Minding the Mind of God

Abram experiences a high after the LORD covenants with him.  But then he slips into human reasoning when he hears what his wife, Sarai, is thinking. (See Genesis 16:1-6.)Because Sarai is barren she considers how the LORD might have her build a family.

“Take my Egyptian maid-servant, Hagar, and sleep with her,” Sarai says to Abram, resorting to a common practice of the times. “Perhaps this is how the LORD wills to give us children.”

Abram agrees with Sarai, and takes Hagar as his wife. Then when Hagar realizes she is pregnant she despises her mistress. Sarai becomes jealous and blames Abram.

But Abram answers his wife, “Your servant is in your hands. Do with her whatever you think best.”

Next time we’ll see just what Sarai thinks is best, and the resulting response and blessing from the LORD.

In the meantime, moving ahead to the New Testament era, we hear Jesus’ question, “But what about you? Who do you say I am?" And we hear Simon Peter responding: “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.”

But then, he, too, as Abram, slips into human reasoning. When Jesus predicts all that He is to suffer, Peter responds, “Never, Lord! This shall never happen to you!”

But Jesus rebukes Peter saying, “You do not have in mind the things of God, but the things of men.”

In later years, the apostle Paul challenges the Christians at Colosse how they (and us) should live in this world: “Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things. For you died and your life is hidden with Christ in God.”

From Matthew 16:13-28; Mark 8:31-38; Luke 9:22-27; Colossians 3:1-4

Zooming forward to the 19th Century, we meet Johanna Veenstra, born April 19, 1894, in Paterson, New Jersey.

At a tender age she loses her father to typhoid fever (he had just begun his pastoral ministry). His death brings hardship and poverty to Johanna’s mother and her five siblings. Attending Christian schools until 12 years of age, she drops out for secretarial training. At the age of 14 she gets a job as a stenographer in New York City to help support the family, commuting every day from Paterson.

Surrounded by the “temptations of riches and worldly pleasures” of New York City life, she nevertheless has no interest in such "earthly things." She is active in her Christian Reformed church; even so, it's while attending a Baptist church that God moves her to foreign missions. She applies with Sudan United Mission (SUM) for service in Africa. But she's too young at the time, so she undertakes further studies at CalvinCollege, where she becomes the first woman member of the Student Volunteer Board.

At the age of 25 she leaves America’s bountiful shores for Africa. There, in present-day Nigeria she is primarily engaged in medical work and preaching.  She gives her life to “minding the things of God” for the spiritual, as well as the physical, well being of the African people, and treks from village to village to minister. She also helps set up a boarding school for training young men as evangelists.

On Palm Sunday, April 9, 1933, after suffering an illness, she dies at the age of 39.

Johanna Veenstra saw a greater pleasure in Africa than the temporal-ness of New York City. And, as she wrote, “There has never been a single regret that I left the ‘bright lights and [carefree] life’ of New York City, and came to this dark corner of [God’s] vineyard. There has been no sacrifice, because the Lord Jesus is my constant companion.”

God continues His search today for other “Johanna Veenstras" who will set their minds on things above, not on earthly things, for the spiritual good of all peoples.

Satisfaction Guaranteed

Previously, [IN GOD WE TRUST] we saw that God had promised Abram, “I brought you out of Ur of the Chaldeans to give you this land.”

Abram, having a little trouble believing this, asked the LORD, “How can I know that I will gain possession of it?”

And now we pick up where God answers Abram (Genesis 15:7-21), guaranteeing the promise – that what God has said will come to pass.

As God instructs, Abram gathers some animals, including a heifer, a goat, and a ram, each three years old. Abram cuts them in two, and arranges the halves opposite each other. Then, falling fast asleep, he is overcome by a dreadful darkness.

At the setting sun and fallen darkness, a “smoking firepot with a blazing torch" appears and goes through the middle of the animal pieces. Out of the darkness, the LORD speaks to Abram, predicting all that will happen to his descendants: “[they] will be strangers in a foreign land, and enslaved… but they will come out with great possessions.”

But then also the LORD covenants with Abram, “To your descendants I give this land, from the river of Egypt to the great river, the Euphrates.”

Traveling forward now to the New Testament era, we see Jesus during His earthly travels. On one particular day, Jesus meets a man whose son is demon possessed (Mark 9:14-27). Jesus responds to the man’s plea for help. But, the man too, as Abram of the Old Testament, needs a guarantee. “I believe,” he says. “Help me to overcome my unbelief.”

A crowd rushes to the scene as Jesus rebukes the evil spirit. Loud shrieks shatter the air. The boy convulses violently. The evil spirit comes out, leaving the boy as dead. But Jesus lifts him up. The boy stands before the crowd, alive.

