Monday, February 2, 2015

"The bigger picture … "

As the brightness of the sun reflects off the newly-fallen snow this morning here in western Michigan, the beauty of God's creation is missed by many who are digging out from nearly a foot of snow … or more in some places.  Schools are closed and schedules are re-arranged for many households.  Each of us has additional things to think about because of the weather and the roads.  Meanwhile, "life" goes on in your life and mine.  My wife, Kathy, and my daughter, Michelle, and my granddaughter, Faith, along with others from our congregation, are serving the Lord in Guatemala this week.  Others are serving in Haiti, and one young woman is spending two months in India.  God is doing His work all over the world … LITERALLY!!

So what's going on in your life?  I am finding each day filled with so many things that writing my blog has taken a back seat to other pressing matters.  I suspect that happens to you, too.  There are so many things that demand our attention that some things that are equally or even more important get shoved aside.  The bad thing about that is that it is often PEOPLE who get pushed aside.  Your spouse, your family, your friends, your brothers and sisters in Christ … all of these are important and are part of your life each day.  Be sure to make them a priority!

And as you do so, ask God for wisdom to understand what is REALLY important in each day.  Yes, there are things we HAVE to do, but if you and I are to be faithful to Jesus Christ we need to look at the bigger picture … we need to understand that we are part of God's plan to make Himself known and to prepare the world for Jesus' return.  Many parts of the Bible help us to do that, but this morning I'm thinking of Psalm 90.  I would encourage you to read the whole Psalm, but I'll share a few verses here.

"Lord, You have been our dwelling place throughout all generations.  … from everlasting to everlasting, YOU are God! … Teach us to number our days aright, that we may gain a heart of wisdom. …  Satisfy us in the morning with Your unfailing love, that we may sing for joy and be glad all our days" (Psalm 90:1-2, 12, 14).

I often have a hard time reading any passage of Scripture without thinking about other parts of God's Word that talk about the same or similar things.  These verses make me think about James 4, where James writes:

"Now listen, you who say, 'Today or tomorrow we will go to this or that city, spend a year there, carry on business and make money.' Why, you do not even know what will happen tomorrow.  What is your life?  You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes.  Instead, you ought to say, 'If it is the Lord's will, we will live and do this or that'" (James 4:13-15).

Reading verses like this from God's Word could make you think that your life doesn't have much value.  You come and you go and that's it.  But the reality is, the opposite is true!  It is because you and I are only here for a time that each day has infinite value.  Our times are in God's hands.  You are not here by chance.  No matter what the circumstances of your birth or what your life has been up to today, you are here because God put you here and He knows you.  "All the days ordained for me were written in Your book before one of them came to be" (Psalm 139:16).

How amazing is that?!!  Do you believe that?  Do you believe that the God who created the universe, including planet earth, and everything in this world, also created YOU and that He is calling you to know Him, to love Him and to serve Him?  Do you believe that?  If you do it is because God's Spirit lives within you and He has opened your heart and mind to receive Jesus Christ as your Savior and your Lord.  Knowing HIM, you begin to understand that your life has meaning only as you live it with Him and for Him.  You are a part of His plan, a part of a much bigger picture that includes today, tomorrow, the rest of your life … AND eternity.

This bigger picture includes what is going on in your life today and what is going on in the nations of the world.  All of it … ALL of it, is in His hands, under His view and authority and power.  Nothing happens outside His control and so the promise He makes to those who believe in Jesus is within His power to perform:  "And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love Him, who have been called according to His purpose" (Romans 8:28).  And God reveals what His purpose is in the next two verses:  "For those God foreknew He also predestined to be conformed to the likeness of His Son, that He might be the firstborn among many brothers.  And those He predestined, He also called; those He called, He also justified; those He justified, He also glorified" (Romans 8:29-30).

God is, this very day, calling some out of darkness into His wonderful light through the Gospel of Jesus Christ.  He is encouraging those of us who have been saved by grace through faith in Jesus to persevere through life's struggles and to run the race marked out for us.  God is actively involved in the governments of the world around us and everything is leading up to the events that precede the return of Jesus to earth.  As you look at the big picture your mind becomes clear and you begin to understand that following Jesus by obeying His Word and by proclaiming it to others is the reason you are here.  At home, at work, at school, God has placed YOU here to be an ambassador of His kingdom, offering eternal life to those around you.

"We are therefore Christ's ambassadors, as though God were making His appeal through us.  We implore you on Christ's behalf:  Be reconciled to God.  God made Him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in Him we might become the righteousness of God.  As God's fellow workers we urge you not to receive God's grace in vain.  For He says, 'In the time of my favor I heard you, and in the day of salvation I helped you.' I tell you, NOW is the time of God's favor, NOW is the day of salvation" (II Corinthians 5:20-21, 6:1-2).

How long will the door to heaven remain open?  As God closed the door of the ark before He destroyed the earth with the flood, so the time will come when it is too late to enter into the safety of God's presence through faith in Jesus.  The call to follow Jesus is an urgent call.  There is much more going on in your life today than you may think.  You need to see the bigger picture.  You need to know Jesus yourself and then to speak to your family, friends, neighbors, strangers … whomever God puts in your path, about the One who alone offers forgiveness and eternal life.

THIS is not all there is!  Ask God to help you see the bigger picture every day.  It's important to see the signs of what God is doing in the world at large … but don't miss the opportunities God places before you today.  Each one has significance; each one is an important part of the bigger picture … of GOD's bigger picture.  It may seem small, unimportant, even insignificant, but what you do for God is known to Him and He will use it to glorify Himself as you give your life to Him as an offering.

"THIS is the day the Lord has made; we will rejoice and be glad in it!"

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