- When the pandemic is over, and you are still alive, will others remember you as one of the “men of Issachar”?
- A proud man is always looking down on things and people; and, of course, as long as you are looking down, you cannot see something that is above you (C. S. Lewis)
- If you don’t learn how to rest in God you won’t get the best from God (Lance Witt)
- It is in the pain and the margins Christ’s goodness transforms lives, families, and communities (Buddy Gosey)
- Is it more reasonable to base our eternal destiny on our subjective opinion, or to trust the God of eternity who transcends time? (Jim Denison)
- Using human strategy, it is possible to dominate others . . . cut off people from their history and values. It is sad to watch people being beguiled with certain appetites for money and fortune (Bruce Olson talking Christians as missionaries)
- We today suffer from the unexamined notion that the more recent something is, the better, or more true it must be (Richard Foster)
Matthew 2:12 And having been warned in a dream not to go back to Herod, they returned to their country by another route.
1 Kings 13: But the man of God answered the king, “Even if you were to give me half your possessions, I would not go with you, nor would I eat bread or drink water here. 9 For I was commanded by the word of the Lord: ‘You must not eat bread or drink water or return by the way you came.’” 10 So he took another road and did not return by the way he had come to Bethel.
The freshness of the New Year brings desperate hope for things to be better. Talk of a year that short circuited people, as they were expecting double-double blessings in 2020, instead, a ravaging virus has persisted causing a lot of wounds on everything. The longing is that the Next Year will bring a relief to the still-fresh wounds that are beginning slowly their process of healing. When the first Covid -19 positive case was reported, and the people separated from the community, the expectation was that in three weeks the problem would be cleared. Then there was the talk of peak time that kept changing. It was said it would be in April, July, October when the infections will then come down. Instead we started hearing of second wave, mutating virus, additional lockdown and this is certainly exhausting. The longing for the New Year is that it would bring freshness and a return to what we know as normal. There is that longing for the time when there be no covered mouths and noses that make it difficult to identify the people. Simonetta Carr says, “Our natural desire for a quiet earthly existence must not be turned into an idol or a reason for living”. What should concern us is what the Lord is saying. Careful listening (Luke 8:18) and obedience to Him is key to the unexplored future. The wise men of the Christmas story followed the guidance of the star to get to where the new born king was. Through a dream, they got the instructions that they were to go back through a different route. How do we get to know what the Lord is saying about entering the New Year? Might the Lord be speaking to us about using a different route?
LISTENING TO GOD FOR NEW INSIGHTS FOR THE NEW YEAR
Search the scriptures – The issue is how one is to think and act when feeling lost, isolated from what anchors life. Is life not about change and how we react to that change? Someone has asked “When the pandemic is over, and you are still alive, will others remember you as one of the “men of Issachar”? John Wesley said the sons of Issachar in the bible understood public affairs, the temper of the nation, and the tendencies of the present events. Thought it is easy to resist the things that appear to be contrary to the word of God, it is the doctrine that appears to be good or righteous taught by someone in whom we have confidence that leads astray. The length of time one has professed to be a Christian, or how high someone may be held in esteem, is no excuse for not allowing the word of God to be the standard of judgment in every area of life. Sudden outbreaks of unpleasant things that cause plagues and pandemics are not new to God. In fact, it is God who knows the source of such outbreaks and He is the one who determines to call them off. “So the Lord sent a plague on Israel from that morning until the end of the time designated, and seventy thousand of the people from Dan to Beersheba died. 16 When the angel stretched out his hand to destroy Jerusalem, the Lord relented concerning the disaster and said to the angel who was afflicting the people, “Enough! Withdraw your hand.” (2 Samuel 24:15-16).
Listen carefully to the source of information- Life is dynamic and the way one responds to change is determined by the information one chooses to act on. Newness means one is in uncharted territory. No one can be so brave and familiar with change that he/she is not disturbed by something unexpected. Feeling lost and isolated from what anchors life is what leads to search for direction. The ever present threat to the cause of Christ see his disciples seeking help from the Herods, the powerful, the camouflaged financial shenanigans that want to be ‘man of God’ but who sell indulgences as ‘sadaka ya Mungu’. The aim is to make others look different; look down on them and then use them. The assumption is that others need to be instructed and enabled to get God’s blessing. Bruce Olson says that people do not become Christians by going to church or by speaking foreign languages or by bearing foreign names. People become Christians by having a living relationship with Jesus Christ whose coming gives those who believe in Him eternal life. It is possible to live a Christian life from the perspective of people’s cultural interpretation of worth and worthiness, and so use of ingenuity, resolutions and well-crafted goals that promise great achievement while leaving out the Holy Spirit and the still small voice that says, “This is the way; walk in it.” (Isaiah 30:21).
