Unfulfilled Promises and Dreams

By faith Abraham, when he was called, obeyed and set out for a place that he was going to receive as an inheritance. He went out, even though he did not know where he was going.
-Hebrews 11:8

If your promise or dream has not come true, you are naturally sad.

But it also means that God is working.  God is not done.

If your situation seems impossible, that doubly means God is at work.

God is going to do something in your life… If you let him.

This is the irony.

We are the only ones that can stand in the way of our destinies.

Because, God can overcome everything else.

But, he will not violate our will.

We must unfold our arms and raise our chins.

We must prepare ourselves, encourage ourselves, to be ready for God.

We must manage our attitude and keep the faith.

We don’t make it happen, but we let God take us there.

This means we will have to do things, say things, go places.

Because, faith is an action.

The Journey: Called, Going Out, and The Promise

By faith Abraham, when he was called, obeyed and set out for a place that he was going to receive as an inheritance. He went out, even though he did not know where he was going.

By faith he stayed as a foreigner in the land of promise, living in tents as did Isaac and Jacob, coheirs of the same promise. For he was looking forward to the city that has foundations, whose architect and builder is God.

By faith even Sarah herself, when she was unable to have children, received power to conceive offspring, even though she was past the age, since she considered that the one who had promised was faithful. Therefore, from one man—in fact, from one as good as dead—came offspring as numerous as the stars of the sky and as innumerable as the grains of sand along the seashore.

-Hebrews 11:8-12
We are all on a journey.

We are all called to go out, on a journey, towards something that we are waiting for.

The text says, “By faith Abraham, when he was called”.  Calling is not something for the few, but we are all called.  Put your name in that sentence.  What did you do when you were called?

It says that, “By faith”, he did what he did.  What did you do?  He went out.  He left behind.

Is calling something for the few?  Is calling only for the extraordinary person, or are we all called?

If you think calling is for only a certain small percentage of people, then let me ask you a question.  How did you get saved?  Are you going to tell me how you saved yourself or are you going to tell how how God saved you?

If God saved you and God is still saving you, part of your story is how you responded to God.  God did call you and you responded.

This issue of call brings up the question of what did you do.  It brings up personal responsibility.  When you were called, what did you do?

Like Abraham, did God’s call to you set into motion a chain of events that forever changed your life?  Was it like, “From this day on, everything changes”?

If you did not leave something, someone, and go out into the unknown, to follow the call of God; I might not believe that you have been called.  Because nobody stays the same after God calls them.

You might think that being called is something for the few, but that is not true.  If you are God’s child, he calls you.

People that say they are God’s child, but don’t have a call story, are probably not really a true follower, because God calls his followers.  You can be a fan, in the crowd, investigating, researching, trying it out, a student even, and following, but not called.  You may be all those things because he is calling you.

And that’s the key question, “Is God calling you, and are you answering the call?”  Then, the question is, “What are you doing to answer the call?”

Stepping back, what is the call?  In the Bible, when people are called, they leave things, they leave people, and they are forever changed.

When we are called, we leave and go; and we do it by faith.  That means, we go forward, without seeing where we are going.  That is what Abraham did, and Sarah went with him.

And the call had some specifics.  He was to go to an unknown geographic place and become a nation there.  This couple that did not have children were to become the father and mother of a nation, in a new geographic space, unknown to them.

Between the calling recognized or discerned and promise in the call being fulfilled or taken hold of, is the waiting time.  And the waiting is a journey we go on from call to realization.

And waiting is not passive.  In waiting, we are attentive to the calling becoming manifest in our life.

You can not get from hearing the call to seeing the promise come to pass unless you go on the journey that is between the two.

To hear the call and then stand by the door to the journey, but then never going on that journey, and then to complain that God’s call does not work out, is foolishness.  Because the call will not become fulfilled unless we leave and go into the unknown of the journey from calling to fulfillment

Abraham and Sarah were called into the journey and were also waiting for something.  The journey also called them to look for something.

It is perhaps ideal if you hear from God when you are a child and grow up serving him for the rest of your life.  But that is not Abraham’s story.  He was called in mid life.  He was 75.  He still had 100 years to go.

With today’s average lifespan for men at about 80 years, Abraham would have been about 34 years old when he was called.  He and Sarah did not have kids.  They had probably been married for a while and were living among their family.  Suddenly, God called them, speaking to Abraham, to leave his dad and their hometown and go to a totally different place.

This is how it is documented in Genesis 12:

The Lord said to Abram:

Go out from your land,
your relatives,
and your father’s house
to the land that I will show you.
I will make you into a great nation,
I will bless you,
I will make your name great,
and you will be a blessing.
I will bless those who bless you,
I will curse anyone who treats you with contempt,
and all the peoples on earth
will be blessed through you.
So Abram went, as the Lord had told him, and Lot went with him. Abram was seventy-five years old when he left Haran. He took his wife Sarai, his nephew Lot, all the possessions they had accumulated, and the people they had acquired in Haran, and they set out for the land of Canaan. -Genesis 12:1-4

Has God called you?  Where are you on a journey to? What are you waiting for? And, what are you looking for?

Abraham and Sarah had a lot of unknowns.  They did not know where they were going and they did not know when they would get there.  They also wanted to have a baby and they did not know if they would ever conceive.
As they grew older, they naturally would have given up hope.  But their story is that God intervened.  God promised them that they would conceive.
As far as I know, God only spoke to the Abraham, so Sarah had to trust that her husband had heard it right.
Our singular relationship to God comes first in our lives.  What is God showing me to do?  In a relationship there are two people who both want to obey and follow God.  Me and I becomes we and us.

We have to ask, what is God showing us to do?  What if you don’t see what God has shown me?  Will you trust me or do we have to wait for God to show you?

A husband gets a revelation, a calling, he says from God, to go, to leave, to uproot.  Maybe it is the other way, and the wife gets the call.

What if one spouse gets the calling and the other spouse is comfortable where they are?

Every couple has to work this out.

But what if God calls you?

We are all on a journey where God calls us out of something or somewhere and into something else that is largely or completely unknown.  This calling may be completely metaphorical or spiritual, and will later take shape in the natural, physical realm of houses, people, vocation, ministry opportunities, and assignments.

When you are called to leave, you may very well be called, like Abraham and Sarah, to leave without knowing, without something, anything lined up.  Your destination is unknown.

The calling is clear on the leaving part and not so clear on the destination part.

As Tolkien wrote, “All those who wander are not lost”.

We are all waiting for something and we are all on a journey.  We get to spend our time between now and the time of the waiting to be over.  Spending our time well is what we want to do.