In later years, to the Hebrews (and to us as well) it is written about this Jesus: “[He] is the Mediator of a new covenant, that those who are called may receive the promised eternal inheritance…” – our satisfaction-guarantee for life.

Moving on now to the Eighteenth Century we meet DavidBrainerd, born in Connecticut Colony in America in 1718. Although through much of his life he battles ill health, depression, and discouragement, he nevertheless persistently proclaims the "guaranteed promise" to the North American Indians.

He treks miles upon miles through early America’s Northeast, preaching the gospel. Often, however, his words seem to fall on deaf ears and hard hearts. Then his hope is renewed, his spirit brightened, in seeing many Indians, as well as White men, come from miles around to hear him preach.

In just a few weeks, 25 believers are baptized. A school is established. Revival breaks out among the Indians. A church is planted.

Tuberculosis taking its toll on Brainerd’s life, however, his last days are spent in the home of Jonathan Edwards, nursed by his fiancĂ©e, Edward’s daughter Jerusha. He dies before their wedding day.

God continues His search today for other “David Brainerds,” who will risk life and personal ambition for the “surpassing greatness of knowing [and making known] Christ Jesus as Lord” (Philippians 3:7-10) – the guaranteed promise of eternal redemption for all peoples, and the glory of God. (See Hebrews 9:15.)

In God We Trust

Continued from The Blessing of Blessing.

Abram returns from battle victorious.

One night God speaks to Abram in a vision, calming his fears. (See Genesis chapter 15.)

“Don’t be afraid, Abram,” God says. “I am your shield, your very great reward" (Genesis 15:1; cf. Deuteronomy 33:29; Psalm 3:3)

“O, LORD God, what can you give me”? Abram asks. “Since I have no children, a servant in my own household will surely be my heir.”

“This man will not be your heir,” God assures. “Your heir will indeed come from your own body.” 

 Leading Abram outside, God says. Look up to the heavens and see if you can count the stars. So shall your offspring be.”

Gazing toward the heavens, noticing the starry host, Abram then puts his trust in God, and it is credited to him as righteousness.   (See Psalm 106:31; Romans 4:3, 9, 22; Galatians 3:6.) 

God also says to Abram, “I brought you out of Ur of the Chaldeans to give you this land," (Genesis 15:7).

But Abram asks again, “O Sovereign LORD, how can I know?” (Genesis 15:8)

We’ll discover God’s answer to this question next time, until then, however, continue through the rest Genesis chapter 15.

But now, we zoom centuries ahead to the New Testament era (in the Bible at John 9) where we see Jesus encouraging a man who was born blind.

After Jesus opens the blind man’s eyes, the man is seen among his Jewish neighbors, the Pharisees and his own parents. They are all amazed, but still not convinced that Jesus was sent from God.

They ask Jesus about the man born blind, “Who sinned? This man or his parents?”

“Neither,” Jesus answers, “But that the work of God might be performed in him.”

Again and again the Jews ask the man about Jesus. But the man continually responds, finally answering, “Whether or not He is a sinner, I don’t know. One thing I do know. Once I was blind. Now I see.” (John 9:25)

The argument continues. Finally, the Jews, themselves blinded by their own righteousness and stubborn heart, put the man born blind out of the synagogue.

Hearing of it, Jesus finds the man and welcomes him. “Do you believe in the Son of Man?” Jesus asks. “You have seen Him. He is the one speaking with you now.” The man born blind then believed [putting his trust in Jesus], and worshiped Him.

Continuing our travel through time, we meet George Boardman, born February 8, 1801, in Livermore, Maine (northeast United States). Ordained a Baptist pastor February 16, 1825, he marries Sarah Hall on July 4 of the same year. Putting their trust in God, the Boardmans then set sale for Burma (present-day Myanmar) 12 days later.

After some time in Burma, the Boardmans leave the comfort of the mission confines of Mauhnain. Moving to Tavoy, they begin a work among the Karen people, testifying before the Karens the life of Jesus, the Christ (Messiah).

With the Boardmans is a Karen man named Ko Tha Byu. Having received Jesus Christ, through their witness, he is born again, spiritually, to a new life of hope. (See John 3:3-6.) Discovering the real life, and purposeful, he is then a great help to the Boardmans, ministering among his own people.

George Boardman’s service in Burma, as well as his life, is short. He dies on February 11, 1831.
Before his death, however, 57 Karen people are baptized, confessing their faith in Jesus, turning from their sinful lifestyle; the Karen church in Tavoy totals 70 members. In the years following George Boardman’s death, Ko Tha Byu becomes a zealous evangelist among his people.