Recognize the dangers of using human strategy – The tendency to want to dominate and subdue others is an ever present temptation. It is the earth to be subdued, not people (Genesis 1:26-28). When people are subdued they lose the expression of who they are, who God is to them and so have to live by other human voices instead of relying on God. It is possible to be so obsessed with the concept of leadership and vision that pure passionate reliance on the person and work of the Holy Spirit is ignored. That leaves people to be led by their flesh and blood but still using very pious language. Julius Caesar was right when he said, “What we wish, we readily believe, and what we ourselves think, we imagine others think also. Some of the goals may seem like great acts of God, but they are pure acts of the flesh. It is what people desired as motivated and influenced by the world that they call the message from God. In addition Daniel Henderson says, “Our proud flesh is hard-wired for productivity, affirmation, and a sense of earthly significance. . . There is embrace vision by “intimidation”, which is the approach of a leader “hearing from God” and imposing his revelation on everyone else based on some mystical and special hotline to Heaven”. It is important to investigate the source of information leading to words or action. When in doubt, seek clarification. This is because the question remains as to whether what might be referred to as leadership might be imposition of other people’s way of thinking that validates intimidation of others as a way of seeking significance.
Beware of the dangers of partial obedience– God expects those who have accepted the grace of God that has been available through Christ to do exactly what He has commanded. For a young prophet in the book of 1 Kings 13to rely on the counsel of the old prophet, though greatly used by God in his time, was actual disobedience. The prophet that God sent to King Jeroboam showed great courage leaving his country, acting on God’s word, rejecting the question of the old prophet. Unfortunately, the courageous prophet listened to an older prophet who was no longer walking with God and that way signed his death sentence. God has promised to instruct us in the way that we should go and counsel us with His eye. “Do not be like the horse or the mule, which have no understanding but must be controlled by bit and bridle or they will not come to you” (Psalm 32:9).
The Magi or wise men of the Christmas story were told in a dream to go back through another route. If they went back the normal way or the route they had come, there was a Herod trap to kill the baby born to be King. In 2020 we entered a year that has shifted the normal through Covid -19. Might the Lord be asking us not to keep looking to the way things used to be?. To hear a message in a dream requires a restful posture. The New Year, 2021, requires another route because things may never go back to what they used to be. Remove your mind from yourself and allow the Lord to inspire you with the knowledge you need for the new route. In the story of Jesus birth we see God communicating through arch angel, angels, dreams, star, intuition and knowledge of what is written in case of Simeon and Anna. Listen carefully to what He is saying, that way you will be in alignment with the scripture and not necessarily through what you have heard before. Like the Bereans of the book of Acts search the scriptures to confirm what you are hearing. That is what the sons Issachar also did, seeking to understand the times in which they lived. Harold L. Senkbeil in his book ‘Christ and Calamity: Grace and Gratitude in the Darkest Valley’ writes, “When calamity strikes, you can count on God—not because you feel close to him, but because he remains close to you.” He encourages us, “In life’s tight spots, focus not on your faith, but on God’s faithfulness. Look not at your promises to him, but his loving promises to you in his Son. Rest assured, those promises include your name.” The New Year requires courage, to move and learn from the word of God and willingness to obey. We must not rely on what someone tells us it says, because the Devil has camouflages. All the lessons the young courageous prophet learned were too late because he died. Note, the word about his death came through the deceiving old prophet. We must allow our minds to accept that God uses whoever he chooses. Our duty is to obey after being careful that we know it is actually His voice. Are you positioned to discern the Lord’s voice as he gives the directions for the New Year?
“I do not advise that we end the year on a somber note. The march, not the dirge, has ever been the music of Christianity. If we are good students in the school of life, there is much that the years have to teach us. But the Christian is more than a student, more than a philosopher. He is a believer, and the object of his faith makes the difference, the mighty difference. Of all persons the Christian should be best prepared for whatever the New Year brings. He has dealt with life at its source. In Christ he has disposed of a thousand enemies that other men must face alone and unprepared. He can face his tomorrow cheerful and unafraid because yesterday he turned his feet into the ways of peace and today he lives in God. The man who has made God his dwelling place will always have a safe habitation.” (A.W. Tozer)
In the incoming year, 2021, May God’s blessing be fulfilled in you. “Be fruitful and increase in number; fill the earth and subdue it” (Genesis 1:28.) “May God give you heaven’s dew and earth’s richness” (Genesis 27:28) In 2021 and all the days of your life.