We can waste time and we can not get it back, although God can redeem it.  Wasting time might be one of the worst things we can do.  Leisure and rest were invented by God.  We call it recreation.
Some Christians might think of life as spiritual and sinful.  Spiritual is devotions, Christian media, church, and edifying fellowship.  Sinful is worldliness, addictions, and fleshly things; like the list of attributes juxtaposed and antithetical to the fruit of the Spirit, described in Galatians five.
But what about life in Christ?  Did Jesus see life and live life in that bifocal way?
A wise man said, “begin with the end in mind”.  What is the end of your life?  What and who do you want to be at the end and where do you want to go and to whom?
When you settle those questions and perhaps refine them before God, you can set up goals for your life.
If you read all on Hebrews 11, there is a shocking line in there, that says that many people never receive the promise they were striving towards, here in their lives.  And it says that we ought to be inspired by them and live the way they did, as sojourners or strangers here.

These all died in faith, although they had not received the things that were promised. But they saw them from a distance, greeted them, and confessed that they were foreigners and temporary residents on the earth.  -Hebrews 11:13-14

Abraham was in the middle of his life when he was called to uproot and change everything, by following God into the unknown.  And he was five years older than his dad was when he was born.  I can imagine he was already getting concerned about his progeny.
Sarah found out that God was calling her to be a mother, not a step-mom or an aunt; but a mother who would conceive and give birth and raise a son.  
Life is made up of waiting and being on a journey.  We receive promises from God and then the promise works something in us, while we wait and walk forward in life.

This is the life many of us are living.

What are the questions that drive you?

Have you begun to understand your life in retrospect?

______________________________________________
The artwork is Rembrandt, “Abraham Caressing Isaac”

Leaving & Saying Goodbye

“And there was much weeping on the part of all; they embraced Paul and kissed him being sorrowful most of all because of the word he had spoken, that they would not see his face again. And they accompanied him to the ship.” -Acts 20:37-38 (ESV)

At Michael Jackson’s memorial service, Stevie Wonder tearfully sang Michael’s song, “Never Cared To Say Goodbye”.  Saying goodbye is hard and missed a lot of the time.  
When my dad died, we were an hour late, and missed saying goodbye.  When I left the church I loved and placed my key in the secretary’s desk and was walking out for the last time, I came across a lady who worked in one of my favorite ministries there, in the pastoral care area, and said goodbye, so that I could say it to someone.
The last time I was at another church I had been attending, I was lucky to have a moment alone with the senior pastor, a moment of peace in the midst of a crazy meeting that would be the last time I set foot there.  Years later, I took my wife to an event, at the church I had loved and left.  We were seated near and greeted by a very special man that I had known there.  He also was a medical professional who would show up later in my life, at the birth of my son.
Fast forward a few more years, and I saw another dear man from my old church, at a meeting, who had been and was very kind to me.  When I was engaged and first married, for about a year or two, my wife and I were often approached by people that had seen me at my old church, but we didn’t know each other’s names.
Before Christmas, someone I have worked with for decades resigned her position.  She stopped by my office and personally said goodbye.  Over the years, I can remember just a few people who did that, stopped by and said goodbye and I said goodbye to them.  
Most people don’t do that.  We don’t know how and it’s hard.  Sometimes we are leaving with so many feelings or under certain circumstances that it makes it too hard.
I am a car person.  I see cars as more than appliances.  I remember selling my first car and letting it go, in front of our house.  When my second car ‘died’, or was crippled by it’s starter breaking for the second time; I lost patience with it and left it, until I had it towed away.
I was sad when my third car started having problems after sinking tons of money into it, and decided I was tired of the clutch and the manual transmission.  I had very mixed feelings about letting it go.
My fourth car is the one I have had the longest, thirteen years.  Most of last year, I was planning on and looking for my fifth car, which I found right after Christmas.  I have been saying goodbye to car number four, for a while now.  I cleaned it out yesterday and started making arrangements to give it away.
I was blessed to have four grandparents in my life, all the way through into early adulthood.  Before my grandmother that I was closest to died, I was able to say goodbye, over a six month period, when she was in the hospital and a care facility, run by the same Catholic hospital network where I was born.
Most of my life, goodbyes have not been great, but sometimes they have.  And sometimes when it has been difficult, God has provided unconventional ways of seeing and being with people I have departed from, once again, and saying hello to them with grace; knowing that the lack of good goodbyes before is covered by grace and love.  No bitterness and complete forgiveness.
In some churches, they give going away parties to people who need to move out of the area, due to work or family.  But, if you decide to change churches or try something else; that’s a different matter.
I knew someone who agonized about leaving his church, to join another one on the other side of town.  He wrote a letter to the lead pastor, a guy he went to school with; and got no reply.  But, another staff pastor did acknowledge him.
There is a tradition of leaving with the blessing or being sent by those you leave.  This is beautiful when it happens, but often does not.  I remember when I decided to leave my homegroup and join a different one.  I called to say goodbye and they blessed my leaving.  When I could not attend that next group because of my school schedule, I was able to tell them and that was cool too.
It was painful when we stopped meeting with another couple for church, who did finally move too far away.  We saw them, with our boys, a couple of months ago and said hello over a number of hours, and loved one another as if we had never been apart, because they are family forever.
The one time in my life, that I did greeting ministry: I was one of the greeters at the front door of our church on a Sunday morning, when I normally did not attend in the morning, but the evening service, because most of the time I worked at my ‘day job’ on Sunday mornings.  That was the morning that it was announced that our pastor had suddenly stepped down, that past week.  My job was to be the face of the church that day, that greeted everyone, as they came to be shocked by very bad news.
I also remember that at a large funeral, a few years later; when a person who had not said goodbye to me very well, years earlier, must have spotted me and crossed a large room, and apologized, and we covered our goodbye with forgiveness and grace.
About two years ago, before my wife’s dad died, who I was praying my heart out that he would not die; the last time I saw him, I told him for the first and only time, that I loved him.  That was my goodbye that I could not bear to say and I am so glad that I said it.

Give Me This Mountain

Now therefore, give me this mountain of which the Lord spoke in that day.

-Joshua 14:12a (NKJV)
Have you asked God to give you your mountain?  Have you considered that God has a mountain with your name on it?  Do you have a big dream that God has put in your heart that you are waiting to be fulfilled?
Joshua, chapter fourteen, tells the story of Caleb asking for and being given his inheritance.  That’s the mountain.  He is saying here, to Joshua, that he wants that particular mountain; and that it is what God promised to him, long ago:

Then the children of Judah came to Joshua in Gilgal. And Caleb the son of Jephunneh the Kenizzite said to him: “You know the word which the Lord said to Moses the man of God concerning you and me in Kadesh Barnea. I was forty years old when Moses the servant of the Lord sent me from Kadesh Barnea to spy out the land, and I brought back word to him as it was in my heart. Nevertheless my brethren who went up with me made the heart of the people melt, but I wholly followed the Lord my God. So Moses swore on that day, saying, ‘Surely the land where your foot has trodden shall be your inheritance and your children’s forever, because you have wholly followed the Lord my God.’ And now, behold, the Lord has kept me alive, as He said, these forty-five years, ever since the Lord spoke this word to Moses while Israel wandered in the wilderness; and now, here I am this day, eighty-five years old. As yet I am as strong this day as on the day that Moses sent me; just as my strength was then, so now is my strength for war, both for going out and for coming in. Now therefore, give me this mountain of which the Lord spoke in that day; for you heard in that day how the Anakim were there, and that the cities were great and fortified. It may be that the Lord will be with me, and I shall be able to drive them out as the Lord said.”

