God’s Perspective on Time Travel

5-30-13 time

As established in The Benefits of Time Travel, the kind of time travel we see in the movies or read about in books remains as of today, impossible. However, many people still spend much of their time dwelling in the past or focused on the future. And, unfortunately, they do so at the expense the present.

Isaiah 43:18-19 tells God’s perspective on time travel and gives specific instructions for making the most of the present.

“Do not [earnestly] remember the former things; neither consider the things of old. Behold, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs forth; do you not perceive and know it and will you not give heed to it? I will even make a way in the wilderness and rivers in the desert.” (AMP)

These verses in Isaiah give five pieces of advice on how to balance our past, present and future.

  1. Don’t purposefully or intentionally give serious attention to the past. Earnestness involves purposefulness, intentionality and seriousness. Isaiah directs us to let memories surface and acknowledge them when they do, but avoid lingering in the past and certainly dwelling there on purpose.
  2. Make a point to observe God’s current activity. Isaiah says to “behold,” which means observe, regard, gaze upon, view; watch; discern. In other words, notice the “new thing” God promises to do. So often, we fail to see God’s current activity because of our focus on what happened or on what might happen.
  3. Identify and acknowledge what you observe. Start by observing God’s activity but move on to becoming aware of it to the point of naming it in a way that amplifies His presence. Acknowledging often forces action.
  4. Give careful attention to what He’s doing. Now comes committing because “giving heed” requires focus. No longer can our attention be divided. God’s activity now becomes the center of our thoughts as it gains our “careful attention.”
  5. Get ready to see the impossible happen. Once you see, acknowledge and focus on God’s activity, you gain a sense of direction of where He’s going. You may not know specific details, and His plans likely seem impossible. But never forget that God masterfully authors the impossible.

Time travel stories always express the dire importance of not altering any event in the past because doing so causes severe and unexpected consequences. Just think of yourself disappearing from photographs in your own time if you change the past when you time travel to understand this principle.

In reality, traveling through time in our thinking – dwelling on the past or obsessing about the future – also involves consequences. Namely, we miss out on being happy and doing good (Ecclesiastes 3:12) and on taking hold and making the most of opportunities presented to us (Ephesians 5:16).

Dwelling on the past and obsessing about the future takes our focus off God’s promises. Instead, let the past live as applied present lessons, and allow the future to exist as today’s motivation. Focus on God’s plan for the present and the role He wants you to play as you move toward eternity with Him.

DISCUSSION: What else does the Bible say about God’s view of time that helps us understand how we should view time?

 Subscribe to Struggle to Victory by Email or Subscribe in a reader

The Benefits of Time Travel

5-28-13 time

 

Even though time travel Men in Black, Back to the Future and H.G. Wells style only exists in science fiction doesn’t mean it’s impossible. In fact, a recent travel through time brought me significant and much-needed perspective.

The Past

While visiting my dentist, I realized the office remains stuck in the 1980s. While he uses up-to-date equipment for the actual dental work, the office lacks any semblance of modern décor.

The high school office, 1980s style phone sits on the receptionist’s desk next to the cardboard record cards and spiral schedule book. As I sat in the waiting room, I heard her typing on an electric typewriter reminisce of high school typing class. And all of this happens within the walls of a modified 1980s ranch house.

Going to my dentist reminds me of “the good ‘ole days.” It reminds me of pre-internet, actually pre-computer, times when instant access meant using the telephone. Those days involved more face-to-face conversation in what now seems to be a much simpler time.

The Future

After leaving the dentist, I visited my grandma who now lives with my mom. While visiting her brings back fond childhood memories, my potential future grabs my attention. I know genetics only loads the gun and life choices pull the trigger, but I still wonder how much of myself I see when I look at my grandmother and receive only a distant stare and sometimes an irrelevant comment.

Will I someday walk in circles with my hands doing what they did 40 years ago? Are my kids facing a future where they must care for me as I cared for them when they were young? Am I going to one day forget half of my life and only remember bits and pieces that make no sense put together?

The Present

In just one hour, thoughts of the past and my potential future collided in a way that propelled me to actively consider how I got where I am today and where I seem to be headed tomorrow. I needed to note the positives and negatives and consider how both created my current reality and what needs to happen for me live an increasingly deliberate present.

God’s Promises

Knowing the timelessness of God and that He was, is and always will be (Revelation 1:8) brings a sense of purpose to my past and a hope for an abundant future. Studying His promises, which extend through time and still live for you and me to grasp today, creates intense motivation to increasingly know His presence in my present.

