Dare to Dream God’s Dreams for You!

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAGenesis 37

Peter Marshall… chaplain to the US Senate in the 40’s once preached about the faithfulness of God and made the following statement:

 No one yet has ever set out to test God’s promises fairly, thoroughly, and humbly, and had to report that God’s promises don’t work. On the contrary, given a fair opportunity, God always surprises and overwhelms those who truly seek, with His bounty and His power.

Marshall’s words cannot be illustrated with a clearer example than the biography in which we are about recount.   The story of Joseph is a story for the ages. Whether remembered as a child on a flannel graph board in Sunday School… or as an adult while enjoying the musical Joseph and the Amazing Technicolored Dream Coat. His story touches and fascinates us. He is a man that was tested to the absolute max… and exercising faithfulness he caught a glimpse of the absolute faithfulness of God.

Now Joseph’s story is often described as a “rags to riches” story… it is actually a “riches to rags to riches” story. Although things go south for him rather quickly in this chapter… his story begins with him in a relatively good place. He was a son of a prosperous man… and also had the good fortune of the father’s favorite.  In fact father Jacob gives Joseph a special coat. The NIV calls it a “richly ornamented robe…” The NASB calls it “a varicolored tunic.” We remember its as being called the “coat of many colors.”  What we might not know is that this coat meant that Joseph was in a privileged class. The fact that it had long sleeves would make him exempt from participating in menial farming tasks.  This did not sit well with his brothers.

Beyond that, he appears to have the favor of his heavenly Father. God spoke to him in dreams. And in those dreams images of grain sheaves and dazzling stars bowing in honor to him, made it clear to Joseph that his life would matter. Even his father and brothers would one day honor him.

As we look at Joseph’s life over these next few weeks I challenge you to look at what God has caused you to dream about. What is in your heart and head that is to wonderful to tell? What has God called you to?

Let me give you a warning, however.  There are forces at work that would prefer you stop your dreaming and take your place in the throngs of faithless humanity. Joseph’s brothers jeered: “Bow down to you, you little pipsqueak? Not in this lifetime!” “Let’s get rid of this dreamer and see what becomes of his dreams!”  By the end of this chapter they at first desire to kill him… and then seek to prophet from his demise by selling him instead.

If YOU dare to dream you will not often be met with enthusiasm. More often you will face condescension, laughter, a dose of cold water or even animosity.

And yet, God calls you to dream His dreams…in full technicolor. And He wants to paint with your life a portrait of His love and His faithfulness.   But how does a disciple cooperate with the dream giver? How does one learn to dream God-sized dreams?

Joseph in the next few weeks will learn some important lessons that will move him towards his dreams:

He will learn the lessons that only comes through hardship.

He will learn to trust when all evidence of hope is gone.

He will learn to forgive when he would rather forget.

He will learn to lead men and yet stay humble to his roots.

But these lessons will take time. And it is his attitude along the way that make all the difference and help him reach his goal.  Perseverance will not be something optional for his path to his dream.

James S. Hewett shared the following story in his book Illustrations Unlimited:  “Years ago a young black child was growing up in Cleveland, in a home which he later described as “materially poor but spiritually rich.”

One day a famous athlete, Charlie Paddock, came to his school to speak to the students. At the time Paddock was considered “the fastest human being alive.” He told the children, “Listen! What do you want to be? You name it and then believe that God will help you be it.” That little boy decided that he too wanted to be the fastest human being on earth. The boy went to his track coach and told him of his new dream. His coach told him, “It’s great to have a dream, but to attain your dream you must build a ladder to it. Here is the ladder to our dreams. The first rung is determination! And the second rung is dedication. The third rung is discipline! And the fourth rung is attitude!

The result of all that motivation is that he went on to win four gold medals in the 1936 Olympic and World records for the 200 meter. His broad jump record lasted for twenty-four years. His name? Jesse Owens.  (Illustrations Unlimited, pp. 26-27.)

Dream the dreams that God has for you!  Others may try to silence them… but He who has called you will not disappoint.

Blessings!