And Joshua blessed him, and gave Hebron to Caleb the son of Jephunneh as an inheritance. Hebron therefore became the inheritance of Caleb the son of Jephunneh the Kenizzite to this day, because he wholly followed the Lord God of Israel. And the name of Hebron formerly was Kirjath Arba (Arba was the greatest man among the Anakim).

Then the land had rest from war.

-Joshua 14:6-15 (NKJV)
It was not rude for Caleb to ask, it was assertive.  Being assertive is a good thing. 

Jesus always responded to people who asked for things and teaches us to ask God.

Caleb was asking for something he wanted and that God had promised him.  Somehow at some point, long ago, Caleb saw that mountain and maybe God said something to him, in his heart, that was like, “that’s yours”.

Stop and think about it.  God wants to give cities, companies, blocks, buildings, and spheres of influence to his people.  What God has for us is so much more than huddling in church and having a great relationship with Him in private.

It is notable that Caleb was 85 years old, and that he was not born into one of the tribes of Israel, but was a proselyte.  Caleb was a descendent of Edom, who were descendants of Esau.  Caleb was a Gentile, adopted into Israel, into the tribe of Judah.

Caleb is part of the list of heroes in the Old Testament times, who were not born Jewish.  Two other renown people, who end up in Jesus family line are Rahab the prostitute, who was an Amorite, and Ruth the Moabitess, who gets her own story of redemption written up in the book of Ruth.

You might be concerned that you don’t have the right pedigree to be used by God, because your life’s resume is unconventional.  But the truth is that God’s story in your life is what qualifies you, and not your resume or connections.

Today, there are people over 40 who think they are too old, when the complete opposite is true.  Every age has advantages.  There is a reason why the government does not draft people to be in the armed forces, during times of war, who are over a certain age.  Young adults do have the most energy.

But, as you get older, you gain a lot of other things.  Life experience and wisdom are gained over time.  Every person should have older people, a generation ahead; who are in their lives for guidance, mentoring, and counsel.

Your older friends should be your most valuable relationships.  If you are in your twenties, look for people in their forties or fifties.  If you are in your thirties, look for people in their fifties and sixties.

When we visited and became a part of a church 7 or 8 years ago, I went straight to the oldest person in the room and sat with her and became her friend.  I usually do that at any gathering.  My oldest friend is 93.

I didn’t come up with this idea, but have been prompted by God and just said yes.  The oldest people are the ones with the most gold in terms of wisdom and life experience.

Caleb’s story excites me, because I believe there are many, many people, who are over 40; mostly in their 50’s, 60’s, and 70’s; with a few in their 80’s and 90’s, who have yet to receive their inheritance of destiny and ministry on earth; whom are about to receive it. 

Many of us, who are over 40; with probably the highest concentration of people in their low 60’s, received a call or got a vision of their destiny or inheritance, from God, years and decades ago, that has not really come forth yet.

A bunch of us are like Caleb.  Like him, we have waited and been faithful to God.  Many, most, or all of our friends or kin, that we started with are gone, but we are still here, before God.

Now, the time finally comes to claim our promised inheritance, from God.  That season is upon us.  I don’t know how it will happen or exactly when it will happen, but I believe that this is what is going to happen.

I am encouraged and want you to be encouraged, especially if you are over 40 and have lived with the feeling that maybe you missed it and your inheritance is lost.  Whether you just turned 40 and are saying “now what?”, or you just turned 90 and gave up long ago; God is faithful.

Caleb is not the story of an extraordinary man.  It is the story, like many others, of God’s faithfulness.  God was faithful to Abraham, Moses, Caleb, David; and you and I.  That is His story. 

The story here is that Caleb saw something, a piece of land.  And he had an experience with God, where God said, “that’s yours”.  Then, a bunch of time went by.
Finally, the time came when everyone in Israel was going in to take the promised land.  Various tribes were being assigned portions of land.  In that context, Caleb spoke up.
Here is the application that this has for us.  We may have had an experience with God, a dream, a vision, God’s voice, a prophetic word, or a strong ‘knowing’ that has been refined over time and is still strong.  That experience was when we heard or saw, from God, our mountain.
Your experience, long ago was perhaps not super clear or maybe is was clear, about your mountain.  And then time went by, years or decades.  It was forty-five years for Caleb.
These long periods of time for the Bible characters teach us that it is never too late or that we are not alone, if it has been many years and even decades for us.
The time for the fulfillment of the promise does finally come.  In those forty-five years, it is very possible that Caleb forgot about his promise or was not sure about it, based on all of the negative things that happened over that time.  But he was faithful to God over that time.

Faith does not mean you understand.  It means you trust.

It was never up to Caleb to fulfill the promise or make it happen.  Only when the time finally came, was it up to him to step up and say, “I want what God promised me, long ago”.
We can be encouraged that the time is coming, when we are finished with our waiting period in the wilderness.  The promise has always been for a time, in the future.  And the future will finally come into the present.
One week, one year, or tens of years after hearing God’s promise; Caleb may have prayed, cried out to God, “Give me my mountain!”  And nothing changed.  He was stuck with his obstinate people, for over forty years.
But, over that time, a whole new generation was born and grew up.  They heard about the past, about Egypt, but they were born in the wilderness and that is the only life they knew.  And maybe they heard about the promises of God, about the land of promise.
The time finally came, when all the people were called by God, to enter into the promised land.  That is when Caleb claimed his promise.  When the time finally comes, we can claim our promise too.
The mountain (some translations say ‘hill country’, or ‘mountain region’) is your assignment, your place of work, your place of opportunity, or your area of service.  There is a mountain with your name on it, yet unclaimed.
Your mountain is your assignment.  Your mountain is where God has designed you for and destined you to be.  Your mountain is your ministry, your calling, and your sphere of influence.  Your mountain is your inheritance.
Like Caleb, we must ask for and claim our promise.  There is a continuous discernment process and refinement of what our mountain is.  And we must ask for it.
God give us gifts that are complete surprises, that are like a package sent to us.  We receive it and open it and enjoy it and are thankful for it.  But, with promises, we often have pursue God and go after it.
Babies get total care.  Children get lots of care and begin to take responsibility and be held accountable.  And adults still get a lot of free gifts, but mostly have to work and totally be responsible for their lives and well being.
Inheriting our destinies takes some work on our part.  That work is not legalism or works righteousness.  It is endurance, faithfulness, courage, and bravery.  This might be what, “many are called, but few are chosen”, means.

