Dawn of the Decade 20/20

We are not only starting a new year but a new decade.  Moving into this new year and decade we should reflect on the decade and year gone by.  Take inventory of the last decade personally and as the people of God.  Where has God brought you?  What difficulties have you been through?  What celebrations have been meaningful?  What relationships brought you joy?  Can you see the hand of God at work in your life over time?  At the beginning of the last decade you had dreams and plans and did those work out?  Did the last decade include a focus on your relationship with Jesus?  Did your plans include following Jesus and seeking his direction?

At the dawn of this new decade we cannot change the past, but we can reflect, repent, refresh, refocus, and revision with an honest look to the past and a hopeful view to the future.  This new year and decade start with the year 2020.  When I think of the date of the year 2020, I also think of writing it this way 20/20.  20/20 is a description of vision acuity or accuracy.  It means at twenty feet away things will look as if they twenty feet away.  If a person has 20/100 vision that person will have to be as close as twenty feet to see what normal vision can see at one hundred feet.

When our eyes are able to see properly, we are able to understand the world around us much more safely.  When reflecting on the past decade, do we see it for what it was and celebrate where possible, repent where necessary, and thank God for the grace that has brought us safe thus far. When we can honest look at the past, we are better able to step into the future with hope.  What hopes and dreams do you have at the start of this decade?  Do they include God and walking with Jesus?  Only Jesus knows the future plans God has in store.

At the dawn of this decade starting in 2020, do we have spiritual 20/20?  Does the year and decade ahead include seeking Christ to lead and guide us personally and as a people?  Proverbs 29:18 cautions us, “where there is no vision, the people perish.”  We must become people of vision.  Looking to an uncertain future trusting Christ to guide and give vision.  It will people of God will cease to be God’s people if they can no long see him and have a vision of Christ’s movement in our midst.

When we do trust faithfully and look longingly, the prophetic words of Joel encourage us, “And it shall come to pass afterward, that I will pour out my spirit upon all flesh; and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, your old men shall dream dreams, your young men shall see visions.”  Is it our prayer that God will pour out his spirit on all flesh, sons and daughters, men and women, young and old that they will dream dreams and see visions?

Are we a people of vision, forward looking, and promise filled?  In 2020 and beyond do we personally and as the people of God see with spiritual 20/20?  If not, what corrective measures need to be taken?  In all things remember to be grace filled and graceful in the living out of our faith.  Embrace the words of the timeless hymn Amazing Grace, that reminds us ‘Tis grace hath brought me safe thus far, and grace will lead me home.

The Hopes and Fears of all the years are met in Thee tonight

When I see these words from the O Little Town of Bethlehem I am struck by their expression of the tension of faith.  There is always in our faith as believers a tension between what it is, that we hope for and also the fear that our faith won’t meet our hopes.  At the time of Jesus’ birth there had been nearly four hundred years since the last word from God through a prophet.  Then the first word was not actually a word, but the Word, become flesh.  There was not a word by cries and coos.  God sent the Word.

I can only imagine the hopes of the people deferred for centuries.  The fears that maybe God had grown silent, distant, or unconcerned.  While this tension is real, God was doing just the opposite.  God was not becoming silent, distant, or unconcerned, rather God was writing the story in the stars, becoming personal in Jesus, and showing love through God’s great gift of Jesus. The place of this humble miraculous birth was the town of Bethlehem.  The name of the town Bethlehem means “House of Bread.”  God has provided the Bread of Life, in Jesus.

The name Immanuel means God with Us, and Jesus means He will Save.  The hopes and fears, the tension of all of creation, human longing, and faith are found in Jesus.  As we are in the season of Advent now two thousand years since Jesus’ was physically on earth.  Are there hopes of his return? Yes!  Are there fears that our faith is unfounded, and Jesus is not coming back?  Yes!  When we look to this little town of Bethlehem, we are able to see in that quite unexpected place, the hopes and fears of all the years were met in thee tonight.

Hold on dear friend God sent His Son and we know that God is faithful.  God did it before and promises to send Jesus back again.  We are hopeful and fearful, but let’s always remain faithful.  In God’s time Christ will return and the hopes and fears of all the years will be realized.  There will no longer be a deferred hope or fear of God’s silence, distance, or unconcern.  There will be hope realized and fears relinquished as the hopes and fears of all of the years will be met in Christ.  Remain faithful through the tension of hopes and fears, for God is with us.

Calling Us Out

In recent months we have been looking at a scriptural Vision Statement that is the Great Commission found in Matthew 28:18-20 and a Mission Statement: “Know, Grow, Go.”  The last two months we’ve looked at the Know and Grow parts of this Mission Statement.  Now we will consider “Go.”  Verse eighteen tells us that all authority on heaven and earth has been given to Christ and because of his authority, commands us to go and make disciples.  Although the phrase may be better read, “as you go, make disciples,” the verb being “to make” it is clear that faith by its very definition is not just an intellectual exercise but a physical one as well.  There may be hesitancy in doing what the Lord asks us to do, either because we don’t want to or don’t think that we can, but this concluding verse tells us that we do not go alone.  Christ is ever with us.

Let’s look at this “going” in a different way.  When we hear the word go what comes to mind is the idea of being sent, but what if “going” is not about sending but rather calling?  Another series of events in earlier Matthew 14 brings this into focus.  Jesus teaches the crowd and he had his disciples to look for food and found a kid’s lunch.  Jesus blesses and breaks the bread and fish feeding five thousand men and who knows how many women and children.  The scraps filled twelve large baskets.  Jesus goes away to pray to the Father, the crowd leaves, and the disciples go across the Sea of Galilee in a boat.

It is now the middle of the night.  Jesus had not yet come. A storm was upon them and they were three or four miles from shore.  Then they see Jesus walking to them on the sea coming near the boat and they were afraid, some thought he may be a ghost.  Jesus tells the disciples that it is truly him and they shouldn’t be afraid.  Peter then says, “Lord, if it is you, command me to come to you on the water.”  Peter does something extraordinary, he in speaking to the Lord asks the Lord to command him, to order his steps.  Those steps would bring him out of the boat and on to the water.  Would we have the faith to ask the Lord to command us and then follow the command?

Jesus commands Peter to “Come.”  Peter got out of the boat and walked on water and came to Jesus.  Jesus did not send Peter he called Peter.  He called Peter to come and meet him where he already was.  Peter’s response was to “go.”  Go out of the boat, out of the place of safety to an uncertain place and future, but where Jesus is.  “Going” is responding to Christ’s invitation to meet him in the world and future that seems scary and uncertain, but where Jesus already is working.  “Going” is about our response to Christ calling us out beyond ourselves.  Out past the waves of uncertainty and the deep waters of doubt.  The future and the world can seem so uncertain, yet Christ is there calling, calling us to walk with him on the water, into the world, and toward an uncertain future.  We know he is there.  We know he is calling.  How will you and I respond?  Will we go?  The water, the world, and the future is waiting.