Possibilities and Processes

dream text on green leaves
Photo by Karyme França on Pexels.com

By Michael W. Raley

What if we revived dreams

We once deemed dead and gone?

What if we were to  re-open our minds

To the possibilities we so easily dismissed?

Opportunities come in so many different ways,

Through good circumstances and bad,

We often fail to recognize them.

While we have this present moment,

Let us open our hearts to love again.

Though the cities of our minds

May have been raided and destroyed

By events and people,

We can rebuild like Nehemiah and the walls of Jerusalem.

This process will have its ups and downs,

But the results will be well worth the effort.

Advertisements

The Distance and The Resistance

arizona asphalt beautiful blue sky
Photo by Nextvoyage on Pexels.com

By Michael W. Raley

Continue to go the distance

In spite of the resistance.

You will encounter your share of pain

Along with equal days of sunshine and rain.

There will be body pains and heartaches

To go along with the negativity and the fakes.

Remain the captain of your ship

And do not allow anyone to recalculate the trip.

Why voluntarily surrender your time

To that which does not rhyme

With your life goals and story,

That which will only bring regret and no glory?

Do not allow your time and power be given away

Like a neatly wrapped present on Christmas day.

This life and this time have been allotted to you,

As the Bard wrote,”To thine own self be true.”

Above all with yourself, be patient, employ perseverance and persistence;

No matter what happens, remain unbroken and resilient.

A Man Out of Time

By Michael W. Raley

I am a man out of time,

Ill-fitted in the current scheme of events.

To have sat under the great teachers, thinkers, and philosophers,

To have heard the romantic notions and the dreams of the poets,

That is where I should have been.

I am a misfit of sorts,

As I do not have a place in the current order.

I am fully aware of the times I live in,

But I long for the days of the rational and the ideal,

Long before this dark and brooding fog smothered our world.

We live in an age in which there is an ocean

Of information and potential enlightenment.

Yet, many refuse to even dip a toe in it,

Thereby remaining further entrenched in blind rage, hopelessness, and hypocrisy-

Only further justifying what they believe and preach.

Where are the idealists of this age? Arise!

Where are the pragmatists who can make it work? Come together!

We have been blessed with the gift of reason, let us use it.

Be the calm and steady voice in a room full of shouting and petty bickering

And give true purpose, meaning, and purpose to this time.

The Second Act of Life

God’s existence transcends our mortal limitations and understanding of time and space. Therefore, age is of little consequence to God. The Bible says Noah was 600 years old when God commissioned him to build the ark. God promised Abraham children when he was seventy-five and his wife, Sarah, was past typical child-bearing age. Abraham was 100 when Isaac was born. Moses was eighty when he led the Israelites out of Egypt. Caleb, well advanced in years, fought the giants off of his mountain.  Elizabeth, the mother of John the Baptist, was also past child-bearing age when she became pregnant. Conversely, God called Gideon, David, Josiah, Jeremiah and Timothy in their youths to defeat enemies, slay giants, lead spiritual revivals, give prophetic words, and preach.

Contrast God’s view of age with how modern American culture views age. In American culture, some people worship at the altar of youth and take drastic steps to slow or stop the hands of time- spending billions of dollars on “plastic surgery,” miracle creams, exercise equipment, putting off adult responsibilities as long as possible and so on and so forth. Age is seen as a barrier for the young and old alike. When we are young, we often think others will not take us seriously. As we age, we believe the lies that we have nothing more to offer or that we are too old to start or learn something new. The adage, “You can’t teach an old dog new tricks” becomes ingrained in our minds.

The Roman Stoic philosopher Seneca made observations about age and purpose:

“You cannot, therefore, accept a hoary head [gray hair] and wrinkles as proof of a long life; the man has existed a long time, he has not lived a long time.”[1]

“…the worst fate of all is to be stricken from the roster of the living before you die.”[2]

However, I believe that as long as we have breath, we have purpose. Every day is a gift and we must cherish it. We must keep in mind that while we have been given another day to live, others have not. Make the most of what we have. We must live the fullness of life as we seek God’s will.

“You will show me the path of life; In Your presence is fullness of joy; At Your right hand are pleasures forevermore.” (Psalm 16:11, NKJV).

In American culture, we spend the prime years of our lives working hard at our jobs and typically retire in our early to mid-60s, where we draw Social Security and/or our retirement pensions. For many, these “golden years” can be a difficult transition as people lose purpose or deal with illness and disease. Unfortunately, many elderly people are discarded and not valued for their wisdom and what they can teach the next generations. Though families and society may disregard us as we get older, God does not forsake us.

“…even to your old age, I am He, and even to gray hairs I will carry you! I have made, and I will bear; even I will carry, and will deliver you.” (Isaiah 46:4, NKJV).

“Do not cast me off in the time of old age; Do not forsake me when my strength fails…Now also when I am old and gray-headed, O God, do not forsake me, until I declare Your strength to this generation, Your power to everyone who is to come.” (Psalm 71:9, 18, NKJV).