What I am saying is that there is a paradox, in that we do have to work to inherit the promises; but we do not inherit them through works.  Faith is never passive.  Real faith is an action.  Real faith is tested in refining trials.

It’s all grace, but with courageous perseverance.  That is the faith.

God has unlimited resources, but we limit ourselves in what we ask or what we believe for.  The problem is not on God’s end.  But there is not some lever that we get to pull, and what we ask for appears.

Faith is made real through faithfulness, which is faith acted upon, based on the belief in the faithfulness of God.  Faith is not faith unless it is faithful.  And faithfulness involves living out your faith

If we do not pursue God or pursue his promises, we probably won’t get much extra, beyond the baseline.  But if we go after the promises and pursue God, something may happen.  I personally believe that something always happens, when we pursue God, but it might be invisible to us our outside of our knowing.
God sees and hears every prayer and all our pursuits of him.  Exercises of faith are noted and have effect.  And if you pray for the wrong reasons, God deals with that.  James says that we have not because we ask not and that sometimes when we do ask, we don’t receive, because we ask with the wrong motives. (James 4:2-3)
Here are some points to pray about your mountain:
  • Give me my mountain.
  • Let me see my mountain.
  • Bring me to my mountain.
  • Bring my mountain to me.
  • Let me ascend my mountain.
  • Give me the place you have chosen for me on that mountain.
  • Give me a home on my mountain.
  • Let me receive a living on my mountain
  • Let me stand on my mountain.
  • Give me sherpas, guides, or angels; to help me climb my mountain.
  • Let me breathe the air on my mountain.
  • Let me be on that mountain.
  • Give me the ministry on that mountain that you have desired for me.

Searching

Every year His parents traveled to Jerusalem for the Passover Festival. When He was 12 years old, they went up according to the custom of the festival.  After those days were over, as they were returning, the boy Jesus stayed behind in Jerusalem, but His parents did not know it.  Assuming He was in the traveling party, they went a day’s journey.  Then they began looking for Him among their relatives and friends.  When they did not find Him, they returned to Jerusalem to search for Him.  After three days, they found Him in the temple complex sitting among the teachers, listening to them and asking them questions. And all those who heard Him were astounded at His understanding and His answers.  When His parents saw Him, they were astonished, and His mother said to Him, “Son, why have You treated us like this? Your father and I have been anxiously searching for You.”

“Why were you searching for Me?” He asked them. “Didn’t you know that I had to be in My Father’s house?” But they did not understand what He said to them.

Then He went down with them and came to Nazareth and was obedient to them. His mother kept all these things in her heart.