God continues His search today for other “George and Sarah Boardmans,” who will also, having put their trust in God, do exploits for His glory and Christ’s Kingdom on earth.

For further reflection: Genesis 15:1-6; John 9; Romans 4; 9:7-8 (cf. John 1:13); Galatians 3:6-9; James 2:14-26

For more on Georoge and Sarah Boardman consider Boardman of Burma: A Biography

The Blessing of Blessing

Attack! In the dark of the night Abram’s 318 men attack in all directions, pursuing Kedorlaomer’s army as far as Hobah, north of Damascus. Abram is victorious, rescuing his nephew Lot and his possessions, and all the other captives. (See Genesis 14:15-24.)

In the valley of Shaveh (the king’s valley), Abram meets the king of Sodom.  (This is also where Melchizedek meets Abram, and blesses him by God Most High. Abram returns the blessing by giving Melchizedek a tenth of everything.)

So the king of Sodom is approaching Abram. “Give me the people,” he says to Abram, “and you keep all the goods for yourself.”

Sounds like a deal Abram for sure won’t resist.  But what’s this? What is Abram saying to that king of Sodom? Listen: “I have raised my hand to the LORD, God Most High,” Abram says, "and have taken an oath that I will accept nothing belonging to you, O, King, so that you will never be able to say, ‘I made Abram rich,’" (Genesis 14:22-24).

Before the king of Sodom, Abram acknowledges his God, Creator of heaven and earth, as the true Victor, and his King of righteousness and peace.

Fast-forwarding now to the New Testament era, we see Jesus. A babe in a manger, born of a virgin on that first Christmas day, yet he was born to die. And rising again from the dead, he is our Victor over death and hell, and “priest forever, in the order of Melchizedek.” (See Hebrews 7.)

During his time on earth, Jesus related a story of a certain rich man.  That man was so rich in material goods that he didn’t know what to do with it all, other than building bigger barns to store it. (See Luke 12:16-21.)

Jesus told his disciples, “A man’s life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions,” (Luke 12:15). He continued, “This is what the pagans do. They run after all such earthly thingsBut you, child of God, run after God’s Kingdom first, and His righteousness [for the sake of the peoples of the world], and He will provide all your earthly needs.” (See Luke 12:22-31; Matthew 6:25-33.)

Journeying on through history to the late 1800s, we meet Henry M. Stanley, the man who uttered the popular quote, “Dr. Livingstone, I presume.” He is a most unlikely candidate for missionary service.

Henry Stanley, illegitimately born in Britain, has fled the cruelty of a workhouse master and gone to America, settling in New Orleans. There, a wealthy merchant adopts him.

But, Stanley, a troublesome teenager, is sent away to work on a plantation. During the American Civil War, he serves in both the Confederate and Union armies. Later, he joins the Navy only to desert. He becomes a freelance journalist. This career takes him to Asia and then to Africa, where he finds David Livingstone, through whom he also finds Jesus, the Christ (Messiah).

Livingstone becomes Stanley’s hero. With a determined passion, he pleads for missionary volunteers through his writings.

At hearing of Livingstone’s death, Stanley writes, “May I be selected to succeed him in opening up Africa to the shining light of Christianity!

And God continues His search today for other "Henry Stanleys", who will likewise consider their gifts and abilities as from God to be used for the advancement of Christ’s Kingdom to all peoples of the world.

Consider the book How I Found Livingstone.

In the World But Not of It

War breaks out in Canaan! (See Genesis 14:1-14) Alliances form—five kings against four other kings. Subjected by Kedorlaomer, king of the Elamites, for 12 years, nations rebel in this 13th year.

Abram is caught right in the middle, encamped near those great trees belonging to Mamre, the Amorite. Mamre, with his brothers Eschol and Aner, ally with Abram.

Abram learns of the sacking of Sodom and Gomorrah, (his nephew Lot lives in Sodom). That city of the plain that once looked so good to Lot lies in ruins.

Distressed at the capture of Lot and all his goods, Abram takes 318 men and pursues Kedorlaomer's army as far as Dan. In the dark of the night Abram divides his men, positioning them, ready to attack from all directions... (Continued next time, or discover for yourself by reading Genesis chapter 14.)

Zooming centuries ahead now to the New Testament era, we hear Jesus declaring, "You will hear of wars and rumors of war... Nation rising against nation... But the end is not yet... The Good News of the Kingdom will be proclaimed throughout the world as a testimony to all nations..."  (Matthew 24:6-14)

The Bible speaks of yet another war that has been raging since times immemorial—a spiritual war, and we're all caught up in it no matter who we are or where we are. Having been deceived by the evil one in the Garden of Eden long ago, we have been alienated from God since, the nature of the evil one enslaving us. (Genesis 3:14-15.)

