22 Sep 2013

A hospital doctor decides to examine his three psychiatric patients’ ability to make right judgments to see if they should stay or be sent home. He takes them to the edge of a swimming pool without water, and shows them the pool has no water and lets them decide whether to jump in.

The first patient looks at the pool and jumps in without hesitation, hurting his ankle. The doctor tells him, “You failed the examination, and therefore you must stay.” The second patient walks up to the pool’s edge, thinks about it, then jumps in. He hurts his shoulder. Again the doctor says, “You failed the exam and must stay.”

The third patient walks up to the pool’s edge, thinks for awhile, shakes his head and says, “No way I’m jumping in.” The doctor says, “You have sound judgment. You’re free to go home. But what, may I ask, made you decide not to jump into the pool?” “Oh, that’s easy,” says the patient. “I don’t know how to swim.”

I want to talk to you this morning about how God wants us to live unafraid of tomorrow. God certainly isn’t afraid of tomorrow. Scripture says, “Surely there is a future, and your hope will not be cut off.” The Lord has confidence about our tomorrow. And just because we can’t see something doesn’t mean it won’t be there.

The African impala can jump to a height of over ten feet and cover a distance of greater than thirty feet in one leap once it gets going. Yet these magnificent creatures can be caged-up in an enclosure with only a three-foot high plywood wall, because they won’t jump if they cannot see where their feet will land. They have no ability to trust what they cannot see.
We can’t jump that high or far but we can certainly take a leap of faith. As Proverbs 3:5-6 says, “Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths.” Walk with God, and the path in front of you will run straight and true.

Sometimes it’s hard to keep ourselves going. It’s so much easier to get somewhere and stay there. We bump up against someone who rubs us the wrong way, and we never get past it. Now we may tell ourselves we’re over that person or that situation but when we meet up again we unload everything we’ve been holding onto for the past three months. You know what I’m talking about. We never moved on, moved up or moved forward.

Don’t stay stuck. Just because we say we’ve moved past it, doesn’t mean we have. Bring the person to the Lord. Take time to pray for her or him. Find a way to ask God to bless them. That’s how you move forward.

The story of Lot’s wife is very popular in some areas of the world. It is a story of how God destroyed the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah due to some nasty activities. Angels arrive to tell Lot, Abraham’s nephew, that he and his family are the only ones permitted to escape the coming destruction. At the end of the instructions, they are warned not to look back or they will die. Upon their escape, Lot’s wife looked behind to the remains of the city and immediately turns into a pillar of salt.

Throughout the Bible salt is used in various ways. One of the ways, salt was used was as a preservative. When Lot’s wife looked back, she turned into a pillar of salt, a pillar of preservatives, because she was trying to preserve what once existed.

Too many people go back to a past they shouldn’t return to: a relationship that should be left behind once and for all, a hometown that’s right for someone only by virtue of it being comfortable, a former group of gossiping friends, or an old, draining job because you know the boss.

We’re supposed to be heading forward, trusting that God will provide, living by hope in a better tomorrow, but instead we turn around and fall for the same old troubles and problems. God tells us in Isaiah 43:18-19 “Forget the former things; do not dwell on the past. See, I am doing a new thing!”

Lot’s wife wanted to remember the good old days, and preserve her life that had been. I’m sure she had good memories in that home and that town: Rearing children, being younger, a nice home. And while memories are important to us, God’s Holy Spirit doesn’t stand pat on memories. The Lord our God is alive. The Spirit looks forward. Christ’s word continues to empower us to live fully today, moving forward into tomorrow.

Imagine that you had the guts to take the leap of faith called bungee jumping. You strap on a long elastic cord to your ankles. You go up to a height of 100 feet or more. You walk to the edge of a bridge and look over. You make a decision to trust the cord. You make a decision to trust the people who tied the knot in the cord. You make a decision to trust the sinews of your ankles that the cord is tied to. You sign multiple pieces of paper that have something to do with waiving liability. And then you jump.

People bungee jump when they step forward. Some get to the top and step back. Their courage fizzles. They miss out on the thrill of the fall, and they also miss out on something even more valuable. The moment of victory isn’t in the falling. Gravity does that part. The victory comes in making the decision, conquering the resistance, and doing it in spite of.

Many people like to get to one place, and then stay there. We want to grow only so old; we want to have our children grow up to a certain age, and then put on the brakes; we want to reach our height of strength and smarts, and then keep everything on hold. “I’m happy right here, thank you very much.”