“Those who are planted in the house of the Lord shall flourish in the courts of our God. They shall still bear fruit in old age; They shall be fresh and flourishing, to declare that the Lord is upright; He is my rock, and there is no unrighteousness in Him.” (Psalm 92:13-15, NKJV).

Brothers and sisters, let us throw of the self-imposed and societal barriers that have been placed on age and live to the fullest. There are plenty of people outside of the Bible who have not let age deter them from making their second act of life just as memorable and accomplished as the first act. Everything that has happened to you up to this point has prepared you for the next stage of life. Seize the moment. Seize the day. This is your time. God bless you.

 

[1] Moses Hadas, The Stoic Philosophy of Seneca, “The Shortness of Life.” New York: W.W. Norton & Company 1958: 56. Brackets mine.

 

[2] Moses Hadas, The Stoic Philosophy of Seneca, “On Tranquility.” New York: W.W. Norton & Company 1958: 87.

 

Are You Perceiving God’s Voice?

Have you ever had a one-sided conversation with someone? Have you ever tried to start or maintain a conversation with someone who seemed disengaged from what is going on around them? Have you ever spoke from the heart about something important and the other person just brushed you aside and did not listen or hear anything you said? Have you cried out for help and felt ignored or slighted? Did the exchange or the lack thereof change the dynamics of the relationship? Have you ever felt that away about God? Be honest.

The old adage “perception is reality” holds true in these instances. How we view the world around us is colored with our thoughts, senses, relationships, beliefs, biases, and unfortunately, any prejudices we have developed. In the midst of an ongoing or series of trials, we can become so caught up with ourselves that we miss the clues about God and the people around us. We may perceive that someone blew us off, but could it be possible that person has had an extremely bad day or they are dealing with their own trial? Of course, that does not excuse any malicious ill-mannered behavior, but it is something to keep in mind.

If we are not careful, our relationship with God can be hampered or altered by our perceptions. For example, a believer may think that God does not answer prayer because they prayed for a sick loved one who eventually passed away. Or how about going through a severe financial trial after years of being generous with giving? Or how a parent dealing with a rebellious child who was raised in church? When we think God is silent or does not care our trials will feel that much more difficult. However, all we have to do is listen.

Job was a righteous man who had to endure a series of trials- the loss of ten children, the loss of his financial livelihood, sickness, his wife told him to let go of his integrity, his friends, Eliphaz, Bildad, and Zophar all claim that his suffering is a direct result of some secret sin he has committed. Just having to endure one of these trials would be enough to shake the faith of some people.

Job does not blame God for his trials, but maintains he has committed no secret sin. Job longs for an audience and mediator with God because God has been silent in all of this (Job 9:33-35; 10:2-22; 16:19-21; 23:3-9). After the discussion of Job and his three friends ends, a young man named Elihu comes along and helps correct the wrong perceptions Job has had during these trials. In fact, Elihu maintained that God was trying to speak to Job, but Job was not perceiving it.

“Why do you complain to Him that He responds to no one’s words? For God does speak- now one way, now another- though no one perceives it. In a dream, in a vision of the night, when deep sleep falls on people as they slumber in their beds, he may speak in their ears and terrify them with warnings, to turn them from wrong doing and keep them from pride, to preserve them from the pit, their lives from perishing by the sword.” (Job 33:14-18, NIV).

Elihu goes on to further state: “Or someone may be chastened on a bed of pain with constant distress in their bones, so that their body finds food repulsive and their soul loathes the choicest meal. Their flesh wastes away to nothing and their bones, once hidden, now stick out. They draw near to the pit, and their life to the messengers of death.” (Job 33:19-22, NIV).

What Elihu states is that God has been trying to get our attention- we are not listening. For anyone who is going through “a famine of the Word,” consider, what have you been dreaming about lately? Where has the Holy Spirit directed you to in God’s Word? What are your fellow believers in Christ saying to you? Have you gone through any sicknesses that may be a sign to change your lifestyle? Of course, this may not be the case in every situation, but we must be alert to what is going on around us and with us. When we go through trials, we expect God to show up and talk to us directly as He did with Job (Job 38-41), while ignoring the still small voice Elijah heard (1 Kings 19:12). There are also times when we expect God to speak to us the same way as He did before, but maybe God is trying a new method of getting our attention.

“Forget the former things; do not dwell on the past. See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it? I am making a way in the wilderness and streams in the wasteland.” (Isaiah 43:18-19, NIV).

We must remember that our lives are not our own because we have been redeemed by the blood of the Lord Jesus Christ. God is sovereign over all His creation, including our lives. Though God spoke to Job, Job never received an answer as to why he suffered the way He did. God is always faithful to us and we must continue to be faithful to Him, even in the midst of the most severe trial of our faith. Grace and peace be with you all.

Going All In for the Journey

When the Spanish explorer and conquistador Hernan Cortes landed in Mexico in 1519, history states Cortes instructed his men to “burn the ships.” Imagine for a moment what must have gone through the minds of Cortes’ crew. The crew was thousands of miles from home in a hostile land with no escape plan. There was no turning back; there would be no retreat. At that moment, Cortes’ crew was forced to go “all in” on the journey.