However, "...God so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son that whosoever believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life" (John 3:16). Thus, we have the means for a new alliance with the Creator of the universe, and the message to be carried to all 'nations' (peoples).

And we read, as Jesus' time for departure draws near—for Him to return to the Father—He prays for His disciples (and for us), "They are not of this world, as I am not of it, yet they remain in the world laboring for the Kingdom until Your time, Father, for My return. Until then, protect them from the evil one and his deceptive ways." (See John 17:12-23.)

The apostle Paul admonishes us, as he writes to the Ephesians (Eph. 6:10-18), to put on the full armor of God, and pray always, that we may thwart all those fiery darts the evil one throws at us

For more on the spiritual war consider The Invisible War by Donald Grey Barnhouse.

Moving on further through time, to the 1800s, we meet one Mary Slessor of Scotland, faithfully laboring for the Kingdom of God among the peoples of Africa. 

From rags to spiritual riches, Mary Slessor was subject to poverty and family strife as a child. But finding her true wealth in Jesus, the Christ (Messiah) empowers her to do exploits for God's glory. 

After the death of her alcoholic earthly father, Mary Slessor works in home missions, yet with foreign missions deeply on her heart. Then, at the age of 27, in 1876, she sails for Calabar on the African continent (present-day Nigeria).

There she discovers her heart's desire in supervising schools, caring for the sick, helping in settling disputes, and mothering unwanted children. On Sundays she travels from village to village sharing the riches of the Kingdom, which is "Christ ... the hope of glory" (Colossians 1:27-28). Despite evil forces abounding on every front, including witchcraft, spiritism, and cruel tribal customs, Mary Slessor relentlessly pursues the task God has entrusted to her.

And God continues His search today for other "Mary Slessors" who will give up their smaller ambitions, realizing their citizenship in Christ, to labor faithfully for Christ's cause in this world below

Recovering Eternal Values

Continuing our "time travels" we find ourselves journeying with Abram through Canaan, God's promised land to him. We notice that both Abram and his nephew, Lot, are materially wealthy in flocks and herds and tents. Both Abram's possessions and Lot's are so great that the land cannot support them both. Quarreling rises between Abram's herdsmen and those of Lot. 

Displeased with the quarreling, Abram goes to Lot one day to discuss the matter. 

"Let's not have any more of this fighting between your men and mind," Abram says. "Let's separate. You go one direction; I'll go the other." (See Genesis 13:5-9.)

Lot looks over all the territory to the east, and then chooses for himself the "whole plain of the Jordan." He sees that it is well watered, like the garden of the LORD, like the land of Egypt." Perhaps seeing its potential for material prosperity, Lot then leaves Abram and lives among the cities of the plain near Sodom. But, the men there are wicked and sin greatly against God. (See Genesis 13:10-13.)

Abram, however, remains in Canaan and is refreshed with the promise of God: "Do you see all this land, Abram?" Showing Abram all of Canaan, God says, "I am giving it to you and your offspring." (See Genesis 13:14-15.)

Abram walks through the land, seeing only the potential of God's promise. At Hebron he builds an altar and worships the LORD there." (See Genesis 13:18.)

Then our time machine transports us to the New Testament times when Jesus trekked the Promised Land (Old Testament times, Canaan; for Jesus, Palestine; in the 21st Century, Israel).

We look in on Him during one of His private times praying. His disciples are there with Him.

Sharing with His disciples, Jesus predicts the kind of death He will die. He also teaches them, as the apostle Paul will later report to the Colossians, "Set your affections on things above, not on earthly things," (Colossians 3:1-3; cf. Matthew 6:33)

And as Jesus put it to His disciples (and to us), "Whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me will find it" (Matthew 16:25). He goes on, asking them rhetorically, "What good will it be for a man if he gains the whole world, and forfeits his soul?" (Matthew 16:26)

Swoosh! Our time machine now carries us away to the Year of our Lord 1860, and deposits us in England. Here we witness the birth of Charles Thomas Studd (C.T.Studd). We watch as he becomes an expert cricket player at the age of 16, yet later "loses his life only to find it" in service for the cause of Christ.

C.T.'s father is a wealthy Englishman, whose life has been radically changed since he received Christ at a D.L. Moody campaign. He persistently witnesses to his three sons until seeing their conversion to Christianity. 

In his youth, however C.T. strays from his faith. But, then, at a Moody campaign, he rededicates his life to God. And, like his father, he zealously pursues the task God has prepared for him to do, sacrificing wealth and prestige for the more worthy goal of making Christ known. Giving up a half million-dollar inheritance -- recovering eternal values -- he chooses rather to live by faith. 