-Luke 2:41-51
I am searching for something right now and it is consuming me.  I have been preoccupied with it.  I have let my search stress me out to the point that I have been too anxious about it.
This story, from Luke chapter two, came to my mind.  In this story, the boy Jesus stayed behind in Jerusalem, after the festival was over; when his mom and dad, family and friends left.  Their group was big enough and Mary and Joseph were trusting enough of Jesus maturity, that when they travelled, they did not need to always have an eye on him.
I can really identify with them, because my son is eleven years old.  He is right at the age where we do not have to keep an eye on him all the time.  But we are still concerned about where he is and with whom.
I know exactly what the panic must have felt like for Mary and Joseph.  They were one day’s journey away from Jerusalem, when they realized they lost him.  Talk about losing something or someone special.
I’m talking about losing your own child.  When I became a parent, the stories of children being abducted struck horror in my heart.  I took it all for granted, before I became the parent of a beautiful little boy.
When Jesus parents realized he was unaccounted for, they first looked among the whole group that was travelling with them.  Maybe he was there somewhere?  But he was not.
So, they made their way back to Jerusalem, and looked all over, perhaps retracing their steps.  Then, they got to the temple complex and there he was, seated with the rabbis.  He was so engaged in the discussion that he hardly noticed mom and dad walk up.
Joseph and Mary perhaps had the chance to hear Jesus words as he dialogued with the teachers and saw the amazement at what he had to say.  Luke does not tell us that they scooped Jesus up or that they said, “Thank God, you are ok!”  Nope.
Instead, we are told that they rebuked him: “Son, why have you treated us like this?”  Mary was calling him to responsibility.  She is speaking to him, like we might speak to our 15, 16 or 17 year old; because maturity and responsibility came at a younger age in first century Jewish culture.
We say that someone becomes an adult at age 18 and the truth is that many young people do not even become adults today until their mid-twenties.  And the markers of adulthood are maturity and responsibility.
In that culture, where Jesus grew up, age twelve was the transition from boyhood to manhood.  He is more mature than our twelve year olds.  He is ready to be a man.
Have you wondered where he spent the night?  Probably at the place where one of those teachers lived or at the temple.  Have you wondered if those teachers would have asked him about his parents or if he should be going home?
Whatever those conversations entailed of if they happened at all, there he was.  
I had scenes in my childhood, when I ventured out of my mom’s sight and she lost me.  My mom was very upset.  I know the phrase, “Where have you been?”, when I was perfectly fine, in my mind, and having an adventure or just enjoying myself with others.
Mary’s rebuke to Jesus, “Why have you treated us like this”, puts the blame for her anxious turmoil onto the boy.  He neither responds with “Sorry, my bad”, nor, “Don’t talk to me like that”.  
Instead, he gently turns the issue back to her and reminds her that God, His Father, is the center of his life; even though he is rightly related to his earthly parents.  Jesus is teaching me how to talk to my mom.
In the same section of scripture, it says that Mary and Joseph were Jesus parents and that he also has The Father as his father.  This is important, because Luke is underscoring that Jesus was human and divine.  He was not delivered, as a baby or a boy, from heaven; but came out of Mary.
They lost him and were searching, searching, searching for him.  But all along, there he was, at the temple, consumed with his Father’s things.  These are the first words we have of Jesus: “Didn’t you know that I had to be in my Father’s house?”
This is our English language rendering, and in the HCSB that I am using here.  The oldest translation that we are commonly familiar with, the King James, says, “Knew ye not that I must be about My Father’s business?”  But what it literally says is something like, “did ye not know that in the things of my Father it behoveth me to be?’
That is how we get the idea that Jesus was saying something like, “Didn’t you know that I am all about being consumed by the things of my Father?”  Jesus did not say the word “house”.  House is in our translations  there because the translators would say that it is implied.
Jesus is saying that they should have known that he would be at the temple, the figurative ‘house of God’, involved in the discourse with people about the things of God.
The motif of this story, for me is ‘searching’.  We could say that the human perspective was of the parents and their tribe, searching for the lost boy.  Searching equals seeking.  They were seeking the boy while the boy was seeking or involved with the work of  seeking God.
They were seeking Jesus, all the while Jesus was involved with the pursuit of the things of the Father.  Jesus did not take a detour to an alone place to seek or be with the Father.  Jesus went to or stopped and stayed at the place where people gathered to discuss God things.
This is where we get the phrase, “I had to be about my Father’s business”.  What is the Father’s business?  It is God’s whole enterprise of loving and saving the people in the world he created.
Today, I am seeking something or a number of somethings.  And at the same time, Jesus is seeking or all about, as in ‘consumed’ with something.  I believe Jesus cares about what I am searching for, but mainly to the extent that he cares about me.
He loves me and he is consumed with the Father’s business.  I am searching for something, while he is involved with doing what he sees the Father doing.
What I am searching for is not bad.  Some people in the world must search for their daily food each day.  Jesus is not too busy discussing theology with the teachers to care about his people.
He does care and he does understand.  But where we get in trouble is when we stress out in our searching for whatever and I am assuming here that we are searching for something wholesome.  Something we do not want to do is to  stress out and then say to Jesus, “Why did you do this to me?”
My grandmother never touched alcohol and never went to a 12-step group, but she had the serenity prayer on a plaque, above the kitchen sink.  I grew up, looking at that prayer, and thinking about it.
“God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I can not change; courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.”
People who blame God and do not accept responsibility and and do not take the initiative are not developing spiritually, and are half-baked and stunted in becoming men and women, and staying childish.
Another remarkable thing about this story is that it says that Jesus went with them, back to Nazareth, in obedience.  Let that sink in.  He just showed them that he was ready and they did not get it.
Instead of forcing himself on them, he submitted himself to them.  This should blow our minds and massively teach us something about submission.  God was ready, but they were not ready to let go.
This is how it is so often with us in our lives.  We think we are waiting on God.  “Why is he taking so long!”, we say.  And all along, God is waiting for us.
Jesus and history had to wait 18 years.  When he left home at age 30, his family still did not get it.  They had lived with him and did not get him.
This is very sad in a sense, but should also encourage you, if your family does not get you.
It is really nice when people get you, understand you, to the best of their human abilities.  But the default position or the case that is most common, is that they won’t get you.  And then there is the whole range of the ones you love actually opposing you.
When we fast forward to when Jesus is 30 and begins his public ministry, in one of his first times of teaching, they love it, but then say, “Wait a minute, isn’t this Joseph’s son?”  Somehow, many people can’t wrap their heads around ordinary people becoming extraordinary because of God in their lives.  Instead, they want to see extraordinary people as gods.
The whole ethos of Christianity is that God in Christ comes into you and makes you a person in-Christ, that Christ works through and points to God.
What does this story from when Jesus was 12 have in it for me and what might it have for you?  I am searching.  I am always searching for something to one extent or another.
Sometimes my searching overwhelms me and I get stressed out.  I am tired and I need rest.  That is first.
Then there is the issue where I realize that I am missing God.  I have been praying about my search to God, but maybe not enough because my search has taken me away from God’s presence.  Maybe I need to search a bit less or pray more or perhaps wait on God more?
What about time out for recreation?  But if my search is desperate, like for food or water or a place to stay when all the places say ‘no vacancy’, I probably do need to pray more and practice God’s presence. 
It is all grace right?  Not my works that make life happen.  But faith is only real if it is tested and tried.
The circumstances of life test and try our faith to make it genuine.  Faith involves risk and when we risk we do often fail.  But God loves riskers who fail.
It is worse to do nothing than to do something that fails.
I am searching.  Will Jesus follow me in my search and make it work out? I am supposed to be following him.  But I can ask him to grant me success in my search.  I can pray as I consider things and choose things.
I would rather be with him wherever he is.  When I am searching and he is not with me, that is not his fault.  I left him behind and he never left me.
Rather than doing a comprehensive search and then getting overwhelmed and saying “Where are you in all this?”, I want to be with him and then put my head on his chest and ask him about it.

I’ll Be Home For Christmas

By an act of faith, Abraham said yes to God’s call to travel to an unknown place that would become his home.

When he left he had no idea where he was going. By an act of faith he lived in the country promised him, lived as a stranger camping in tents. Isaac and Jacob did the same, living under the same promise. Abraham did it by keeping his eye on an unseen city with real, eternal foundations—the City designed and built by God.

By faith, barren Sarah was able to become pregnant, old woman as she was at the time, because she believed the One who made a promise would do what he said. That’s how it happened that from one man’s dead and shriveled loins there are now people numbering into the millions.

Each one of these people of faith died not yet having in hand what was promised, but still believing. How did they do it? They saw it way off in the distance, waved their greeting, and accepted the fact that they were transients in this world. 

People who live this way make it plain that they are looking for their true home. 
If they were homesick for the old country, they could have gone back any time they wanted. But they were after a far better country than that—heaven country. You can see why God is so proud of them, and has a City waiting for them.

-Hebrews 11:8-16 (MSG)

Will you be home for Christmas?  What does coming home represent?  What does Christmas mean?

  • Coming home means reconciliation with God or reunion with your family.  
  • Coming home means placing your life on the journey towards God.
  • Coming home means traveling into the journey towards God.
  • Coming home means traveling towards your home in God.
  • Coming home means traveling towards your heavenly home with God.

What does Christmas really mean?

  • Mass carries with it the idea of taking communion or the eucharist and then going into the world.  
    • Going into the world, on the mission of God in Christ.  
    • Mass is where we take the eucharist, receiving the blessing of the bread and wine.  
    • Thankfulness is expressed.  
    • At the dismissal, we go out, in Christ, into the world, carrying God’s mission in Christ.
That’s ‘Mass’.

Christ means Messiah, Anointed One and the Son of God, who is endowed or invested with the authority of God.

Christmas means, ‘Christ’s Mass’.  The meaning is ‘Christ & Eucharist’, which means that Christ has come as the blessed gift that we partake of for salvation.  Taking Christ into our lives, who saves us and takes over our lives, transforming us and taking us into his mission; is the whole idea.

What is coming home, going home, finding home or traveling home all about?  We say a person ‘went home’ to refer to their passing from life, through death, and then into God’s presence.

I think that the whole Bible is about finding home and coming there.  God is our home and through Christ we come home.  Coming home means reconciliation with God and reunion with our family.
I think that Abraham and Sarah’s story encapsulates the story of the people of God, about our homecoming.

