a vision for your futureEnlarge the place of your tent, stretch your tent curtains wide, do not hold back; lengthen your cords, strengthen your stakes. For you will spread out to the right and to the left; your descendants will dispossess nations and settle in their desolate cities (Isaiah 54:2,3).
This has to be one of the greatest promises in scripture. It's one of my all time favorites. Here's why: It was written for the exiled Jews who ended up slaves in Babylon after being thrust from the promised land because of their sin. They wondered if there was any hope left; if there was a future for Israel. They wondered if they had out-sinned Yahweh's promises.
The Lord used this promise and many others like it to assure them they would not be extinguished as a people. They would return to the promised land and Israel would have many children. There was hope and a future for Israel because of Yahweh's unfailing love.
Ultimately this promise was fulfilled through Jesus. It is promise of a redeemed, enduring people, not just from among ethnic Israel, but from among all the ethnic groups of all the ages. All who have faith in Jesus' death and resurrection have become true Israel and her descendants are a number no one can or ever will be able to count.
Here's the culmination of the promise: "After this I looked and there before me was a great multitude that no one could count, from every nation, tribe, people and language, standing before the throne and in front of the Lamb...they cried out, 'Salvation belongs to our God!' (Rev. 7:9,10a)."
The applications for us are powerful. First, through faith in Jesus we can say with certainty: "I have a future and a hope!"
And second, we can join Christ in his work to birth spiritual children from all the peoples on the planet. We live in a day of the exponential growth of God's family. And you and me are called to be a part of this.
Whether it's reaching out to your neighbor or co-worker, or giving to missions, or prayer for a people group that's never heard, or using your unique talents as a business-person or scientist or artist to display God's fame here and abroad, or teaching your kids or grand-kids to love and serve Christ, or planting a church among an unreached people; or going on a short term mission trip; you are called to have many spiritual children through Jesus Christ.
So prepare for growing pains! Enlarge the place of your tent; stretch your tent curtains wide! Lengthen your cords; strengthen your stakes! You will spread out to the left and to the right; you will have many spiritual descendants through Christ! Christ is building his church and the gates of hell can never resist his undaunting plan!
doubters welcomeFaith is not the absence of doubt. It is a decision to trust in God's promises in the face of our doubts. To doubt is to be human, it is the human struggle. To trust even though we have doubt is pleasing to God. This is the kind of faith that is pleasing to God: trusting him in the presence of doubt. Don't focus on trying to rid yourself of doubts. Rather, use your doubts as an occasion, a springboard to trust God's promises. When the doubts come say to yourself: "Whatever I think or feel that unsettles me is not the truth. I choose right now to trust God and not my fleeting thoughts and emotions." This is how faith grows: In the presence of doubt. The journey of faith in the face if doubt is a lifelong process. As you trust day by day in the face of your doubt, know that your faith is growing. "Blessed is the one who trusts in Lord, whose confidence is in Him. They will be like a tree planted by the water" (Jer. 17:7a).
faith includes power and painLike a coin, faith is two-sided. One side of the coin is marked with the powerful acts of God through his people. On the other side we see the perseverance of God's people through intense suffering. Both sides of the coin illustrate true faith. In Hebrews chapter 11, the Hall of Fame of Faith, we discover that, through faith, God's people "conquered kingdoms, shut the mouths of lions, quenched the fury of the flames and received back their dead, raised to life again." Through their faith in God, these followers saw the mighty power of God in action. Yet other faithful people, the writer explains, "were tortured for their faith, were put in prison and were put to death by the sword." These persevered in faith through unimaginable suffering. God wants us to know that faith is not either power or suffering but rather, it is both power and suffering. There are times in the journey when our faith will be rewarded with the unleashed power of God. And there are times when our faith will require teeth-gritting perseverance in the face of our unanswered questions. Don't be surprised by the power and don't be confused by the pain. For you'll find both in a lifetime of trusting in God.
yourself through God's eyes
I've been thinking lately, now that we are forgiven and cleansed of our past sins, how does God see us? And further how does God want us to see ourselves? Let me try to paint a picture...