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

One Thing is Needed

38As Jesus and his disciples were on their way, he came to a village where a woman named Martha opened her home to him. 39She had a sister called Mary, who sat at the Lord’s feet listening to what he said. 40But Martha was distracted by all the preparations that had to be made. She came to him and asked, “Lord, don’t you care that my sister has left me to do the work by myself? Tell her to help me!” 41“Martha, Martha,” the Lord answered, “you are worried and upset about many things, 42but only one thing is needed. Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her” (Luke 10:38-42).

Mary comes across as a person who is passionate about the things that really count. She knows that she is expected to be helping Martha with the food and drinks, but how often does one have the God of the universe over for tea and crumpets (or whatever they had for tea in that day)!  She sees the eagerness on the face of Jesus as He begins to answer questions and discuss the Scriptures. Wild horses could not drag her from the room! She made a conscious decision to ignore the unwritten rules, obligations, and expectations to help Martha in the kitchen. There are higher priorities than laying the table and pouring drinks. I am sure that Mary had a number of questions stored up in her heart. She was just waiting for the words of Jesus to feed her soul. Mary was right in putting the word of God as her highest priority.

Martha strikes me as a person whose self-esteem was bound up in what she does for Jesus more than who she is in Christ. She was a task-oriented person, and there is nothing wrong with that. We need task-oriented people. God has gifted them in their inner DNA to be like that. It was her home, so she felt that the responsibility was on her to treat the Master right. After all, if the Lord Jesus was coming to your house, wouldn’t you try to prepare a nice spread of food in hospitality to the visiting Rabbi? By the time Martha makes her final outburst to Jesus, we can imagine that she was getting as steamed up as her kitchen was! I can picture Martha banging the pots around, making plenty of noise to remind Mary of her duties in the kitchen. Martha’s focus shifts from trying to get Mary’s attention to blaming Jesus. “Why doesn’t He say anything to her?” she thinks to herself as she bangs a few pots in the hope of drawing Mary’s attention. There is no indication that Martha was directing her anger toward her sister. She can’t get her attention; instead, Martha accuses Jesus of not caring: “She came to him and asked, ‘Lord, don’t you care that my sister has left me to do the work by myself? Tell her to help me!’” (v. 40).

Martha wanted Jesus to redirect Mary; however, Jesus wanted to redirect Martha! Martha attempted to get Mary to serve Jesus in the same way that Martha did. Martha’s irritability had grown to the point where she was literally commanding Jesus as to what He should do. We must give room to let people be different to ourselves. We are given different temperaments for a reason, i.e. to learn to live with one another’s temperaments. It wasn’t that Martha was wrong and Mary right, but that we should imitate Mary in our worship and Martha in our work. To achieve a balance in both, we must put first things first.

Martha felt like she had to do everything and felt let down because Mary was not pulling her share of the load. She felt that this was unfair. Have you felt like that before? Some of us have heard these words from our parents: “Life is unfair! Get used to it!” Jesus does not respond this way, however. He gets straight to the heart with Martha. “Martha, Martha,” the Lord answered, “You are worried and upset about many things, but only one thing is needed. Mary has chosen what is better and it will not be taken away from her” (vs. 41-42). How tenderly He responds to her. These are not words of anger or disappointment levelled at Martha, and the doubling of her name reflects deep emotion on His part.

Some would say that Jesus was only after one thing on Martha’s menu instead of an elaborate meal. Bread and water would have been quite sufficient. It is more logical to interpret the “one thing” to be Mary’s attitude of hungering after Christ’s presence. Time was short. Jesus was headed to the cross, and food was not on Jesus’ priority list, but Martha and Mary were! They were His priority! Jesus did not stop by Martha’s house for the food but primarily to spend time with them.

What if Jesus were coming by your house today, would you be too busy for Him, or are you a Mary and love to sit at His feet?