What Every Rainbow Says to Us

Genesis 9:1-17double rainbow

Three moms that lived through the pain of watching their sons drift away from God, wrote a book in 2002 called: Lost Boys and the Moms Who Love Them. One of the moms, named Heather Kopp, wrote about her wayward son, Noah.  Her son had to submit to weekly drug testing to keep off of drugs. He didn’t seem to know who he was or where he was going… particularly in the spiritual realm. Heather wrote: “Once your baby—no matter how old he is—is lost, so are you.”

She then tells a story of an event that gave her some hope in the midst of the lost state she found herself:   “One recent night I asked Noah how it went the night before.  He said it was okay. Except for the part where everybody else got high before the movie and then again after the movie while he waited outside the car.  I told him I was sorry. And I was proud of him.  “But God spoke to me,” he announced.

“Really?” (This was not typical.)

“Yeah,” he said. “While I was standing around outside waiting for those guys to get high, I saw a double rainbow.”

He wasn’t really able to articulate what God seemed to be saying through the double rainbow, but I wasn’t going to push. I reached up to ruffle his hair, and, surprisingly, he let me. Then he trotted off to the shower, a little boy inside a man-size body.  I kept thinking about that double rainbow all day. Maybe it was God’s way of saying to my Noah, “Hey, you. Look at this cool rainbow. There’s beauty in life I don’t want you to miss. And no amount of dope will make it more beautiful.”
And maybe Noah’s telling me about it was God’s way of saying to me, “Remember my promises. No matter how far he wanders away from you, he’s never out of my sight.”  (Lost Boys and the Moms Who Love Them, p. 5.)

How ironic that God spoke to a twentieth century Noah through a rainbow.  And that it indirectly spoke to his mom as well… granting her a message of hope.

In chapter 9 of Genesis, God makes a promise to the Biblical Noah in regard to His judgment of mankind.  “I will establish My covenant with you; and all flesh shall never again be cut off by the water of the flood, neither shall there again be a flood to destroy the earth.” (9:11)  Often when God makes a promise to us (one He wants us to be sure to remember) He creates a physical sign to memorialize it.  The sign of this Noahic covenant is the rainbow… a multicolored reminder of many attributes of God.  The next time you see it raining… and can see that the sun is shining as well… run outside to see the spectacle of God’s bow hung in the sky… and then remember a few things.

1)  Remember God’s Restraint.

The Hebrew term in verse 13 is the same term used when referring to a bow in archery. God is telling Noah, that in regards to judgment with flood, I’m hanging up my bow.  “I set my bow in the cloud, and it shall be for a sign of a covenant between Me and the earth.”  (9:16)  When we see evil continue to run rampant on this earth, it is tempting to think that God might be powerless to stop it.  What it should tell us is: God is extremely powerful in His restraint!  Praise God for the cease-fire!

2)  Remember God’s faithfulness

“When the bow is in the cloud, then I will look upon it, to remember the everlasting covenant between God and every living creature of all flesh that is on the earth.” (9:16)  God’s bow reminds us of God’s faithfulness because He has kept his word to us.  Despite the sinfulness of man, He has not caused the world to be flooded again.  Every rainbow HE looks upon today remind Him to be faithful to His promise (though He hardly needs a reminder).  Every rainbow WE look upon today should remind us that HE is indeed a faithful God.  (We do need the reminder.)

3)  Remember God’s patience.

Our twentieth century Noah (in the above story) didn’t quite know what God was saying through the rainbow, but he knew God was saying something.  Perhaps the rainbow was a symbol to Him of His patience toward him.  For although the sign of the rainbow states that God has withheld further judgment on the earth by flood, there is coming a judgment by fire.  “…the world at that time was destroyed, being flooded with water.  But by His word the present heavens and earth are being reserved for fire, kept for the day of judgment and destruction of ungodly men.  … But the day of the Lord will come like a thief, in which the heavens will pass away with a roar and the elements will be destroyed with intense heat, and the earth and its works will be burned up.  (1 Peter 3:6,7 & 10.)  The rainbow reminds us that God isn’t winking at sin, but being patient with sinners.  There will be a day when the justice of God will have to be satisfied.