C.T. Studd, with his wife Priscilla, first serves in China with the China Inland Mission (now OMF International). Priscilla works among the women, while C.T. with opium addicts. Their ministry in China, though just 10 years, is nevertheless productive for Christ's Kingdom among the Chinese. C.T. also serves the Savior in India and Africa. In later years he is instrumental in the founding of Worldwide Evangelization Crusade (now WEC International). 

In July 1931, C.T. Studd passes from the physical realm into the eternal presence of his Lord. His last spoken word is "Hallelujah!"

Today God continues His search for other "C.T.s and Priscillas," who are willing to risk wealth and fame for the nobler ambition of making Christ known among the 'nations' (peoples of the world)

For further reflection, consider--
Genesis 13:5-18
Matthew 16:21-28
Mark 8:31-9:1
Luke 9:22-27
Colossians 3:1-17
Hebrews 11:6-10

Dare to be a Daniel

Stepping into our time machine once again—the annals of history—we zoom back to the year 605 B.C. Nebuchadnazzar, King of Babylon, besieges Jerusalem and takes Jehoiakim, king of Judah, captive. Ravaging the city, he carries into exile to Babylon the remnant, those who escaped the devastation. In Babylon they are forced to be servants of Nebuchadnazzar, then of his sons, then of the kingdoms of the Medes and Persians—70 long years.

(This removal of God’s people from the Promised Land happened with God permission. By their idolatrous worship and disobedience to God's commands, scoffing at His prophets, they only heaped upon themselves God's wrath and their pending doom.)

Among those taken captive is a youth named Daniel, who, because of his aptitude for learning and handsome appearance, serves in the king's palace all the days of captivity— through the reigns of Nebuchadnazzar, Belshazzar, Darius the Mede, and Cyrus the Persian. And Daniel loves his God—the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob—and faithfully serves Him, too, all his life. He is thus a faithful witness before the governing powers that be, never compromising his faith in any way.

Yet, some administrators and other officials criticize Daniel's stance, and seek grounds for accusation against him. Finding none, they devise their own. They convince Darius the Mede, then king in Babylon, to issue a decree, "that anyone who prays to any god or man during the next thirty days, except you, O king, shall be thrown into the lions' den" (Daniel 6:7)

Undaunted by the decree, Daniel continues as he has always done—in his upstairs room, facing toward Jerusalem, praying three times a day to his God, and giving thanks.

A-ha! Finding Daniel in his praying ways and asking God for help, his accusers take him before Darius. And, "in accordance with the laws of the Medes and Persians, which cannot be repealed," Daniel is thrown into the lions' den.

Unable to sleep all night, however, and without eating or any palace entertainment, at daybreak Darius rushes to the lions' den. He is pleasantly surprised finding Daniel unscathed and safe, the angels of God having shut the lions' mouths. Consequently, Darius has Daniel's accusers along with their families thrown into that den of lions. The lions overpowering them crush their bones.

Darius then writes to all the "people, nations, and men of every language" about Daniel's God, "...He is the living God and he endures forever; his kingdom will not be destroyed..." (Daniel 6:26)

Our time machine now sweeps us home back to the 21st Century, and we realize that the spiritual warfare continues throughout the world, as in the days of Daniel, even worsening, and will continue to the end of time.

God continues His search today for faithful "Daniels" and "Danielle’s," uncompromising in their faith. Those who will bravely stand before the nations and the governing powers that be, perhaps in the face of intimidation and ridicule (perhaps in the face of actual persecution), and proclaim that our God is the living God, the one true God, enduring forever, whose kingdom will not be destroyed. (See Matthew 16:18.)

Through these dark days today let us pray as Peter prayed in the first century, "Now, Lord, consider their threats and enable your servants to speak your word with great boldness. Stretch out your hand to heal and perform miraculous signs and wonders through the name of your holy servant Jesus" (Acts 4:29-30).

The LORD says,  
"Be still, and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations,
I will be exalted in the earth" (Psalm 46:10).

For further study and/or group discussion: Daniel 1, 6; 2 Chronicles 12; 36:15-23.

Sojourners in a Foreign Land

Time travel with me once again, this time back to those biblical days of Abram (later known as Abraham). From the Old Testament we read of Terah residing in Ur of the Chaldeans. 

The day came when Terah left Ur with his son Abram, daughter-in-law Sarai and grandson Lot. Together they set out for Canaan, but they settled in Haran (about 600 miles north of Ur). See Genesis 11:31.

After Terah died God commanded Abram to leave Haran and "... go ... where I will show you." God also gave Abram a promise, "... all peoples on earth will be blessed through you," (Genesis 12:1-3). 