Taken from study 26 in Luke entitled “Jesus Martha and Mary.” Found in the middle column under the heading Luke, A Walk Through the Life of Jesus. Click on the link to all the studies in Luke and find study 26

Keith Thomas

The Longing for Heaven

On the last and greatest day of the festival, Jesus stood and said in a loud voice, “Let anyone who is thirsty come to me and drink (John 7:37).

There is in the heart of every man and woman on planet Earth a longing for heaven. Somehow within the very depths of our being, we know we are created for more than this earth, a nostalgia for heaven. The word “nostalgia” comes from two Greek words: nostos, meaning return home, and algos, meaning pain. Originally the word meant homesickness because that is an incurable malady, the only thing that cures it, obviously, is home. While we live in this world, there will always be this inner longing for something, a void, a hole in our lives that nothing fills except God Himself. We try filling the emptiness by drinking alcohol—but that doesn’t satisfy it. Fame doesn’t satisfy it. Pleasure will not satisfy it. Nor will money. The emptiest people on earth are those who try to fill the emptiness with the things above. What we long for in our souls simply cannot be filled by anything or even family. To deny or ignore our longings that God has put there in our creation deadens our inner being—the part that aches for Him. To refuse to admit to our spiritual longing is to put our soul in peril. Aldous Huxley said: “Sooner or later one asks even of Beethoven, even of Shakespeare… ‘Is this all?’” C.S. Lewis described this as “the inconsolable longing…news from a country we have never visited.”

Augustine spoke of having this inner feeling long before his conversion to Christ. C.S. Lewis struggled hard and fought against the idea that the source of his “inconsolable longing” and the God of traditional religion might be one and the same. Of his search for God Lewis said: “They might as well talk about the mouse’s search for the cat.” If is true that God has built into the very framework of our being, a longing for Himself, then why try to fill the void with all kinds of things that are not Him? Our text for today is Jesus crying out in the middle of a crowd of people attending the most notable day of the Feast of Tabernacles, “If anyone is thirsty, let him come to Me and drink.” Why deny your spiritual thirst any longer? Come to Christ and let Him fill your emptiness.

Keith Thomas

New Life Can Bring a Mess…

Without oxen a stable stays clean, but you need a strong ox for a large harvest (Proverbs 14:4. NLT).

One does not get far in learning to be a disciple without relating to others in the church. We are all at different levels in our faith. Some are young in the Lord and need to be fed the milk of the Word of God (Hebrews 5:12-13), while others need solid food (Hebrews 5:14) so that they can grow to the point that they can feed others. The church must help believers to become mature, for only adult sheep can reproduce. It is a law of reproduction that one can only reproduce when you have reached a stage of maturity in order to care for the one that is born. Even Jesus took three years of training His disciples before He left them to carry on His work. Every church needs mature Christians to care for those that are young.

Often a great deal of mercy and patience is needed by those who are mature when those who are new to the faith are still acting out of relational or emotional hurts and needs. It is important not to allow the enemy to come between those who are mature and those who are still young in the faith and need the milk of the Word to grow. Satan would love to create division in the Body of Christ and in so doing, destroy the testimony of the church. Wherever God is at work, there is likely to also be a fair amount of “mess.” Where there is new life, there is also mess. This should not surprise us.

In the early days of the Jesus movement in California, 1960-70, many longhaired hippies came into churches after being drawn by the Spirit of God in a time of revival, but many refused to sit on the pews. They wanted to sit on the floor and listen and worship. This irritated some of the older elders and deacons in many churches to the point where they wanted these young newcomers thrown out of the churches for not behaving ‘properly.’ What is more important? Clean empty church buildings or those that are full of passionate, hungry, open hearted, young Christians? Some of those young people, viewed as unkempt and non-conformists by the older generation of their day, have now become strong church leaders today. To be a disciple of the Lord Jesus Christ, we must be pliable to the Spirit and accommodate others in the Body of Christ.