4)  Remember His Majesty

Remember when you saw your first rainbow?  Remember that feeling of awe?  Then you have a sense of the wonder that Noah must have felt.  It came at the end of a rough 40 days and 40 nights.  The rainbow was have been overwhelming to his senses!  And although it was a sign of the covenant to him, it also represented God’s majesty to him.  That element of the rainbow’s symbolism is found not only here in Genesis, but also in the book of Revelation (4:3) and Ezekiel.  Ezekiel describes his vision of Divine Glory in this manner:  “As the appearance of the rainbow in the clouds on a rainy day, so was the appearance of the surrounding radiance.  Such was the likeness of the glory of the Lord.” (Ezekiel 1:28)  Stand in awe of His majesty!

Where do the storms of life find you today?  Are you kind of like the mom of our 21st Century Noah?  Trying to maintain your faith as the flood waters continue to rise in your life?  There is hope beyond the disaster that has flooded your world.  Remember God is a God of restraint, faithfulness, patience and majesty.  And every rainy day or so… He likes to remind us.

A Closer Walk

Mendocino_Coast_Botanical_Gardens4Genesis 5:24

About 23 years ago, I visited a beautiful locale just north of Mendocino, CA:  The Mendocino Coast Botanical Gardens.  Let me give you a brief tour.  You begin in a rose garden… a maze of petals and thorns.  From there you take a path further in toward a shaded area with a variety of ferns.  From there you see a beautiful field (no doubt where many weddings have taken place).  If it is spring, you will find a spread of wild flowers soaking up the California sunshine.  Continuing down the path, you will spot an opening ahead arched by trees.  And if you have been listening carefully you won’t be surprised at what you see once you pass through it.  Suddenly and dramatically before you, your senses are assaulted with rugged beauty and glory of the Pacific Ocean.  As you walk along a dirt path you marvel at the large jagged rocks jutting up out of the ocean.    You can then sit in wonder as you witness chilly Arctic waters unleash their fury upon the ragged coastline.

Thirteen years ago I went to this beautiful spot in Mendocino county and the journey I just described to you is burned into my memory.  It is a parable of life for me.  For life has its roses and thorns, ferns and flowers, beautiful waves and a rocky coast.  It is also filled with amazement and surprise.  And like my journey that day, life is made sweeter when you walk with someone you love. In my case, I strolled and climbed and gazed with my bride to be, Janine.  It was a day burned into my memory… because… I did not walk it alone.  I walked with the one that I loved.

mendocino coast botanical gardens3Today’s Scripture is about a man named Enoch.  What do we know about him?  Not much.  Genesis 5 reads:

21 Enoch lived sixty-five years, and became the father of Methuselah. 22 Then Enoch walked with God three hundred years after he became the father of Methuselah, and he had other sons and daughters. 23 So all the days of Enoch were three hundred and sixty-five years. 24 Enoch walked with God; and he was not, for God took him.

The man that fathered the oldest man that ever lived, Methuselah, actually “outlived” his son.  For while all the other names in chapter 5 end with “…and he died,”  Enoch “was not.”    No embalming was necessary when Enoch left this earth… because there was              no body in the casket at his funeral!

The life of this relatively “unknown” Scriptural hero is recorded here in Scripture… not because he could fight like Joshua, or pray like Daniel or preach like Peter.  Enoch is best known for the way he chose to live his life…  In the 56 words Moses uses to describe the man named Enoch… twice it was said of him that he walked with God.  Maybe there is some hope for us “unknowns.”  Our steps might be unknown to men… but they are noticed by God.

Author Eugene Peterson defines discipleship as “A Long Obedience in the Same Direction.”  If that is a true definition:  Enoch modeled it.  And he well understood the words of the prophet Micah:

       He has told you, O man, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God? (Micah 6:8, emphasis mine)

A old hymn says:  When we walk with the Lord in the Light of his Word, what a glory He sheds on our way. That sounds lovely.  But how does one go about walking with God? Is there a permission slip? Can I sign up at the Y?  What kind of conditioning do I need for it?

Actually, taking a walk with God begins when we realize that we are on a journey. When we discover that our lives follow not some twisted mess of chance and circumstance, but a path with a beginning (our birth day) and an ending (the second date chiseled into our tombstone), and we see that our days are actually progressing toward something, it is then that we can seek a traveling companion.

One day we will each near the end of our journeys.  Will we on that day have truly completed our journey?”  Will we find our faith to have fully developed?  Will we be able to say, “I walked with God.”

