What Do You See–What is Your Vision?

1After this, the word of the LORD came to Abram in a vision: “Do not be afraid, Abram. I am your shield, your very great reward.” 2But Abram said, “Sovereign LORD, what can you give me since I remain childless and the one who will inherit my estate is Eliezer of Damascus?” 3And Abram said, “You have given me no children; so a servant in my household will be my heir.” 4Then the word of the LORD came to him: “This man will not be your heir, but a son who is your own flesh and blood will be your heir.” 5He took him outside and said, “Look up at the sky and count the stars—if indeed you can count them.” Then he said to him, “So shall your offspring be.” 6Abram believed the LORD, and he credited it to him as righteousness (Genesis 15:1-6).

One of the most stunning sights that I can remember happened one night while I was working as a commercial fisherman on the East Coast of England on my father’s fishing boat. At the time, I was working the boat all alone during the night. Way past midnight, more than 8 miles from land, I set the boat to automatic pilot and turned off all the lights on deck. Then I went out on deck, laid down flat on my back on one of the unused nets and looked up at the stars. Have you ever been away from civilization where there are no lights and looked at the stars on a clear night? It is one of the most stunning sights of this world. There wasn’t a cloud in the sky that night, and no artificial lights to hinder the view. I sensed that the Lord was telling me that there was more to my life than spending most of my waking hours working in solitude away from others on my father’s fishing boat. That moment is one that I will always remember, and the sight of that night sky will always stick with me. It was a moment when I became convinced that the future held something different for me, and that God would teach me a different kind of fishing.

Instead of using a net, I would learn to use the Word of God. Instead of catching fish, I would learn to fish for men; a call that Jesus had made to His early disciples. I felt that I just had to be faithful to learn from Him and do what was at my right hand to do in the meantime (Ecclesiastes 9:10). This was the vision that God gave Abram. He told him to go outside of his tent and look up at the stars. Count the stars, if indeed you can count them—so shall your offspring be. A vision that he could hold in his mind; a vision that would enable him to persevere in his faith through many challenges. God changed Abram’s name to Abraham. At that point in the account of his life, his name was still Abram, which means exalted father, but God would give him a name change to reflect the vision that he held in his heart from that day. He would be called Abraham—Father of a multitude. What vision do you hold in your heart? Does this vision shape your daily actions? Are you working towards fulfilling it? If you have no vision as to your future, God wants to plant one in your heart. Life is not about living for this world, but for the next. May a vision of how God wants to use you begin to take hold of your life and propel you to be closer to God.

Keith Thomas

Step by Step Vision

We are continuing to think on the life and call of Abraham. When God originally spoke of the step of faith that He was requiring of Abram, He gave large brush strokes on the canvas of the vision. The initial call in Ur of the Chaldeans was to get up and leave the area that is now in South East Iraq. They travelled northwest following the Euphrates river until they came to Harran, a city in Northwest Mesopotamia, now Iraq. The distance to Haran was about 2000 miles. We don’t know how long they stopped in Haran but this was where Abram’s father Terah, died. Abram was seventy-five years old when God spoke to him to leave Harran and go the 800 miles further to the land He would show him. Imagine being seventy-five years old and God speaking to you to leave the comfort of Haran to go to Canaan. Most of us just want the comforts of home at that age.

It is natural for us to want to know the details of the vision before we take the first step, but that is not the way God leads. If God would show you the end at the beginning, you may not be ready for it, or it may scare you, causing you to drift along the path rather than being propelled by faith. God gives us just enough vision to propel us forward. A boat can never be steered when it is drifting. It is only as it is going through the water that it can be easily steered by a small rudder. Begin to step out in faith and allow God to operate the steering mechanism of your life. Remember Psalm 119:

Your word is a lamp for my feet, a light on my path (Psalm 119:105).

Where does the Lord shine His light? He shines the light of revelation, His Word, on where the next step is, at the feet. We don’t see far ahead, just the next step. You just have to trust Him for the next step.

Only when Abram arrives in Canaan does God give more specifics concerning the future (Genesis 12:7), specifically that to his offspring God would give the land that Abram was walking on. He was told that God would make a great nation from his seed and that He would bless him and make his name great, and that those who bless him and his descendants, will be blessed in return. We are also told that those who curse his descendants will themselves be cursed of God. We should be careful about our attitude towards the Jewish people for the Lord says that He, “has sent me against the nations that have plundered you—for whoever touches you touches the apple of his eye” (Zechariah 2:8). We might not agree with all the policies of the government of Israel, but the people of Israel and the seed of Abraham are precious to God. His Word is eternal, and He still stands by it. We are called to bless those whom God is blessing and the faith of Abraham is what we Gentiles have been rooted into: do not consider yourself to be superior to those other branches. If you do, consider this: You do not support the root, but the root supports you (Romans 11:18).