Keith Thomas

The Tests of God Create Character

16He called down famine on the land and destroyed all their supplies of food; 17and he sent a man before them—Joseph, sold as a slave. 18They bruised his feet with shackles, his neck was put in irons, 19till what he foretold came to pass, till the word of the LORD proved him true. 20The king sent and released him, the ruler of peoples set him free. 21He made him master of his household, ruler over all he possessed (Psalm 105:16-21).

The plan of God was to raise up a man, Joseph, to a high level of prominence in the government of Egypt in order to save his family, but for Joseph to be raised up, the way God planned was the way down. Don’t you think that by the time Joseph was unjustly thrown into prison for alleged rape that he began to wonder where God was? He could not see what was ahead and perhaps could not see that his stewardship in the house of Potiphar, his master, and also his stewardship inside the jail, was just the preparation of God to teach him to manage all of Egypt during the upcoming famine. After becoming the second in command of the whole nation of Egypt his brothers came down to Egypt to buy food. It was only when they bowed before Joseph that he remembered his dream.

What’s your dream? Do you have the character base to support your dream? How fruitful do you want to be? Do you wish to be a tool in the hand of God? Is God speaking to you right now through these words? Then cling to Christ and beg Him to transform you into His image. Humble yourself and submit your will to His, and see what He will make you to become. No matter what, just as Joseph did, hold on to your integrity and run the other way when sin comes around wanting to play (Genesis 39:12). Let there be an abhorrence of sin in your life. Remember, you are created for eternity. Life is not just about what happens in this world. God is preparing you for eternity. Character is the stuff of eternity. Don’t go empty handed. Let Him mold and shape you into His likeness. No matter what trials you have to endure, whatever your lot in life, may it be well with your soul.

When the wife and four daughters of Horatio Spafford took a ship journey to Europe, Mr. Spafford had to let them sail apart from him. Unfortunately, mid-Atlantic the ship they were on collided with another and sank. Horatio’s four daughters were all drowned. Immediately, he sailed for England to rejoin Anna, his grief-stricken wife. As his ship passed the approximate location where his daughters had drowned, his deep sorrow mingled with his unwavering faith in God’s goodness caused him to write down words that became the following famous English hymn:

When peace like a river attendeth my way,
When sorrows like sea billows roll;
Whatever my lot Thou hast taught me to say,
“It is well, it is well with my soul!”

Though Satan should buffet, though trials should come,
Let this blest assurance control,
That Christ hath regarded my helpless estate,
And hath shed His own blood for my soul.

My sin—oh, the bliss of this glorious thought—
My sin, not in part, but the whole,
Is nailed to His Cross, and I bear it no more;
Praise the Lord, praise the Lord, O my soul!

And Lord, haste the day when the faith shall be sight,
The clouds be rolled back as a scroll
The trump shall resound, and the Lord shall descend –
“Even so, it is well with my soul.”

For me, be it Christ, be it Christ hence to live;
If dark hours about me shall roll
No pang shall be mine, for in death as in life
Thou wilt whisper Thy peace to my soul.

Horatio and Anna Spafford, after these painful trials, went on to found the American Colony in Jerusalem, Israel. A number of Americans and Swedish people joined them and gave of their resources by caring for Muslim, Jews and Christians living in the Holy Land. They helped many returning Jews by housing, feeding and helping them to get on their feet and support themselves. God had allowed Horatio and Anna to go through terrible trials. They went through fire and water. They were tested by God and refined in the fire, but they were both brought to a place of abundance (Psalm 66:10-12), and heaven alone knows how close to the throne with Christ they are, and what rewards they are enjoying right now. This last tour to Israel, I got to visit the building and work that they started that today is continuing to minister to many in that land. The Lord can use trials that you may have to go through, to great blessing to many. This is the treasure that we lay up for eternal life. May you too experience His abundance and enter into your inheritance that is waiting for your homecoming!

Keith Thomas