Consider Isaiah 43:18-19 and the wisdom it provides for how we should view our past, present and future.

 “Do not [earnestly] remember the former things; neither consider the things of old. Behold, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs forth; do you not perceive and know it and will you not give heed to it? I will even make a way in the wilderness and rivers in the desert.” (AMP)

These words encourage me to not linger on the past with its mistakes and could-have-beens. They help prevent an obsession with a future that only He knows and that I must simply let Him hold in His hands. And they refocus my present on what He’s doing now and on what He wants me to “give heed.”

In bringing these promises to mind, God re-establishes my heart where He wants it. Thursday’s post,  “God’s Perspective on Time Travel,” takes a deeper look at how to balance our perspectives on our past, present and future.

DISCUSSION: How does reflecting on your past and considering your future impact your present?

 Subscribe to Struggle to Victory by Email or Subscribe in a reader

Judging Others

5-23-13 fingers

Recently, an exchange student staying with a family in my church asked if he could speak in front of our adult Sunday school class as part of a requirement for his exchange program. At first, I hesitated because this student is a Muslim.

As we further discussed the possibility, he explained that his requirement was to talk about how he would make the world a better place, and he chose to speak about judging others. He wanted to talk about how people too often judge others based on one small group rather than by getting to know individuals. For example, most Americans – including many Christians – judge Muslims based on what they have seen on television, and this provides not only a very limited picture but a significantly inaccurate one too.

This student from Azerbaijan was absolutely right. The way many of us judge others results in disunity not only between individuals but also between religions and cultures.

Unfortunately, what many people think of when the opportunity to judge another or to be judged comes up is that we aren’t supposed to do it. At all. In fact, many people – Christians and non-Christians alike – use Matthew 7:1 to say that we should avoid judging others altogether.

“Do not judge so that you will not be judged.” (Matthew 7:1)

But a closer look at not only at that scripture but also at the many others that address this topic shows that the Bible does not say that we are NEVER to judge.

What does it mean to pass judgment or to judge something or someone?

To judge means to go through a process of evaluation, to hear evidence, in order to form an opinion. Judging should be evidence of seeking truth. When we make a judgment, we are making a careful guess that hopefully leads to a logical conclusion based on as much fact as possible. Judgment, really, ends up just being a careful guess, since rarely can 100% of the facts be fully known.  In scripture, judgment takes the form of discernment, examination, evaluation and admonishing.

Common sense tells us that judging must be a part of human civilization. Think what civilization would be like if it lacked judgment of criminals in courts, tests in schools and winners in competitions. Common sense also tells us that the context of the situation is crucial. Take the judgment of murder in court where the situation or context determines the type of judgment such as premeditated or accidental.

We know from Scripture that God is the Judge of all (Genesis 18:25; Judges 11:27; I Samuel 2:10Psalms 50:6; Psalms 96:13; Psalms 98:9; Isaiah 3:13; Isaiah 33:22; Jeremiah 11:20; Ezekiel 18:30; Ezekiel 33:20; Hebrews 12:23; I Peter 1:17; Matthew 12:27). We also know that God is set in position as our Judge because He is all-knowing, He is Truth, and His judgments are righteous and true (John 8:26; Romans 11:33; Revelation 16:7; Revelation 19:2).

But even though God IS the Judge of ALL, that doesn’t mean we never judge. In fact, scripture is filled with instructions on how WE are to judge.5-23-13 gavel

THE PROBLEM comes when we base judgments on fears, pride, ignorance and stereotypes instead of on truth. For example, when we judge a whole group of people based solely on one individual or even small group. Even worse, when we judge based on extreme positions of a small number of people from a group.

What does the Bible says about passing judgment? While it says a lot more than this, here are some of the main ideas we must know before we even consider passing a judgment.

  1. Don’t be hypocritical. (Matthew 7)
  2. Don’t be legalistic. (Mathew 7)
  3. Don’t judge by appearances. (1 Samuel 16:7; John 7:24)
  4. Judge based on truth. (2 Timothy 3:16-17; John 17:17)
  5. Judge yourself first. (1 Corinthians 11:32-32; 2 Corinthians 13:5; 1 Timothy 4:16)

Until we know what scripture says about these and other areas, we have no business evaluating another person. If we fail to apply God’s truth when we do pass judgment, we become a part of the problem.

