The View From Here

Uncharted Territory

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Genesis 12:1-4

I stayed home yesterday,  honoring the state’s request for nonessential workers to stay home.  I still have work to do, but the normal landscape has changed.  Familiar routines and faces are gone.  This is uncharted territory.

When we enter uncharted territory, we have some important decisions to make.  Do we keep going?  Do we turn and run?  Do we freeze and hope someone finds us?  God is in the business of taking his people into uncharted territory.  He tests their faith.  He exposes their weaknesses.  Layer by layer, he lays bare what is most important to us.  Remember Jesus’ words?  “For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also” (Matthew 6:21). 

God called Abraham into uncharted territory.  Abraham didn’t ask for this, as far as we know.  God called him to a go to a land that God would show him.  My family read about Abraham this morning and my son, Judah, asked me, “How did Abraham know where to go?”  What a great question.  That is what I am asking God right now: “God, there are a thousand different directions to go, which way should I go first?”  When we are in uncharted territory we can feel lost or overwhelmed.  Should I flee, fight or freeze?  Consider Abraham. 

In Genesis 12, God tells Abraham (called Abram at the time) to “go forth… to a land which I will show you” (v.1).  What does Abraham do?  Abraham goes. That is all we are told.  Did God give Abraham a map?  Nope.  Did God give Abraham a general direction?  It doesn’t say.  God gave Abraham what he needed most, something to believe and hope in. 

God gave Abram, who had no heir, no kids, an amazing promise—six specific things actually. God would do this:

  1. Make his kids into a great nation.
  2. Bless him.
  3. Make Abram’s name great.
  4. Make Abram into a blessing.
  5. Bless those who bless him and curse those who curse him.
  6. Bless all the nations of the earth through him.

Wow, for a guy just minding his own business, this set of promises is an amazing gift to grab onto.  The only handle with which he could hold onto this gift was by faith.  How do we know he believed God?  He went.  Abram didn’t freeze, he didn’t turn back, he did not fear.  He went forth, into uncharted territory, not knowing where he was going (Heb. 11:8). 

You and I didn’t ask for this virus crisis.  We were minding our own business.  It is no longer business as usual, except for faith.  This is what God does.  He calls us to trust him in thick and thin.  He calls us to set our hope in the glorious promises he gives us.  Consider some of the promises God has made to us.

  1. Believe that Jesus died for your sins and rose from the grave and you will be saved (Rom. 10:9).
  2. God is good, is your refuge, and cares for you (Nahum 1:7).
  3. God will renew your strength and be your strength (Isaiah 40:31; 2 Cor. 12:9).
  4. Nothing can separate you from the love of God, in Christ (Rom. 8:35-39).
  5. God is with you in the darkest valley, “I fear no evil…” (Ps. 23:4).
  6. God knows and provides just what you need (Phil. 4:19; Ps. 23:1).
  7. Jesus is with is you always even “to the end of the age” (Matt. 28:20).

We might be in uncharted territory, but we are not without hope, or without a lighted path (Ps. 119:105).  These promises of God are great and all, but don’t walk forward without the One who made them.  Go forth, but talk to Jesus and listen to Him.  We hear His voice first by reading His Word, the Bible.  Be sensitive to His Spirit, given to each who believes in Jesus.  And remember, we travel and travail on this earth, but we set our eyes on our Destination: Jesus.  Take things one step at a time.  Remember the Proverb: The mind of man plans his way, But the LORD directs his steps. (Prov 16:9).  God has charted your course; keep going.

Disturb us, Lord, when
We are too pleased with ourselves,
When our dreams have come true
Because we dreamed too little,
When we arrived safely
Because we sailed too close to the shore.

 Disturb us, Lord, when
with the abundance of things we possess
We have lost our thirst
For the waters of life;
Having fallen in love with life,
We have ceased to dream of eternity
And in our efforts to build a new earth,
We have allowed our vision
Of the new Heaven to dim.

 Disturb us, Lord, to dare more boldly,
To venture on wilder seas
Where storms will show Your mastery;
Where losing sight of land,
We shall find the stars.
We ask you to push back
The horizons of our hopes;
And to push back the future
In strength, courage, hope, and love.

 This we ask in the name of our Captain,
Who is Jesus Christ.

Amen!

The Prayer of Sir Francis Drake, 1577

 

Words for Now

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This isn't the first time..  Pandemics, plagues and viruses have hit before.  It might be new to us, but followers of Jesus have walked through this trial ahead of us.  How did they respond?  What did their faith in God look like in these circumstances?  

Around 500 years ago, Martin Luther experience the plague called, "The Black Death."  Martin Luther described his response to the threat and the need of that situation.  He answered the question, "Should I flee from a deadly plague?" 

"I shall ask god to mercifully protect us.  Then I shall fumigate, help purify the air, administer medicine and take it.  I shall avoid places and persons where my presence is not needed in order not to become contaminated and thus perchance inflict and pollute others, and so cause their death as a result of my negligence.  If God should will to take me, he will surely find me and I have done what he has expected of me, and so I am not responsible for either my own death or the death of others.  If my neighbor needs me, however, I shall not avoid place or person but will go freely as stated above.  See, this is such a God-fearing faith because it is neither brash nor foolhardy, and does not tempt God." (from Luther's Works, Vol. 43, pg. 132 - "Whether one may flee from a deadly plague""

This quote has been forwarded, texted and posted a lot in the last couple weeks.  Why is it so appealing?  Because it reminds us that this experience is not new.  If Christians found God trustworthy in times like these before, then so can we.  There is nothing too difficult for our God, and with our God, we can walk through this storm.

Finally, note the three things Luther is doing:

  1. He does the practical things to avoid sickness for himself and for others, just as we are with cleanliness, social distancing and staying out of the way.  He is looking out for himself and for others.
  2. "If God should take me..."  He fears God more than the disease.
  3. Because he fears God more, he places the needs of others above self.  His reaction to the disease is not hoarding supplies and becoming a hermit.  He "freely" goes to help his neighbor when the need arises.

Who is your neighbor?  Listen to the Holy Spirit who is both our comforter and and teacher.  Respect the authorities who are working to slow the spread of this virus, yet follow the Lord's lead and reach out to those who are alone and in need.  Look out for your neighbors.  This is how we Love God and Love Others. 

Like never before, we have an open door to share the love and Good News of Jesus Christ.

 

Posted by Joshua Holland with

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