Can you look back and see that God has grown your faith step by step? I’ll bet that there are things you are doing now which you never dreamed of doing in your younger years.

Keith Thomas

From Where Comes This Yearning for God?

Have you ever come to a place in your life where you have asked yourself some of the hard questions? Questions such as: “Is there more to life than what I am living?” “Who is God?” “What purpose is there to life?” God has placed within man a God-shaped void that has no real peace until the void is filled. Many of us have tried to fill the void with other things, alcoholic drinks, drugs, money, prestige, power, sex, but nothing fills the emptiness. Blaise Pascal, the French philosopher and mathematician, wrote, “Within each human being there is a God-shaped void.” The scriptures speak of this inner void with words from King Solomon: “He [God Himself] has also set [the thoughts of] eternity in the hearts of men” (Ecclesiastes 3:11 NIV). God has placed a yearning for Himself within the central core of our being. In us looking for God and seeking to know Him, we must remind ourselves that our yearning for Him is a result of Him yearning for us. The Bible tells us that we love Him because He first loved us (1 John 4:19). He has sought for His bride since the very beginning in the Garden of Eden, when Man turned away from Him. He cried out, “Adam, where are you?” (Genesis 3:9). The author C.S. Lewis wrote, ”

Creatures are not born with desires unless satisfaction for those desires exists. A baby feels hunger: well, there is such a thing as food. A duckling wants to swim: well, there is such a thing as water. Men feel sexual desire: well, there is such a thing as sex. If I find in myself a desire which no experience in this world can satisfy, the most probable explanation is that I was made for another world. If none of my earthly pleasures satisfy it, that does not prove that the universe is a fraud. Probably earthly pleasures were never meant to satisfy it, but only to arouse it, to suggest the real thing.[1]

This desire of our hearts finds no rest until we find God in Christ. The fifth century philosopher, Augustine, wrote: “Our hearts are unquieted until they find their rest in Thee.” Paul the apostle also referred to this inner longing that God has placed within us. He wrote:

26and He made from one man every nation of mankind to live on all the face of the earth, having determined their appointed times and the boundaries of their habitation, 27that they would seek God, if perhaps they might grope for Him and find Him, though He is not far from each one of us (Acts 17:26-27).

He alone is the Bread of Life that satisfies (John 6:35). He alone is the Living Water, that when you drink of Him, you will never thirst again (John 4:14). The big question, then, that we are all looking to have answered is: “What must I do to gain eternal life with God?” Within this question, and the answer to it, we find the crux of the Gospel message.

Jesus declared, “I tell you the truth, no one can see the kingdom of God unless he is born again” (John 3:3).

To be born-again is to enter into the New Covenant by receiving the person of Jesus to sit on the throne of your life—to live in your life, directing and empowering you to live for Him. The most wonderful thing is that God has so loved us that He gave His Son, the Lord Jesus Christ, as a substitute to pay the debt of our rebellion against God, and to restore us to Himself through the death of Christ. We no longer have to hide from God in our sin. “For Christ died for our sins once for all, the righteous for the unrighteous, to bring you to God” (1 Peter 3:18). He has taken the sin issue out of the way. Isn’t it time you entered into this new life?

Keith Thomas

[1] C. S. Lewis, Mere Christianity, Published by HarperCollins, New York, 1952. Chapter 10.

What Does it Mean to Remain in the Vine?

4“Remain in me, and I will remain in you. No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me. 5I am the vine; you are the branches. If a man remains in me and I in him, he will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing. 6If anyone does not remain in me, he is like a branch that is thrown away and withers; such branches are picked up, thrown into the fire and burned. 7If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be given you. 8This is to my Father’s glory, that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be my disciples” (John 15:4-8).

What does it mean to remain? (The King James Version uses the word, “abide”).

I think that the thought here is of the picture of the life sap of Jesus Christ flowing through your life by allowing the Word of God to be the pruning shears of the Spirit. The disciples had the person of Christ with them for three years speaking the very words of God to them. That’s why He said to them that they were already clean because of the words that He had spoken to them (John 15:3). Further, He promised them that if they continued to maintain connection with Himself (the Head), and that His Word remained in them, they would ask “whatever you wish, and it will be given you” (verse 7).