Abram left as "the LORD had told him," not knowing where he was going, simply taking God at His word. He arrived in Canaan and became a "stranger (sojourner) in a foreign country," (Genesis 12:4-5).

God was with Abram as he traveled throughout Canaan. One day as Abram was scanning Canaan's vast horizon, God revealed to him: "To your offspring I will give this land," (Genesis 12:7).

Abram built an altar at Shechem and worshiped the LORD there, he then moved on towards Bethel. Between Bethel and Ai he built another altar, and then moved on further towards the Negev (desert in southern Canaan). See Genesis 12:8-9.

And at this point we, too, move on further through time, centuries beyond the days of Abram, and step into New Testament times to the days of Jesus. There on the shores of Lake Galilee (in modern-day Israel; Old Testament days, Canaan) we see Jesus challenging some fishermen, "Launch out into the deep water." 

"But Master," they responded wearily, "We labored all last night and caught nothing." Nevertheless, trusting Jesus' words they did as He told them, and were astonished at their great catch.

Smiling broadly at their trusting stance, Jesus challenged them again, "Do not fear, from now on you will be catching people" 

Accepting the challenge, they left their nets and their boats and followed Jesus. As Jesus taught his disciples then, so He teaches us today how to pass on the blessing of Abraham to all peoples, confidently trusting in God's command to "Go,"   (See Luke 5:1-11; Matthew 4:18-22; Mark 1:16-20; John 1:40-42.) 

We now soar further through time. We arrive at the year A.D. 1858. We find ourselves viewing John G. Paton and his newly wedded wife, Mary Ann, leaving their native Scotland behind, being "launched out" to the South Pacific. During his 10 years of city mission work in Glasgow, Scotland, God so pained John Paton's heart with the thought of the New Hebrides islanders entering a Christless eternity.

In the New Hebrides on the island of Tanna, the Patons labored zealously for the cause of Christ. But it wasn't without struggles and hardships, including the death of Mary Ann just one year after they were married, and, at John's count, at least 50 times of imminent threat to his life.

Only after decades of hard labor and during a second term in the New Hebrides (today Vanuatuon the
island of Aniwa), did God show His handiwork through the Paton's labor. Two orphanages were built, a thriving church established, and schools set up; one was a girl's school where Paton's second wife, Margaret, taught. John G. Paton genuinely loved the people to whom God had sent him, serving wholeheartedly in his God-given task. He realized no other cause more worthy of his lifelong pursuit.

God continues to call other "John Patons" today, to give up their smaller ambitions for the greater -- to become fishers of people. He looks for those who are willing to become sojourners in a foreign land. Consider 1 Peter 2:10-12.

Purposes, Plans, and Pursuits

Imagine with me for a moment the idea of time travel, as if that were possible

Zap! Uh! We did it. Imagine that. 

Checking the time log we find ourselves having gone way back in time to those biblical days of Noah, after the flood. Take a look around. Notice all the people -- multitudes: men, women, and children -- Noah's descendants. 

With the crowd, we now journey eastward, and notice some of the people settling on a plain in Shinar, which is situated between the Tigris and Euphrates rivers (that plain in later years is to become ancient Babylon, modern day Iraq). There, we observe that the people purpose to build for themselves a city and a tower that would reach to the heavens.

We hear their reasoning, "Let's make a name for ourselves, so we won't be scattered over the earth." But God also hears them, and is saddened at what they desire to do, without regard for the desires of their Creator. "If as one people, speaking the same language, they have begun to do this," the Almighty reasons, "then nothing they plan to do will be impossible for them."

All of a sudden, there's a great confusion of speech -- a babbling -- and a scurrying about, shuffling here and there, each one scrambling to find someone s/he could understand. In groups, and tribes, and peoples -- nations of men, women, children -- they are scattered over all the earth.

Of a sudden we, too, find ourselves  swept away to another time, to the New Testament era, hearing the words of Jesus, that He will build His church and nothing, not even the gates of Hell, will overcome it.

Continuing our travels through time, we find ourselves hundreds (or thousands ) of years 
 beyond the days of Noah and the days when Jesus trekked the Promised Land. We are half way around the world -- in the young nation of America. There, we watch for a moment as Marcus and Narcissa Whitman prepare to head West, zealous to work among the Cayuse Indians in the Oregon Territory.

The trip West is anything but easy, and not any better once they reach Oregon. There is land to be cleared, houses to build, and fields to plow. Much of Marcus and Narcissa's time was given to working the land. Being consumed with growing and harvesting crops leaves little time for their medical work, language study, and evangelism.

