why it pleases God. First, he says that faith believes that God exists. Second, he says that faith believes that God is the rewarder of those who seek him. Because faith is these two things: it pleases God.

He is Real and He is a Rewarder

Behind these two assertions about God are two great facts:

The first is found in the very first verse of the Bible. “In the beginning, God…” He just is. He is not becoming or growing or changing. He said, “I am who I am” (Exodus 3:14). Therefore, he is pleased when this absolute existence is known and embraced. He is pleased when he is known as the God of the now.

Second, behind the assertion that God is rewarding is the fact that God is so full and so completely self-sufficient that he overflows. He is a good, good Father who loves to give good gifts. Therefore it pleases God when we come to him in a way that affirms this and delights in it – when we come to him as a Rewarder.

Now the writer of Hebrews simply asserts that this is what faith does: faith comes to God with the confidence that he is, and faith comes with the confidence that God will be a generous Giver.

Faith Depends on What God is Like, not on What we are Like

Which brings us back to verse 1. Notice how the two parts of verse 6 correspond to the two parts of verse 1. “Faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.” That’s verse 1. The “conviction of things not seen” corresponds to faith’s belief that God exists (verse 6a). And the “assurance of things hoped for” corresponds to faith’s belief that God is the rewarder of those who seek him (verse 6b). Faith has at least these two components: one is the conviction that there is a great unseen God who exists absolutely and does not depend on us in the least. And the other is the assurance that this great unseen God is a God of love and bounty and free and sovereign grace for all who seek him in truth.

I began by saying that faith is risky. If you want to go for those unseen horizons you have to swim past your comfort zone. And there’s no going back. And where you presently are, it’s easy to become fearful and anxious. But that’s just our side of things.

What we have seen in Hebrews now is that the nature of faith and the vitality of faith is rooted in what God is like, not what we are like. You don’t find out what Christian faith is by consulting your own emotions and needs. You find out by consulting the nature of God. As Bill Johnson said: “Intimacy with God is your source of strength.”

The more you know what God is like, the more conformed to his greatness will be your faith. You will be more and more assured of things hoped for and more and more convinced of things unseen.

And on that faith God moves.

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“God gives his beloved sleep”- and dreams!

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“You may say that I’m a dreamer…”

John Lennon was only stating the obvious. Of course, we all are dreamers. But what a strange other-worldly chunk of our lives our dreams are! What are dreams all about?  Dreams – as someone told me on Facebook, – are who I am when I’m too tired to be me.

And yet, that’s not strictly the case. . In a sense, I’m more me than ever before when I dream. People think dreams aren’t real just because they aren’t made of matter. Dreams are real. But they are made of opinions and pictures, half- memories, bad puns and dislocated hopes. And isn’t that the real me?

It’s interesting to think of the connection between my waking and my sleeping self. Because the stuff that fills my mind and heart now (I’m presently awake) becomes the fertiliser for my night-time ramblings. So watch your thinking, because that’s what will prompt those dreams. If I “fertilise” my thinking with worry and fear, or horror and anger, then those seeds will grow rank, choking my brain and distorting my vision.

When she was very little, my daughter used to say to me:  “Sleep sweet.” I’ve no idea from whence her idea came, but it’s a very lovely memory for me. Don’t we all want to sleep sweet? Sleeping sweet is the very opposite of being filled with small glittering pieces of guilt, stray fragments of fear and the rest. The Bible says “God gives his beloved ones sleep”. I like the verse, though as someone with chronic insomnia, I frequently write my stories between 2 and 5am, so I think that God gives his beloved ones creativity, wakefulness and joy in the middle of the night, too.

Oscar Wilde –another insomniac- once said  “A dreamer is one who can only find his way by moonlight, and his punishment is that he sees the dawn before the rest of the world.”

It’s a subtle thought. You can see further in the middle of the night. The darker the night, the more wakeful the dreamer, and the stars shine out for a black billion miles. The dreamer finds his way by moonlight!

At night, all things become visible in a different kind of way. All things become possible to the waking dreamer. I love the Shel Silverstein lyric:

“Listen to the mustn’ts, child. Listen to the don’ts. Listen to the shouldn’ts, the impossibles, the won’ts. Listen to the never haves, then listen close to me… Anything can happen, child. Anything can be.”

That’s the take the Bible seems to have on dreams. I was interested to come across this version of Ephesians 3:20:  “God is able to do exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or dream, according to His power that works in us.”

John Maxwell’s definition of a dream is “an inspiring picture of the future that energizes your mind, will and emotions, empowering you to do everything you can to achieve it.”

That would certainly fit in with the life of Joseph, one of the Bible’s most celebrated dreamers. In Genesis 37:1-5 we are introduced to a seventeen year-old with a tricky family situation, but with huge ambitious dreams for which he lacked the nous to keep to himself. And the whole history of the nation was somehow connected with one boy’s dreams.

Maybe we are part of God’s dreams?

Jeremiah pictured God saying  “For I know the plans I have for you,” says the LORD. “They are plans for good and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope.” (Jeremiah 29:11).

So if you’ve given up on dreams, maybe it’s time to dream once more. Maybe it’s time to sleep sweet and allow God to speak through all the tangle of your aspirations: “Hope deferred makes the heart sick, but where dreams come true, there is life and joy.” (Proverbs 13:12).

Bill Johnson said, a little while back:  “We’ve been given the capacity to dream and, more importantly, to dream with God. Many believers discount their desires, automatically trying to get rid of everything they want in order to prove their surrender to God.”