Finally, and most importantly, the command to “do everything in love” must dominate all of our judgments.

“Above all, love each other deeply because love covers over a multitude of sin.” (1 Peter 4:8)

“Be on guard. Stand true to what you believe. Be courageous. Be strong. And everything you do must be done with love.” (1 Corinthians 16:13-14)

When we love each other deeply, perhaps we will judge less because more sin is “covered.” Maybe if we know what we believe and WHY we believe it, we will find that all of what we do will be done more naturally in love.

DISCUSSION: What is your response to people when they quote Mathew 7:1 out of context?

 Subscribe to Struggle to Victory by Email or Subscribe in a reader

How to Strengthen Your Marriage

5-21-13 marriage heartsNot long ago, a friend struggling in her marriage asked me for advice and encouragement. Before getting to my response, I want to share the specific wording of her email to help you feel her desperation.

“I want a divorce. What is wrong with me? I don’t know why I got married. I knew from the beginning that I would never want to get divorced, so why get married? Now I am stuck in a marriage that is an absolute mess and is nothing but misery all the time, and I am so tired of all of it.”

First and foremost, I wanted to help my friend with her marriage. But in advising her on how to do that, I was able to better appreciate how my own marriage went from simply going through the motions of a commitment to being vibrant and exciting.

Tomorrow, my husband and I officially celebrate our 20th wedding anniversary, and we have actually been a couple for 25 years. (On a side note, my husband’s birthday is Friday. Happy Birthday, Rex!)

When giving my friend advice, I knew that all I could really say with confidence is how God worked to save my marriage. Not only did this “process” help my husband and I struggle to victory in our marriage, it still happens regularly to keep the marriage from falling back into destruction.

  1. Decide that divorce is not an option. You just can’t even consider it. Let the frustration of no way out drive you to find a way to work it out. Ultimately, while God allows divorce in some cases, He still hates it (Malachi 2:16). We refused to let it be an option simply because it hurt God’s heart.
  2. Develop your personal relationship with Christ. You’re not your spouse’s Holy Spirit. You can’t force him/her to grow. You can only take the steps to grow yourself because you can only control you and submit to God for yourself.
  3. 5-21-13 marriageDecide to honor & respect your spouse. You may not feel your spouse deserves honor and respect, but your feelings on the matter truly don’t really matter. Scripture clearly indicates that wives are to respect their husbands and husbands are to love their wives as Christ loved the church (Ephesians 5:21-33). It is amazing how much a man is motivated by a wife who respects him. And, ladies, how do you feel when you know your husband loves you above all else except God?
  4. Devote regular time to prayer. Just “be” before God. Pour out your heart to him. Say the ugly things you’re feeling to him, so you don’t have to say them to your spouse. This does not mean you and your spouse won’t talk about anything difficult, but I find that I have far less negative to say to my spouse when I talk to God first.
  5. Do the above over and over, again and again. Keep going through this process. Eventually, you’ll reach another, higher plateau. That plateau may still feel low, but it will be higher than your previous low. Just keep going a little higher, one small step at a time.
  6. Don’t give up. Sort of related to #1 but a little different because a marriage can still legally exist even after the two individuals involved have given up. Get stubborn about saving your marriage instead of being stubborn about fighting for your own rights and needs.

My marriage is not perfect, but I can honestly say it is the best it’s ever been. We still struggle and have accepted that we will always struggle. A marriage that struggles is one that hasn’t given up. In any aspect of life, if you’re struggling, that means you’re not giving in, right?

DISCUSSION: What advice would you have given to my friend?

 Subscribe to Struggle to Victory by Email or Subscribe in a reader

Are You Willing to Not Fit In?

When I was in grade school, I never felt like I fit in. That feeling followed me into my teen and adult years. I’d love to say this problem no longer exists now that I’ve hit mid-life, that I am now secure enough in who Christ made me to be that the desire to fit in no longer plagues me. That would be a lie.

Certainly, I am more confident, but the desire to fit in still lingers and often rears its ugly head in social situations.

Over the years, I did adapt to not fitting in. At some point, I even began to seek out ways to emphasize that aspect that seemed to define me. If others are doing something, I look for ways to avoid doing exactly the same thing. From clothing and accessories to exercise and eating to social interaction, something inside me now purposes to go against the flow, even if only slightly, of what the majority does.