Is it as easy as just reading the Word of God? No, the devil knew the Word of God and quoted it to Jesus in the temptation of the wilderness. The difference is allowing the Word to find a home in you—to take root in the soil of your character:

37And the Father who sent me has himself testified concerning me. You have never heard his voice nor seen his form, 38nor does his word dwell in you, for you do not believe the one he sent. 39You study the Scriptures diligently because you think that in them you have eternal life. These are the very Scriptures that testify about me, 40yet you refuse to come to me to have life (John 5:37-39).

The religious Jews had meditated on the Holy Scriptures all their lives, but the Word of God had not found a home in them. We must move the furniture around and make room for His Word. Any junk in the room of our hearts has to be taken to the junkyard and the throne room has to have Christ and His Word fully at home and taking root. The Lord said something similar a little bit later to the religious Jews:

37I know that you are Abraham’s descendants. Yet you are looking for a way to kill me, because you have no room for my word (John 8:37).

The life of God flows easily through a man or woman who is living in obedience and faith in God by making room in His heart for the Word of God. We often underestimate the power of the Word of God, but Jesus said this about His Word:

63The Spirit gives life; the flesh counts for nothing. The words I have spoken to you—they are full of the Spirit and life (John 6:63).

This is true discipleship. Being connected to Christ, who is the hope of glory (Colossians 1:27). When we allow His strength to flow through us, the Lord produces results that defy natural explanation—powerfully effective prayers, God-honoring blessings, unbounded love, and inexplicable joy. All these things come when God’s Word finds a home in our hearts, and we are rooted and grounded (Ephesians 3:17) in the love and power of Christ. The life-giving sap of this organic connection to the Lord Jesus Christ will bring immeasurable fruit to your life.

Keith Thomas

Ten Healed of Leprosy

11Now on his way to Jerusalem, Jesus traveled along the border between Samaria and Galilee. 12As he was going into a village, ten men who had leprosy met him. They stood at a distance 13and called out in a loud voice, “Jesus, Master, have pity on us!” 14When he saw them, he said, “Go, show yourselves to the priests.” And as they went, they were cleansed. 15One of them, when he saw he was healed, came back, praising God in a loud voice. 16He threw himself at Jesus’ feet and thanked him—and he was a Samaritan.  17Jesus asked, “Were not all ten cleansed? Where are the other nine? 18Was no one found to return and give praise to God except this foreigner?” 19Then he said to him, “Rise and go; your faith has made you well” (Luke 17:11-19).

Why would Jesus send the ten lepers to the priests unhealed, instead of healing them on the spot? It’s interesting to see that Jesus required them to do what a cured leper would do even though they were not healed yet. He required them to take steps of faith and trust in the Word of Jesus. Lepers were commanded to stay at a distance and ring a bell when anyone got anywhere near to warn them. Of course, they were outside the community which is where they saw Jesus. There was no touch, and very little communication, He just told them to go to the priest to get checked out. There may have been a priest in the nearest town, but it more than likely meant that they were to travel to the Temple to see the priest there and get a pronouncement of health to be readmitted into society. This required faith, because they were not yet healed. They were only healed as they were on the journey. As they started on their journey, it would have seemed stupid to them to go and get a healed certificate when their faces and limbs were contorted with Leprosy. One of them was a Samaritan, a person that the Jews did not normally associate with, although we find them together in their misery.

What do you think was on the mind of the Samaritan as he started on the way to the Temple? Could it be that he might have been suspicious of Jesus? Why would this Jewish preacher want to heal an enemy Samaritan? I wonder if he thought that the healing would not work for him, due to the animosity between the Jews and Samaritans. He certainly would not want to go to Jerusalem, the Samaritans worshiped on Mount Gerizim in Samaria. Imagine his surprise that while he is walking, his fingers start to grow and his toes suddenly fill his shoes. He feels that the skin on his face is soft and that his nose has grown out again. He was ecstatic with praise to God and could not contain himself. He left the company of the others and returns to find Jesus and thank Him. This man knew how to give thanks. He shouted loudly to God as he approached Jesus and threw himself on the ground lavishly shouting his praise. How that must have warmed the Lord’s heart!  Let’s never forget to thank the Lord for all he does for us.

Let me issue you a challenge: Think of a situation in your life which needs resolution, it may be an impossible thing to you, but dare to believe that God can work through your simple faith. Is anything too hard for the Lord? Call out to Him and ask Him for faith to believe that He will accomplish what you ask of Him. Then praise Him, loudly!

Keith Thomas