The secret to a memorable life… is sharing the journey with someone memorable.  I’ve never forgotten my date with Janine over two decades ago.  You don’t want to miss a moment of life’s journey either.  Make it memorable.  Walk with God.

And what a glory He will shed on our our way!

Hold That Note!

Hit That High Note1 Peter 4: 10-11

As each one has received a special gift, employ it in serving one another as good stewards of the manifold grace of God. Whoever speaks, is to do so as one who is speaking the utterances of God; whoever serves is to do so as one who is serving by the strength which God supplies; so that in all things God may be glorified through Jesus Christ, to whom belongs the glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen.

I don’t believe I’ve ever shared this on my blog, but I love Oldies.  I listen to the 60’s on 6 more than any other channel on Sirius/XM and have over a thousand songs on my Ipod from the 60’s and 70’s.  (I’m listening to Fats Domino‘s “I Want to Walk You Home” as I type this.)  Many of my friends also know that my specialty is quirky stories about these songs.  I hope some day to start a blog called NOTABLES to feature some of these stories.

Here is one today from Tom Jones‘ Discography.  In 1965 Tom Jones began his career with his first big hit, “it’s Not Unusual.”  It went to #1 in England and reached #10 here in the U.S.  He was new and successful so he was asked to sing for the new James Bond movie, Thunderball.  He sang the title cut.  The end of the song features a note that is very high and sustained.  He delivered it all right, but passed out in the recording booth afterward.  Asked about that monster note in a later interview he said:  “I closed my eyes and I held the note for so long when I opened my eyes the room was spinning.”

That is dedication!  To hit and sustain the notes God is calling us to sing in the chorus of life also requires such dedication.  Peter says that we have each been given a gift.  We are to be good stewards of that gift.  In my analogy, we have all been given a voice and we are each called to keep that voice in tip top shape.  Then Peter reminds those that have speaking gifts to speak as though they were speaking “the utterances of God.”  Sloppy or ill prepared oratory isn’t going to cut it.  Peter then reminds those that have serving gifts, to serve as though God were powering their efforts.  A half-hearted sense of duty will not sustain you.  Why not just go ahead and hit that (grace) note of yours and then sustain it!  Put everything into it.  Give it your all!

Maybe you have be doing your particular ministry in your church for a while now.  Maybe you have it down cold.  You don’t have to put as much effort into it as you did when you started.  It practically runs like it’s on autopilot.  Do some evaluation this year.  It might not be on autopilot… it could be on life support!  Stretch yourself and your faith.  Go for that note!  Sing it with all the strength that God supplies you.

Enough said…. I Gotta go…. The Classics IV are now singing “Traces.”  Love that song!

Here Comes the Nominating Committee… Everybody Run!

people running away1 Corinthians 12:4-7

It’s that time of year again for most churches.  The fine members of the local church Nominating Committee are making their rounds.  They are phoning folks, flagging members down in the church parking lot, sending out letters to inform the church about open positions, and are trying to catch your eye across the crowded worship center on Sunday morning.  They have a huge task before them:  to answer the question… “Who is going to serve this church in 2014?”

For those not skilled in the art of nominating committee dodging, (you have to be a Christian a while to get really good at it) you have to come up with a suitable answer when asked… an answer that doesn’t use the word “no” but communicates it just the same.  A favorite answer is:  “I will pray about it.”

Now,  I wonder what it is they are praying about.  If it is for them to make an informed decision about where to serve…  to teach a class or become a youth sponsor or serve as an usher,… then that is fine.  What I hope they don’t mean is whether or not they should serve at all.

The Bible is already clear on this:  Every member is to be a minister.  Paul writes to the Corinthians:  Now there are varieties of gifts, but the same Spirit.  And there are varieties of ministries, and the same Lord. There are varieties of effects, but the same God who works all things in all persons.  But to each one is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good.”

Paul is saying, “Sure we aren’t all gifted in the same way, sure not every ministry is going to be our cup of tea, and yes, some ministries have greater impact than others… I will give you all of that.  But EACH ONE of you have been given a gift!  And note that the gift is for the “common good.”