This is what we learn, from Abraham and Sarah; and that can apply to us:

  • They left their known home to go to the home God had for them.
    • This is the same for all disciples of Jesus.  He calls us to follow him, often away from our ‘know homes’, to his ‘unknown home’.
  • Their only map was God.
    • Jesus’ call to us of, “Follow me”, only has in it, us and him.
    • Jesus does not tell us where he is taking us.
  • God said, “Go out into the unknown”, and they obeyed.
    • Trusting Jesus, even blindly is discipleship 101.
  • When they got there, they lived there as strangers, in portable housing.
    • Surprisingly, they did not take over or buy and build.
      • The disciple of Jesus is a stranger and sojourner on earth.
      • The number one thing is to make a home in God, while living in the world.
  • Their home was built on faith before being built with brick and mortar.
    • And they taught and trained their children to live the same way.
      • Making a home in God, on earth is the task of the disciple.
      • The home of our lives becomes the evangelistic door for people to meet God.
      • Building the spiritual comes first before building the material.
      • The height of spirituality is to find your home and living space in God.
  • God gave this couple their child when they were barren and past their prime.
    • They conceived what was inconceivable.
      • The story of God is making the weak strong, the blind see and the lame walk.
      • God takes the people that the world would reject and makes something good out of them.
      • God loves to provide, answer prayers and heal us.
  • Their faith was such that they were ok with not getting what God promised, yet.
    • Instead, they continually grew in their trust and revelation of God’s faithfulness.
      • We learn that our faith is more about growing in being loved by God and knowing his faithfulness, rather than getting stuff.
      • Maturing faith that is ‘no matter what faith’, that is like Job’s.
  • They discovered and were transformed into ‘heavenly-home-hearted people’.
    • On earth, they learned to make heaven their home.
      • Serenity, tranquility and contentment were theirs.
  • Rather than go back to where they were born and raised, they continually chose God’s upward call to ‘heaven country’, even while they lived in the desert on earth. 
    • Disciples of Jesus don’t look back.
    • Disciples of Jesus continually choose to not go back, but prefer barrenness and a desert wasteland, pursuing God’s call, rather than the easier life, in the place they came out of.
The whole message of the Hebrews 11 story of Abraham and Sarah is traveling towards God’s home for them.  And on that journey, they participated in making their home in God.
This has always been God’s call for all believers.  That is the point that the writer or preacher of the Hebrews letter is making.
For anyone who has either had an unfulfilling Christian life or is just beginning their journey, this is what it is all about.  Coming home and being home.
God has wanted his people to come home to him, make their homes in him and for them to have their lives be a home for him to live in.  This has always been God’s plan from Adam and Eve, through Moses and David’s times and up to when Jesus walked the earth and then into the present.
Look for and listen.  Open your heart to the possibility of your life changing.  Anticipate coming home for Christmas.

I’ll be home for Christmas
You can plan on me
Please have snow and mistletoe
And presents on the tree
Christmas Eve will find me
Where the love light gleams
I’ll be home for Christmas
If only in my dreams
I’ll be home for Christmas
You can plan on me
Please have snow and mistletoe
And presents on the tree
Christmas Eve will find me
Where the love light gleams
I’ll be home for Christmas
If only in my dreams

Songwriters: Buck Ram / Kim Gannon / Walter Kent

The Journey into Union With God

I long and yearn for the courts of the Lord;
My heart and flesh cry out for the living God.

Even a sparrow finds a home, and a swallow, a nest for herself
where she places her young— near Your altars,

Lord of Hosts, my King and my God.
How happy are those who reside in Your house,
who praise You continually.
Selah

Happy are the people whose strength is in You,
whose hearts are set on pilgrimage.
As they pass through the Valley of Baca,
they make it a source of springwater;
even the autumn rain will cover it with blessings.
They go from strength to strength;
each appears before God in Zion.

-Psalm 84:2-7
The center of life is union with God.  We all have all kinds of things we are involved in and all sorts of relationships.  A common misconception is that life is about building things like a family, a business, a ministry, a following, a resume, an education or gaining wisdom, wealth or fame.
These are really the incidentals to life, that while being good and important, are not the center of life.  The center of life is union with God.  If we do not make union with God the center of our lives, we become off center, misguided, unhappy and discontent.
Psalms like Psalm 84 are not meant to be nor have the meaning of how wonderful it is to go to church, for Christians.  These songs are not about the longing and desire to get to corporate worship times.  Pieces like this one are prophetic poems about union with God in the life of the believer.
The courts of the Lord is God’s presence.  The psalmist tell us that in his next refrain: “My heart and flesh cry out for the living God.”  The longing is not for congregational singing nor for contemporary worship, but for union with God who is the center of my life.
God is my source, my wellspring and my only hope.  That is who and what I long for.  That is who I must have and who I must and need to be with.
Without God, front and center, in my thoughts and affecting my heart; my life falls apart.  I have an overwhelming desire for God and to be with God.
Every day, there is an opportunity for all sorts of things to creep into my life and crowd out my relationship with God.  I never lose God, but sometimes these things turn my attention away from God.  And I don’t like that and don’t want that.
I want God to be front and center in my life, in my thoughts and in how I see, hear and feel life and the people I come into contact with.
The psalmist looks and sees the birds who have found their homes, in and on the temple of God.  He sees this as a powerful metaphor of living in God’s presence and making that your home where you create your own and give birth and raise your own families.
Next, the psalmist gives us a picture of how a life of pursuing God works in daily lives.  We are each on a journey, on a road or a pilgrimage to God.  We are all people on our way to heaven.
That is what life is about, being on our way to God.  Everything that we go through or that happens to us is raw material that is a bridge to union with God.  Since mankind fell, life has been hard; and every hardship is softened and transformed by relationship with God.
Being a believer has always been an inside job.  We are changed, transformed and live from the inside out.  The strength of the Lord is deposited into our hearts through grace and by faith, resting on God’s steadfast love or faithfulness.  From the strength God provides in a heart under His care, that has begun its journey, the life of the believer is lived.
The Valley of Baca is the place of weeping.  We all pass through places of sadness. We have losses: disappointments, failures, injustices, seeming silence from God, betrayals, sicknesses, setbacks and loneliness.
The valley of weeping is part of the journey.  There are three things to know about this place of sadness on our journeys:
  1. It is unavoidable.
  2. Our time there is finite.
  3. We get to take our sorrow and see it transformed, redeemed and recompensed.
When we encounter sorrow, how we respond is important.  Children do react and respond childishly, but adults need to face troubles in a grown up way.  “God, help me to grow up, before I grow old”, we say.
Being in denial or sinking into shame are two examples of the wrong way to respond to sorrowful circumstances.  Another destructive one is to get stuck in anger.  
We can not and should not avoid our valleys of weeping, because they are a place of transformation.  With every sorrow or thing that makes you sorrowful, there is a gift attached.  Where their is sorrow, we get to find wells of living water or springs of nourishment.
In the same place where we feel the pain of loss or disappointment, God has already provided sustenance and living waters.  A place of springwater is just below the surface in our valley of tears.  We just have to dig down and find it.
God never blesses us small.  God’s blessings are overflowing and there is always extra.  And that is the picture of autumn rains falling on us in that valley of tears.
The place of revival or renewal 
is in our daily routine lives 
as we meet with God 
in our circumstances of life 
that are sometimes sad.  
The place of revival or renewal is in our daily routine lives as we meet with God in our circumstances of life that are sometimes sad.  God puts a deposit in us at the beginning of our journeys and that deposit accrues interest and our benefactor puts in more deposits along the way.  But we also procure our find compensation that has our names on it, in the midst of the sorrows of our lives.
Bravery is called for for every adult saint.  We valiantly face our trials, setbacks and failures; and go forward, finding new grace packages in the place where we are lamenting.  And God transforms us into the image of Christ.
Even in the greatest of losses, that are shocking, God has reviving waters stored up for us.  God takes wrecked lives and transforms, renews, heals and redeems them.  The greater the loss, the greater the work that God has in store to recover us.
Our hearts are set on the journey of union with God.  We see the birds, raising their families, in and on the temple, as a picture of living our lives in, towards and to God; living lives of worship and service to God.  And then, we embrace the reality of small and large losses and sorrows along the journey and we discover that God has hidden help and sustenance waiting for us, to strengthen us; making us more godly.
Life is a journey into union with God.  That is the center from which life is lived and sustained.  