The Whitmans soon becoming prosperous farmers, Marcus succumbs to the grips of materialism. Narcissa, also, loses her excitement and zeal for their missionary work among the Indians, which drove them west initially. Having surrendered to such captivity, it is the Whitman's plantation that suffers loss by a Cayuse massacre.

And God looked for a man and a woman who would zealously "stand in the gap," keeping their spiritual fervor, helping to build Christ's Church among the lost peoples of the world (see Ezekiel 22:30). God continues His search today.

Let us consider God's Classified: WANTED: Heroes (m/f). No experience necessary; we provide all skills, ability. Committed persons of any age, gender, race, background, education welcome. Many positions open, with excellent blessings and benefits, guaranteed. A lifelong work, continuing onward till upward.

Perhaps more familiar are Jesus' words,
"Seek the Kingdom of God above all else, and live righteously,
and he will give you everything you need," (Matthew 6:33 NLT)

For Further Reflection -- encouraging family or small group discussion:
Genesis 11; Matthew 16:13-20; Mark 8:27-29; Luke 9:18-20; Matthew 6:25-34; Luke 12:22-31.

My Messed Up “Good” Life: Climax

Onward til Upward

And so, the Lord bringing about my unemployment was perhaps truly the “defining moment” of my life.

Thinking back over the years in a sense I feel I’ve been behind (my) time. Having had to repeat my high school freshman year—yet academically my grades were not terribly bad, maybe B's and C's, perhaps an occasional A. Surprisingly, even to my junior year homeroom class, one grading term I made the A and B honor roll. (That ninth grade was the "bad" year for me.) And then, having been sent back and forth in Air Force basic training, and "kicked out" of Air Force police school, "turned about" on Florida's east coast, and then on to Bible college, graduating after the four years with a high B, humanly thinking six years behind, perhaps. Ah, but not so on the Lord's timetable. 

Likewise, as a sojourner I’ve felt I’ve been, trekking this soil through this time: from Ohio to Texas to Florida to South Carolina to Southern California and back to South Carolina, never having a place of my own to call “home...” Hence, most of my years have not been lived in Ohio, just birth through high school; my dad passed away when I was a junior in high school; my mom, when I was a junior in college. (Hmm, no wonder I feel like a "misfit..." Ah, as the infamous "they" say, "Home is where one hangs his hat..." Hmm, I have rarely worn a hat).

Nevertheless, my Heavenly Father knows ever so much better than I. He has brought me into being in the first place. He has known all my ways and all my days (before a single day came to be). Imagine that. (See Psalm 139; Jeremiah 29:11). 

Through the years, as that Native American of those earlier years predicted I would, I have realized the two worlds that exist in this time—the temporal and the eternal. Apart from the works of God in this temporal world, everything else here, including (especially maybe) my TV viewing, has little or no value to me now. (See Colossians 3:1-2)

I fear no more the (temporal) world coming to an end, as I had in my youth. Jesus is making all things new, and a better place for me to call home—for all eternity. Hence, not the "best life now; the best life is yet to come. (See John 14:1-3; Revelation 21:1-5; 2 Peter 3:10)

In the meantime, in this time it’s onward till upward. In my leisure and in my labor may all my thoughts and my words (written or spoken, virtual or vocal) reflect Jesus. (See Hebrews 12:1-4) That I may be ever attentive to the Holy Spirit’s leading to proclaim the Father’s Good News to this lost ever-darkening world by the means of His direction—wherever He leads.

Again, thanks to God, most importantly for the many incidents, and the people He brought into my life all along the way, and particularly my early upbringing. 

I may be “misfitted” for this temporal time—this unreal, deceptive world—but I’m "fitted" right in on the lighter side knowing Jesus as my Savior and Lord trekking that road less favored by, purposed to shine the light and spread the salt for God’s glory. Knowing better so now, choosing that way made all the difference for me for all time and eternity. “In Christ, the old life is gone; a new life has begun!” (2 Corinthians 5:17) 

“He brought me [too] up out of the pit of destruction, out of the miry clay, [out of my own good life], and He set my feet upon a rock making my footsteps firm. He put a new song in my mouth, a song of praise to our God…” (Psalm 40:1-3, NASB)

Sequel: an Enlightened Reminder

I arrived at the Post Office, parked my car, exited, entered to Post Office, purchased the needed stamps, posted my correspondence, left the building and returned to my car to return home. But the Lord had other plans for me that day 07/11/2016.

Putting the key into the ignition and turning it I expected to hear the usual sound of the engine starting up. But I heard nothing; I tried again and again but still nothing. Sitting a bit, I prayed as to determine what I should do. Auto mechanics not being my expertise, I called a friend in the area that I thought could help. But he was busy with other matters and would be so for a while, which turned into a few hours. In the meantime, I called another friend. But I soon learned that it would be a while for him, too, to come and help. Strange I think perhaps that his car, as well as mine, was unable to start.