The “common good” requires everyone to contribute.  If we don’t all chip in for the pizza… somebody will be left holding a hefty bill.  (This has happened to me… I have been a youth minister.)  If we don’t all bring our instruments to the recital… Beethoven‘s 5th is going to sound pretty awful instead of pretty awesome.    If we don’t all bring something to the potluck… not everybody is going to get fed!

I had a lady in a former church that came to the pot luck without a covered dish.  Nobody was going to say anything to her, but she offered this excuse anyway:  “I was going to make a fruit salad, but God told me not to.”  Really?  God wanted there to be less food at the fellowship meal?  The logic here escapes me.  But this is the same logic for believers that won’t minister because they need to “pray about it.”  Whatever your reason for a ministry vacation (time off for yourself… the desire to draw closer to family… to spend more time with God… etc.), know that the Bible is clear… the common good outweighs the good of the individual.  God has called you to a family!

Do something for me this Sunday.  When you see that Nominating Committee member in the Sanctuary… approach them and ask:  “Where can I best serve in 2014?”  You just might be the fruit salad they are looking for.

“No Matter What, I’ll Be There For You.”

earthquake

Psalm 12:1 – “Help Lord, for no one is faithful anymore; those who are loyal have vanished from the human race.”

2 Timothy 2:13 – “If we are faithless, He remains faithful, for He cannot deny Himself.”

Paul says that “God is faithful, through whom you were called into fellowship with His Son, Jesus Christ our Lord.” (Romans 3:3)  One of the names for Jesus is “the faithful.” (Revelation 3:14).  It is amazing that God remains so faithful to us… when the quality of our faithfulness is often so lacking.

Case in point, the rubble we sometime find our lives in.  We know things run smoother when we stay in the Word, pray and have fellowship with other believers… but we don’t always stick to the plan.  And in the aftermath of selfish choices, the ground beneath us starts to quake.  And we are buried by an avalanche of consequences and yet… still.. God seeks us out and desires to put us on solid ground. (Psalm 40:1-3)

It was the faithfulness of God that caused Him to search for us in the first place.  He the shepherd faithfully searched for the missing lamb, the woman faithfully seeking the missing coin… and gracious Father joyfully welcoming the lost son home.  (Luke 15)

Randy Alcorn, in his book If God is Good, shared this story of a faithful father:

“In 1988, an Armenian earthquake killed forty-five thousand.  In the chaos one man made his way to his son’s school, only to find nothing but rubble.  Other parents stumbled around dazed and weeping, calling out their children’s names.  But this father ran to the back corner of the building where his son’s classroom once was, and began digging.

To everyone else, it seemed hopeless.  How could his son have survived?  But this father had promised he would always be there for his boy, so he heaved rocks and dug, calling for his son by name:  “Armand!”

Well-meaning parents and bystanders tried to pull him out of the rubble.  “It’s too late!”  “They’re dead!”  “There’s nothing you can do!”  The fire chief tried to pull him away saying, “Fires and explosions are happening everywhere.  You’re in danger.  Go home!”  Finally, the police came and said, “You’re in shock.  You’re endangering others.  Go home.  We’ll handle it!”

But the man continued to dig, hour after hour—eight hours, then twelve, twenty-four, thirty six hours.  Finally, in the thirty-eighth hour of digging—a day and a half after everyone told him to give up hope—he called his son’s name again, pulled back a big rock, and heard his son’s voice.

“Armand!” the father screamed.

From under the rocks came the words, “Dad?  I told them!  I told the other kids that if you were still alive, you’d save me!”

The father helped his son and thirteen other children climb out of the rubble.  When the building had collapsed, the children survived in a tentlike pocket.  The father lovingly carried his son home to his mother.  When the townspeople praised Armand’s father for saving the children, he simply explained, “I promised my son, ‘No matter what, I’ll be there for you!”  (If God is Good, pp. 89-90.)

God is more faithful than even this very human father.  We often bring the house down upon ourselves… but even then He seeks to clear the rubble.

Praise Him that he never gives up on you.  He has a plan for you and is faithful to carry it out in your life.  Seek to model His faithfulness…  Say to your spouse, kids and to your neighbor… “No matter what, I’ll be there for you!”  Bring this quality back to the human race!