5-7-13 be transformed 1

Both Right and Wrong

In 1 Corinthians 9:22, Paul says that “To the weak I became weak, to win the weak. I have become all things to all people so that by all possible means I might save some.” In other words, he tried to find common ground with people in order to bring them to Christ. Of course, this does not mean sinning, but it does mean getting involved in people’s lives and being authentic with them.

So, in the sense that my going against the flow sometimes causes disconnection with people I could influence, I am wrong in my approach. In fact, doing so has led to missing out on some significant witnessing opportunities. For that, I truly am sorry.

On the other hand, John 15:18-27 clearly indicates that to a great extent, Christ followers won’t fit in with the culture surrounding them. In other words, we must be in the world but not of the world (Romans 12:2). Jesus certainly set the example for us in this area by spending time with and ministering to those who needed Him most and who were often social outcasts, but He did not let them change Him.

When my intentions fall into the realm of wanting to remain separate from the material and fleshly focuses of the world, my approach to not conform and follow the crowd then seems wise.

Resist the Call of the World

5-7-13 be transformed 2

Perhaps both of these approaches need to exist. Maybe both looking for commonalities and connections need to exist alongside being an outsider. In my quest to find that balance, I realize that the outsider status must still dominate; otherwise, my impact as I connect and care becomes less effective.

Let’s look deeper at John 15:18-27 to hopefully understand the importance of an outsider status.

Being an outsider, feeling like you don’t fit in with the crowd (culture), can indicate progress towards becoming more Christ-like (v 18). Realizing that Christ chose you to be an outsider can keep feelings of rejection and aloofness from affecting your walk with Him (v 19).

What’s more, knowing that people aren’t really rejecting you but are actually reacting to their fear of the unknown creates a motivational steadfastness to perhaps amplify your outsider status (vv 20-21). You see, knowing Jesus creates a responsibility that so many people want to avoid because it means increasingly living as an outsider.

Knowing Jesus can mean breaking the death grip that the need to belong and be accepted by the world has. But a dying to self must happen, and this scares people. So, many instead choose to succumb to the call of the world and seek to eliminate any feeling of an outsider status (v 22).

Even with evidence of a better way, hate of Christ’s ways exists without any real cause except a desire to avoid the truth of Christ (vv 23-25).

Outsider Victory

God’s Holy Spirit reveals truth that reveals Jesus (v 26). As His Spirit dwells within us, our outsider status feels more and more like home, like a place of safety, peace and joy. And in that, we discover the courage to bravely tell others about the Jesus who welcomes outsiders. In other words, we become better able to care and connect in an authentic way.

DISCUSSION: What else does scripture say about how Christ followers must interact and exist in the world?

Subscribe to Struggle to Victory by Email or Subscribe in a reader

Related Posts:

Thoughts About Balance

4-18-13 balance

Lack of muscle balance can lead to injury.

Lack of balanced vitamins and minerals in the body, whether through inability to absorb or poor diet, can lead to a host of health struggles mentally and physically.

Your body’s ability to balance hormones and blood sugar relates to a balanced, healthy diet.

A balanced, healthy diet leads to a balanced, healthy mind & body.

We need balance between rest and labor.

Balance is relative.

We get into trouble when we compare the balance we need to that of others.

Age plays a factor in ability to balance.

4-18-13 law vs grace

Age also changes what we need and don’t need for balance.

Sometimes, like in sickness and stressful situations, we must operate in an out-of-balance state.

Law must be balanced with grace.

Balance does not mean equal.

The scales must be accurate in order for balance to happen.

Lack of balance can cause anxiety.

Anxiety can cause an unbalanced perspective.

“Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, nor about your body, what you will put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing? Look at the birds of the air: they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they? And which of you by being anxious can add a single hour to his span of life? And why are you anxious about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin, yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which today is alive and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will he not much more clothe you, O you of little faith? Therefore do not be anxious, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the Gentiles seek after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them all. But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you. “Therefore do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble. (Matthew 6:25-34)

4-18-13 wisdom

Anxiety is an out-of-balance state.

To be anxious means to be “full of mental distress or uneasiness because of fear of danger or misfortune.” It also means to be “greatly worried.”

Perhaps a balanced view of balance means getting and applying wisdom to our lives.

Balance comes through seeking His kingdom and righteousness above all else.

DICUSSION: What are your thoughts about balance? 

 Subscribe to Struggle to Victory by Email or Subscribe in a reader