Do you dream of things being different?  Is it wrong to dream dreams about your future, your business, your partner, your children? Is it foolish to dream out your desire for good things for your relationships, your family?

The Psalmist said, in a lovely joy-filled sleeping-sweet moment: “Delight yourself also in the Lord, And He shall give you the desires of your heart.” (Psalm 37:4). That simply means that to dream wonderful dreams, we must know the wonderful love of God the dreamgiver. “Behold what manner of love the Father has bestowed on us, that we should be called children of God! For that is what we are!”(1 John 3:1). There’s a ringing realisation that goes on here, in that last phrase. That is who you are! Loved! Liked! Appreciated!

If we don’t believe God has our best interests at heart, we won’t dream big dreams.

Lord, I believe, help thou my unbelief.” Open up my mind to dream for my family, my children, for my church and town, and nation. I want to enjoy your enjoyment of me and look much further than ever before, O God, my Dreamgiver. “All things are possible to the one who believes…”

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Considering Disappointment

 

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We are never really told how Moses felt when God announced to him that he would never enter into the Promised Land, that the Promise was going to be withheld.

After all those years of expectation and frustration.

“Therefore, you will see the land only from a distance; you will not enter the land I am giving to the people of Israel.” (Deut 35:52)

It’s possible that P.G.Wodehouse expressed something of it in the line: ““He had the look of one who had drunk the cup of life and found a dead beetle at the bottom.”

Life, according to Yeats,  is “a long preparation for something that never happens.”  But isn’t that the way of it for all of us? Aren’t we all rather like Moses? Or the guy with the dead beetle? We never really “arrive,” do we?

It’s part of the deep lie that drives the way we live. The advertising industry, for example, is  constructed upon the fallacy that if we only have such-and-such a product we will be complete.

But we never quite reach that Promised Land of Enough.

Nothing is ever enough. Work is disappointing. In spite of all the talk about making work more creative and self-fulfilling, most people hate their jobs, and with good reason. Most work in modern technological societies is intolerably dull and repetitive. The memory of my years on a production line, pressing two buttons in a certain subtle sequence, is ever with me…

Marriage and family life are disappointing. Even among defenders of traditional family values, a certain dreariness must be inferred, if only from the average time of TV viewing. Dreary as TV is, it is evidently not as dreary as the alternative of real conversation.

Apparently.

School is disappointing. If science is exciting and art is exhilarating, the schools and universities have achieved the not inconsiderable feat of rendering both dull. As every scientist and poet knows, one discovers both vocations in spite of, not because of, school. It takes years to recover from the sheer stupor of being taught Shakespeare in Eng Lit. When my wife gushes about the joy of Maths to adult students, that dead-beetle look flashes up, quick as a blink.

Politics is deeply disappointing. Most young people turn their backs on politics, not because of the lack of excitement of politics as it is practised, but because of the shallowness, venality, and image-making. It’s all so… so infantile.

The churches are disappointing, even for most believers. If Christ brings us new life, it is strange that His church, as bearer of this good news, should be among the most dispirited institutions of the age.  And the alternative spectacle of TV evangelists with their blown-dry hairdos does not evoke confidence, only that old dead-beetle look of somone encountering yet another snake-oil salesman on the doorstep just when they were about to eat their tea.

Now if all this has even a smidgeon of truth about it, then the Destination Point is not as significant as how you travel.

 “All these people were still living by faith when they died.  They did not receive the things promised; they only saw them and welcomed them from a distance.”     (Hebrews 11:3)

Distance creates a certain perspective.  Many of our problems seem overwhelming, but in time they may be overcome.  We may even forget that we once had them! Other problems we have will never be solved in this life.  We can dream about them, and hope for them, but never attain them. Moses spent a large part of his life reaching towards the promise of land, home, and safety, but never quite made it. The pilgrims of Hebrews 11 had a vision of something wonderful, but the promise of that perspective was never fulfilled. “All these people were still living by faith when they died. They did not receive the things promised.”

Isn’t that the same for us?

In one important -crucial – sense, we have to say: No! The writer to the Hebrews was not expressing how like Moses and the dead-beetle guy we are, but how different! They all looked towards something that never quite happened.

We have a different perspective.

In the person of Jesus, God came near to us. The word “Emmanuel” (which was given in a prophecy for the coming Messiah) meant “God with us.”

This was the point to which the writer to the Hebrews takes us. We are are no longer looking towards something at a distance, but standing upon the threshold of the Arrival Point. We are here, where God is, and where He has acted decisively on our behalf.Once and for all, “It is finished!” The New day has dawned.

And the last words Jesus spoke on earth were “I am with you always…” The Bible clearly teaches that God can be close to us, that we can experience an arrival point, right here in the journeying of our lives.

So how close does God seem to you today?

The writer acknowledges our condition, but encourages us: “Let us draw near to God with a sincere heart in full assurance of faith.”  (Hebrews 10:22)

Let us draw near to the One who has drawn near to us! The opposite of disappointment, I suppose, is appointment. And that sense of things being divinely “appointed” affects everything we do. It transforms marriage and family life, for a start. It reinvigorates the most mundane of work tasks into the offering of a “cup of cold water in my name,” (as Jesus put it).

And every job that you do, and evey task you undertake becomes a vocation.

I admit that TV and Politics require an enormous amount of redemption (!), but we are called to go into all the world and to be salt and light there, transforming everything from the inside out, and announcing that despite any appearance to the contrary, “The Kingdom of God is at hand.”

It’s the Jesus Way. It’s Living by Faith from our perspective. 

Jesus has broken the power of disapppointment.

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