And so there I sat for a few hours at the Post Office. Finally, I did receive help from a person having pulled his car into a parking space beside my car. With jumper cables he got my car started, enabling me to start on my way home as well. But a short distance from home, maybe another mile, my car quit on me again. I was able, however, to roll to a stop at a convenient store, getting out of the way of any traffic.

Two friends soon came by to help, and with jumper cables again got me started. I was then able (by the mercy of God) to get up the hill to an auto mechanic who discovered that the problem was the alternator. And so the car was left at his shop for repair.

Hence, it had been quite a day, that day, 07/11/2016.  Eight years ago that date was a Friday, the day when a co­worker and myself received our “pink slips” from that warehousing job where I had worked for about eight years, and thus we began our status of unemployment.

Through those eight years – 07/11/2008 to 07/11/2016 – my unemployment had been the essence of my life, other than a little more than three years working as a custodian for my alma mater and a two-week custodial job at a hospital.

Interesting, I'd considered it no coincident that my friend’s car problem happening the same day as mine. For him it was good he discovered his problem then, his day off from work. For me, however, perhaps God was trying to get my attention  an enlightened reminder  to consider again His direction for me, if He is truly telling me to move back to the point of origin of my earthly journey.

A round-about journey my earthly pilgrimage had been since high school.  I wonder if the Lord would have me now to return to my starting point. Over the past eight years, since my unemployment, maybe I've been as one in the belly of a great fish, and in search of God’s choice where now to burp me up; at that get me back into the darkened world where I can better be a light bearer of God’s eternal truth.

And so, Lord, where? Thinking that it may be His will for to return to the point of my physical origin, I went ahead and had indeed applied for an apartment up North.  Weeks passed, then it came where I had to make a decision.

When Yes Means Not Yet

I renewed my lease at my current residence for another year, not yet aware of where my next resident is to be; better to renew for another year than month-to-month, which would be $150 more than my current rent; to move out early I would only have to pay a early move out fee of 85% of my rent. Hence, I believe it is more reasonable to renew for another year, even if I do – at the Lord’s leading – move out early.

My reason for moving (returning) to Ohio in the first place, a nephew lives in the same apartment complex to which I had applied; I considered him possibly an initial contact, and thus working together, encouraging one another, for reaching other residents for Jesus; but then, too, a similar idea came to mind, possibly from the Lord, for remaining in Columbia, and that is applying for an apartment where another member of my church lives; hence, perhaps with him as well, for a time, encouraging one another in reaching out to other residents there.

Other employment I still do desire; my current monthly income is less than $1000; my total financial portfolio is not well packed either; hence, my still need of other employment (humanly speaking), not just my still capableness to work. And maybe to the Lord would have my working at my web page – virtually sharing Jesus and encouraging others toward His global cause – be that other work, at least part-time. Nevertheless, the Lord continues to impress upon me Matthew 6:25-34: I’m not to worry about what I don’t have but realize all I do have in Him, in that, having much is not better; less is more, trusting in Jesus and His all-sufficiency.

But then, I received a call late afternoon (4:30 pm) on Friday, March 31 from the apartments in Mansfield, OH, to which I had applied, informing me that an apartment will come available, I believe, thinking I heard right, the end of April.

Thus, I had to make a decision; I told the lady that I would call her back Monday, April 3, to let her know. Interesting, I did ask the Lord that I may hear of availability sometime in March, in particular around the middle of March, as that's when I had to let my current resident know whether or not to renew my lease; the call from the Mansfield apartments came March 31. But is that a sure “yes” from the Lord for me to make the move back up north? Maybe, but also I think perhaps, the call coming when it did, that yes could mean a “no”, or a “not yet”.

As I’d mentioned above, I did renew my lease with my current resident, as I had to by March 17. Yet, it's still not impossible to move out early having done that, if it is the Lord's will for me to do so. However, I am supposed to give the office a 60-day notice of my intent to move. But I don’t think there’s ample time now to give them that notice or to pack up and go, particularly financially in doing so.

Unable to figure out how to submit the $50 payment to other place here in Columbia for them to screen me, maybe that’s from the Lord as well, saying, “Hold on, Charles, slow down, stop, wait and think; your financial assets is insufficient to make the move; stay put for a bit; adjust your finances and spending to save up for that move, when/where.”

And so the call from the apartments in Mansfield at the end of March, informing me of a soon availability, perhaps from God that could be a “yes, but not yet – wait. 

Read about my journey from the beginning