It is a New Day

A new day will dawn on us from above because our God is loving and merciful.
He will give light to those who live in the dark and in death’s shadow.
-Luke 1:78 (God’s Word translation)

I have noticed that it’s a new day.  I don’t know if you have noticed, but I thought I would mention it.  Something new is happening or ready to happen.
Change has been in the air for some time.  The atmosphere has been changing and a new time is here.
Many things have not changed, but it is still a new day.  I still have many of the same problems.  But it is a new day, so the way I am facing those problems is a bit different.
Not only is it a new day, a new time and a new season; but I am becoming aware that I have changed or been changed.  And as I look around, at the people in my life, it seems they have been changed too.
In the new day, I believe I can expect new things.  And I do, but I don’t know what they will be.  I have learned that God’s gifts are often different and better than what I would imagine.

Pilgrimage, Journey, Story and The Ultimate Goal

They go from strength to strength; each appears before God in Zion.

-Psalm 84:7
All of life is a journey, a story and a pilgrimage.  We are sojourners and pilgrims.  We are pilgrims making progress and we are pilgrims who are pioneer explorers, on our way somewhere.
The life of the believer is not static.  If we do not move, we will be moved, backwards.  We are always being called to move forward, upward and onward: from strength to strength.
We are always gaining new skills as we go further along in the journey.  The skills are things like humility, graciousness and deeper and wider love.  
As believers, we are growing up and the fruit of the Spirit that grows in our lives is deeper in flavor and in the exquisiteness of its refreshment.  As we are built and strengthened, we are growing up before we grow old.
The further on that we go, from strength to strength, we have better discernment and we are more patient with others.  We talk less and listen more.
The further along we go, the better that we are able to love in agape, sacrificial, unselfish Christ-like love.  A sign or example of someone who has been on the strength to strength journey with God, is that they handle challenging people with more grace, love and forgiveness.
There is a saying that, “Even the Lone Ranger had Tonto”.  Going solo in your whole life is a no no.  
Have you ever looked at the V formation of birds, particularly migratory birds, in flight.  Birds, designed by God, often practice shared leadership, in flocks.  Migratory birds would not be able to make their long journey without shared leadership.
We need the support and shared leadership of others, for our journey.  God did not design us to “go it” or be alone.  Sin is bad and destructive.  But a human condition that is deemed “not good” is being alone.  We need a companion, we need a friend; and the best way to find a companion or a friend is to be one to a variety of people and some of these will stick (around).  There is a proverb that says to find a friend, be friendly.
We are plural as friends, family, church and community; but we are each, singularly on a journey to God.  And God, Elohim, is plural.  God is three in one and the God who appears in different ways, but is still the God, God, the only true God.
We are on a journey together, but as individuals.  Each one of us has our own relationship with God.  Some or much of it is secret and intimate, although we share with others about our relationship.  I am ultimately seeking God in an “I Thou” relationship or encounter.
Even though I am one of Jesus’ disciples, in the larger group, he says to me as an individual, “follow me”.  If I ask him about someone else and their walk with him, he will usually tell me to love that person, and follow Him.  His dealings with others are sometimes instructive, but I am ultimately responsible for myself and what he has called me to do and be.  And my quest is to follow him and obey him and become who he is making me to be and do what he has for me to do.
We together are sojourners, on a journey together, with those we live with or have partnered, aligned or been made family with through Christ in the church.  Our whole groups depend on our leaders who spearhead our journey together and make choices when there are a number of options on the path.  And sometimes there is a disagreement and we reason together and prefer one another while sharing wisdom and passionate desires in what or how we think God is guiding us, and we seek for a consensus.
We all have the ultimate goal of seeing God face to face and hearing God say words to us individually.  We all have the goal of resting in God now and forever.  The goal of life for believers is to be with God and that is what animates and gives fuel, inspiration and endurance for the whole journey of our life stories.

2017: Double For Your Trouble, Strength To Strength & The Call To Consume From God

Happy New Year!  I believe that this is going to be our best year yet.  Whether you are under ten or over ninety, I believe that is true.  My wife said to me, “You always say that!”

Yes, I believe every year is a good year; but I believe this one is going to be a very good one.  I went to bed on the 31st, with a smile on my face and I hope you did too.

I also know that people are suffering, and I know that God comforts people who are hurting and going through all sorts of losses and trials.

I do not believe in denial.  Our Lord Jesus is familiar with suffering and acquainted with grief.  He is our Savior in the blues as well as in the celebration.

Three Words for 2017

Double For Your Trouble

Because you got a double dose of trouble and more than your share of contempt, Your inheritance in the land will be doubled and your joy go on forever.

-Isaiah 61:7 (MSG)
God is going to give us a double blessing for the trouble that we went through.
Watch for God to fill up the losses and overflow them with double joy.
What we lost will be given back double.

From Strength To Strength

Happy are the people whose strength is in You, whose hearts are set on pilgrimage.
As they pass through the Valley of Baca, they make it a source of springwater; even the autumn rain will cover it with blessings.
They go from strength to strength; each appears before God in Zion.