A lot of people don’t want to go forward because, well, the truth is, it means facing one’s last days. So we turn around, think about the past, and try to relive some earlier golden era.
When we do this, when we turn around, when we refuse to face forward any longer because we don’t like what we’re looking at, we are saying God has only so much. We are testifying before God and all the hosts of heaven that we believe the Lord has his limits. By our fears, we bear witness to our deepest belief, our deepest fear that there is a power greater in the universe that God, and we will go forward only so far, and then we must turn back because you, Lord, can no longer care for us—you, O God, have come to the end of your power.

Don’t give up on God. There is no greater power, no final say, other than the Lord our God, the Alpha and the Omega, the Living One. Turn to the Lord, and face forward. Be convinced, like Paul, who saw clearly and declared clearly: “… that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor rulers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.” Rom 8:38-39

The way forward is the way of those who would follow Christ. “Fear not,” says God, “…(W)hen you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and through the rivers, they shall not overwhelm you; when you walk through fire you shall not be burned, and the flame shall not consume you. Because you are precious in my eyes, and honored, and I love you. Is 43:2,4a

If we are so cared by God, we too should care for those who are ours. Don’t be complacent toward the gifts God has given you. People often say, “My family is really important to me.” Almost everyone would say that. Yet, statistics reveal that the average father in the U.S. spends not more than fifteen minutes a day with his children and a spouse or partner.

I remember hearing about one husband who wrote on his wife’s Valentine’s card, “I love you, dear. P.S. See last year’s card for details.” Or it’s like the young wife who was relaxing on the couch, her head comfortably leaning against the crook of her husband’s arm. Her cell phone beeped. It was a text message from her husband: “Move.”

In the story of Adam and Eve, God looked to lead Adam directively. He gave one simple command, one directive: Don’t eat from that tree. But with Abraham, God wanted to lead directionally. He gave him one instruction, one direction: Get your belongings and head out toward a new country.

Abraham must have felt fear. After all, God didn’t make the exact destination known to him. “Now the Lord said to Abram, ‘Go from your country and your kindred and your father’s house to the land that I will show you. And I will make of you a great nation, and I will bless you and make your name great, so that you will be a blessing.’” Gen 12:1-2

Have you ever stopped to think about what Abraham was asked to do? He was asked to leave everything he knew. He was asked to pack some things up and leave everything else behind. He was asked to act based on the idea that he would be the father of many, even though he and his wife were barren. He was asked to live his life looking forward, to the future, and a legacy that others would live. He was asked to travel across a foreign land full of strangers and enemies and different customs. He was asked to go to a land that he had never seen and had no way of knowing if it really existed.

Abraham’s faith wasn’t measured by what he did when life was predictable and good. It wasn’t measured by how he acted when he was safe at home. He is called a man of faith because he did what God asked even when it wasn’t easy, even when it was scary, even when it seemed impossible. Abraham was asked to look forward, live forward, and move forward.
Most children are scared. It’s something we’re born with. Some are afraid of the dark, afraid of the first day of school, afraid to fight, afraid to dance, afraid to make a tough decision, or afraid to fail. Some of our fears we grow out of; some others we grow into.
God wants us to get over our fear of the dark. I don’t mean the “dark” as the absence of light. I mean the “darkness” of the unknown, the place outside of my control where we only see by faith. Such uncertainty keeps many people paralyzed in fear, unwilling to move.

The reason some people have a tough time keeping their feet heading straight ahead is because they can’t see how the “impossible” can ever happen.
I love what a fellow named Jeremy says, “My favorite coffee mug helps me to believe. It often does more to get me going in the morning than the coffee I drink out of it. Written on the mug is a quote from Lewis Carroll’s Alice in Wonderland, when Alice says, “‘There is no use trying. One can’t believe impossible things.’ And the Queen replies, ‘I dare say you haven’t had much practice. When I was your age, I always did it for half an hour a day. Why, sometimes I’ve believed as many as six impossible things before breakfast.'”

With God, the impossible to us becomes possible, the unknown will become known, and the unseen shall be made visible.

We think of our faith and see it as something that determines how we live as God wants us to live. In this view, the goals are simple: Do what God wants and don’t do what God forbids. If you’re really into this, you pray before eating, even in public; you go to church every Sunday. You don’t cuss, or at least not out loud. This is Adam faith: Faith focused on me and my life, my do’s and don’ts.

While this is fine, it doesn’t challenge us to do more. It doesn’t ask us to step out of our comfort zone for the good of others. It doesn’t believe in the impossible.

The faith Abraham had keeps believing in tomorrow, and holds on to a God who is never outmaneuvered or overpowered. Step up to this faith. Keep moving forward. Face tomorrow with courage. Trust that the Lord is always in front, always leading forward, always directing us. And know that today is definitely not the end. Oh, no. Because tomorrow and tomorrow’s tomorrow is and shall always be in God’s hand. Can anybody say Amen?

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