Three little words

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Lately my life has been ruled by 3 little words: I have to

As in….

I have to go to the store.

I have to do the laundry.

I have to clean the house.

I have to prepare for Bible study.

I have to have a quiet time.

When I am told I have to do something, two things generally happen:

1. Like a 2 year old, I rear back my head and refuse to do what I am told. My rebellious spirit springs forth and I don’t do anything, or

2. My type A personality takes over and I become obsessed with all the things I have to do and feel pressured to complete them all and complete them perfectly.

Neither option is healthy or productive.

I know that everyone has to do things in this world. It’s a part of life. I just don’t think I should feel forced or pressured to do things that are necessary. I desire a heart that does these things, not because I have to, but because I want to, because the joy of doing them makes it all worthwhile.

Yes, I know it’s all about my perspective. Rather than saying I have to, I should probably view it as a privilege that I have a family and am able to take care of them, that I can study a Bible without fear or condemnation, and that I have a God who wants to commune with me. I’m able to, I get to. I understand that.

But if our mouths speak from the overflow from our hearts (Matthew 12:34) and that’s not how my heart feels, then wouldn’t I just be speaking words for the sake of saying them? Where’s the good in that?

I have pondered this for several days and have yet to come to any conclusion. Am I being selfish? Am I ungrateful or discontent? What will make the difference?

Any thoughts, ideas or suggestions? I’d love to hear what you think.

For now I’m off….I have to be somewhere. Lord, help me!

Looking at the unknown

Monday, September 13, 2010

As I begin what is likely my last year in Germany, I am constantly asked the same question, "Where will you go next?"

I wish I could carry a tape recorder with me all the time so that when I'm asked that question for what seems like the millionth time, I can simply smile and push the play button where a pre-recorded message says, "I do not know!"

It's not that I'm trying to be rude, but the truth is I don't know - and it scares me. Where will I be in 10 months? Will I be back in the States? in another country? What does God have planned for us? When will He reveal it?

It's the all-familiar tale of the unknown. Your unknown may not look like mine, but in some form or fashion, we all face one. And it's in the NOT KNOWING that causes us to worry, stress, question, and wonder. But what if we could tread that unknown path without all that trouble? Others have, and so can we.

In Genesis 12:1, God instructs Abraham (Abram at the time) to, "Leave your country, your people and your father's household, and go to the land I will show you." Notice that God didn't tell Abraham the place where he was going, how long it would take to get there, or what would be waiting for him when he arrived. No, God just told him to go.

I don't know about you, but at that point I would have been asking A LOT of questions. I would have been packing up and mumbling under my breath. I would have stopped at the threshold of my front door and paused.

Not Abraham.

As he walked into the unknown, Abraham did 3 things that we can learn from when we too walk a similar journey:

1. Abraham obeyed. He did not ask questions, he did not hesitate. He simply gathered up his family, his possessions, and his servants and headed out (Gen 12:5). How could he do that so easily? Hebrews 11:8 tells us he did it by faith. And that is what God is asking of us when we tread an unlit path -- have faith. Faith in His character, faith in His promises, faith in His loving kindness towards us, faith that He knows what is best. Abraham understood that obedience follows on the heels of faith. Do we?

2. Abraham remained a stranger in a foreign land. This may sound odd as a principle, but it is one that we need to seriously take to heart. Although Abraham made his home in a strange land, he lived like a stranger (Heb. 11:9). As a citizen of heaven, he did not live as a member of the world's ways, but stayed true to God and to who he was. Many times when the path is not clear to us, we may be tempted to compromise or to do things that may quicken our journey. No matter what, we must stay the course that God has planned for us. It may not always be easy to do, but if we can withstand the world and it's offerings, nor yield to its corrupt ways, then our path will be much more pleasant and can even impact those who are around us. Peter understood this and penned this encouragement, "Dear friends, I urge you, as aliens and strangers in the world, to abstain from sinful desires, which war against your souls. Live such good lives among the pagans that, thought they accuse you of doing wrong, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day he visits us." (1 Peter 2:11-12).

3. Abraham remembered the things God had already done for him. It may seem that God had first called out to Abraham in Genesis 12 while Abraham was living in Haran, but Scripture shows us that God had spoken to Abraham about leaving much earlier. In Acts 7:2, we learn that God appeared to Abraham while he was still in Mesopotamia, before he lived in Haran, and told him to go to the promised land. So what does that matter? It means that Abraham had already started trusting God the minute he left Ur, and since he had seen all that God had done to get him from Ur to Haran, then he knew he could trust God to get him from Haran to the unknown. When it seems like we're on a path that's uncertain, we need to remember the things God has done for us before so that we can walk with confidence even if we can't see the step ahead. Reflecting on all the ways that God has delivered us, helped us, or provided for us in the past encourages our heart and helps us to keep putting one foot in front of the other.

Perhaps you are like me and are facing the unknown. It can be a scary journey or a faith-filled one. We can follow Abraham's example of obedience, integrity, and trust or we can have our hearts troubled at every turn of the road.

We may not know where our paths may lead, but we can know how we are to travel on it. Travel well.