-Psalm 84:5-7 (HCSB)
In 2017, we will go from strength to strength.  We were strengthened in 2016.  We will build upon what we gained and go further in 2017.  
2016 was not a wasted year, but a good year where you were strengthened.  In 2017, God will build upon what He built in you in 2016.
January 1, 2017 is not a repeat of January 1, 2016.  You are different.  God strengthened your life in 2016.
You are a pilgrim, on a journey.  You are not where you were one year, 5 years or 10 years ago.  You may still have some of the issues, problems or unfulfilled dreams; but you are different
God is going to build 2017 on what He built in you in 2016 and 2015.  What God built in you will give you the foundation for what he now wants to build.
The pilgrimage or journey that we are all on is towards God.  God gives us all passions, desires, callings and destinies to fulfill, birthrights and inheritances to receive and assignments to serve in. 
In whatever we do, including the high calling/assignment/ministry of making babies and raising children, we do it all to the glory of God.  Making money or publishing writings, doing art, creating community, being a friend or gaining status is only fulfilling if the core aim of our lives is God: knowing God, being known by God, being loved by God and loving God.
We will not find rest, joy or fulfillment in anything unless we first are centered in the pursuit of God.
And the strengthening or building up of our lives to hold more and then give more blessing only comes to us as we go towards Elohim, the plural God.  The blessings that really satisfy only come to us, as we are in Christ.
The mountain of God is the destination of our life’s journey.  As you journeyed in 2016, God strengthened you.  In 2017, God will strengthen you more.  And you will know God, Elohim, God plural, more: Father, Son and Holy Spirit.

Come Drink, Buy and Eat For Free!

Come, everyone who is thirsty, come to the waters; and you without money, come, buy, and eat! Come, buy wine and milk without money and without cost!  Come, buy wine and milk without money and without cost!
Why do you spend money on what is not food, and your wages on what does not satisfy?
Listen carefully to Me, and eat what is good, and you will enjoy the choicest of foods.

-Isaiah 55:1-2 (HCSB)
We just got done buying, giving and receiving gifts for Christmas.  Some of us now have gift cards or cash to spend.  I think that God has a different kind of consuming and buying that God wants to offer each of us in 2017.  And it is described in Isaiah 55:1-2.
I spend a lot of time shopping, but I don’t call it shopping.  I call it research.  Over the summer, I wanted to buy a couch or a bed or a day bed or a couch with a hide-a-bed.  I may have spent 100 hours or more researching this.
I can tell you that if you want a couch that you can also sleep on that is not junk, you are going to be spending about a thousand dollars, minimum.  I opted for a very comfortable bed, that subs as a couch (like king David’s couches), with a hardwood frame; that came in under five hundred dollars.
I did most of my 100 plus hours of research (shopping in disguise) on-line, but furniture stores are pretty amazing.  You could spend a small fortune at one.  We went to Ikea last summer and had brunch; but we thought the prices were high.
So, I bought a table saw and plan on making my own furniture over the next year or two.  We need more bookcases and I am going to learn how to make windows.
One Saturday, I got all the grocery ads together, and I circled all the best deals that I wanted to purchase.  We get about 8 to 10 ads and I narrowed my stops, based on the ads, down to 4 or 5 stores.  You have to work out a map and get the perishable stuff last, unless you bring an ice chest, which I know some people do.
I did my big trip, to 4 or 5 stores, and saved a lot of money (groceries are expensive!).  But, it took me 3 to 4 hours.  And time is money and time is invaluable.  I never did that again and instead had to choose one store.
Now, our new thing, is that my wife and I go together, and shop as a team, and get to work together and spend time together.  Many years ago, my oldest mentor, who himself was divorced, told me that if you can work together, you can live together.  Before we were married, we renovated my house together, and it was hard, but went well.
I believe God wants to turn out attention away from constant, lengthy and continuous shopping and consuming, towards shopping for and consuming what is from God.  This is symbolized by the water, the food, the wine and the milk.  God wants us to be consumed with consuming from him.
God knows we need groceries, clothes, cars, furniture, appliances and shelter.  But shopping for and consuming stuff is not what life is all about.  Shopping and then buying and doing it over and over, stacking stuff upon stuff, is an obsession of ours, in our western culture.
God wants us to simplify our time consuming and costly and even idolatrous consumption and amplify our free consumption of what God offers.  Many us are so full of material that we have no room and no hunger for the goods God offers us, for free.
God is going to be having a sale in 2017.  We will want to go to God to drink and eat, and it is free.  We just have to take God up on this free offer and go and get it.
Think about your favorite material Christmas gift.  It was nice to get that and I imagine you are enjoying it.  I am going to enjoy that new wrist watch, that waterproof bluetooth speaker and The Passion Translation.
But the gifts that God has for me, the foods and drinks, metaphorically speaking, are ten, one hundred, one thousand, one million times: immeasurably better than any stuff or earthly food.  And it is all free.  All we have to do is come and get it.
The first word of Isaiah 55, which is some times translated “Ho!” or “Hey!”, is translated, “Come everyone”, in the version I chose.  It is a call to “Come and get it”, like a huge dinner bell or meal horn going off on earth.
Will we hear that sound, will we heed the call to come and drink and eat and get satisfied, for free?  To do so, we just have to take the time and make the effort.  And it is not hard, but it is not automatic and takes an effort to get up and go to God, to seek God and say “yes!”
After Christmas, there is a discontent, an aftertaste that is not the taste of satisfaction or contentment; for the material things we longed for and consumed.  Material things can be good, very good: like these Ugg boots I am wearing, that were a gift last Christmas.
Giving and receiving gifts is good and even wonder-full, and reminds us of the gift of Jesus.  But that is the “not only”, and the “also” is that God wants to give us gifts all the time, in all sorts of ways and in all sorts of things.
2017 is a year to receive from God, to be a consumer of God.  For sustenance and for our contentment.  
God wants to give us a foretaste so that we will have a taste for.  In other words, God wants to change our appetites to be consumers of God rather than consumers of stuff, consumers of entertainment and addicts of mood altering substances or experiences.
God wants us to spend more time shopping for what God offers.  What if we started spending as much time shopping for and consuming from God as we do other things?  What if we tried fasting from consuming stuff and practiced feasting on God?
What if we decided to give God 90% and hold back 10%?  The percentage is just a metaphor because our hearts are what God would like to have.  And our hearts are what we will give God, if we love God.
What does shopping for God look like?  If you have this question, it is a question, a quest for you, that will drive you on an adventure to find God and receive from God more and more, to your fill and unto and into a change of your appetites, in 2017.
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Footnote: 
The photo at the top is of a 1964 (I believe) Plymouth Valiant.  The Hebrew word for ‘strength’, in Psalm 84, is ‘ha∙yil’, that literally means ‘valiant’.

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