The apostles Andrew, Peter, James, and John did not burn their ships, they simply left them to follow Jesus.

“As He was going along by the Sea of Galilee, He saw Simon and Andrew, the brother of Simon, casting a net in the sea; for they were fisherman. And Jesus said to them, ‘Follow Me, and I will make you fishers of men.’ Immediately they left their nets and followed Him. Going on a little farther, He saw James the son of Zebedee, and John his brother, who were also in the boat mending the nets. Immediately called them; and they left their father Zebedee in the boat with the hired servants, and went away to follow him.” (Mark 1:16-20, NASB).

These four men, who were fisherman by trade, walked away from their livelihoods and immediately followed Jesus. Of course, the Bible commands us to work and to take care of our families. However, how much does your job consume you? Do material possessions have more of a hold on us than we have a hold of Christ? Are we like the rich young ruler, who followed all of the commandments and wanted to follow Jesus, but was too attached to his possessions?

If we can shed our material attachment, our journey with God can still come with its share of difficulties as we try to live as Christians in a world growing more hostile to the things of God. There may come a time where we may consider the cost of following Christ and look back with pain, but God will always give us back so much more than we could every give up.

“The Peter said to Him, ‘Behold, we have left everything and followed You; what then will there be for us?’ And Jesus said unto them, ‘Truly I say to you, that you who have followed Me, in the regeneration when the Son of Man will sit on His glorious throne, you also shall sit upon twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel. And everyone who has left houses or brothers or sisters or father or mother or children or farms for My name’s sake, will receive many times as much, and will inherit eternal life.’” (Matthew 19:27-29, NASB).

Once we have decided to fully follow Christ, there is no going back to our old way of life because it will simply not work and be unfruitful. Consider the actions of Peter in John chapter 21. Jesus has risen from the dead and had appeared to His disciples multiple times. However, Peter decides to go fishing, along with Thomas, Nathanael, James, John, and two other disciples. The experienced fishermen do not catch any fish after what must have been a long night. Jesus then appears on the beach and tells the disciples where to catch the fish, and they catch multitudes of fish. Jesus and Peter have a conversation, where Jesus reiterates for Peter to follow Him. Jesus also tells Peter that he will one day die for his testimony. This is the point where Peter’s journey changed. Just weeks after this discussion, Peter stood up at Pentecost, full of the Holy Spirit, proclaimed the Gospel and 3,000 souls were saved (Acts 2:14-41).

Just as God did an amazing work in the life of the Apostle Peter, so too He wants to do a work in you. This journey may be long and difficult, but the Lord will be with you each step of the way. God has given us all that we need- His Son, His Holy Spirit, and His Word. We must seek out the Lord and allow Him to prepare us for the work ahead. We must be willing and obedient in order to hear from the Lord. We must remember that our sufficiency is not in anything the world has to offer or even in our own abilities. Our sufficiency is found in Christ and in Christ alone.

When Your Dream has been delayed

Dreams can motivate and inspire us. When coupled with the grace of God, dreams can give us the hope to rise above our circumstances. Dreams can inspire others. However, in our fallen world, our dreams can be delayed or denied. The opening of a new business fails because of a downturn in the economy. A promising athletic career is sidelined because of injury. A retirement nest egg is depleted due to a catastrophic illness. A couple wanting to start a family finds themselves in the pains of infertility. All of us, in one form or another, have faced setbacks that have delayed our dreams or stopped them dead in their tracks.

Proverbs 13:12 says, “Hope deferred makes the heart sick, but a longing fulfilled is a tree of life.” (NIV).

Two such men who faced a delayed dream were Zerubbabel and Joshua in the Old Testament. Ezra chapter one tells of a decree issued by the Persian King Cyrus that allowed the exiled Jews to return to Israel. The return of the Jews brought an end to the seventy years of Babylonian captivity and fulfilled Bible prophecy. Ezra chapter three describes how Zerubbabel, the governor of Judea and Joshua, the high priest, led the people in the rebuilding of the temple. Zerubbabel and Joshua begin by rebuilt the altar, restored worship and burnt offerings

Our Dreams can bring God Praise

“In the second month of the second year after their arrival at the house of God in Jerusalem, Zerubbabel son of Shealtiel, Joshua son of Jozadak and the rest of the people (the priest and the Levites and all who had returned from the captivity to Jerusalem) began the work…When the builders laid the foundation of the temple of the Lord, the priest in their vestments and with their trumpets, and the Levites ( the sons of Asaph) with cymbals, took their places to praise the Lord, as prescribed by David king of Israel, With praise  and thanksgiving they sang to the Lord: “He is good; His love toward Israel endures forever. And all the people gave a great shout of praise to the Lord, because the foundation of the house of the Lord was laid.” (Ezra 3:8a, 10-11, NIV).

Our Dreams will face opposition from Satan and from other people

Zerubbabel, Joshua, and the returning exiles were off to a great start. The altar was built, worship and the sacrifices were restored and the foundation of the second temple was laid. However, the return of the exiles was not good news for the hostile neighboring enemies of Israel. After a failed attempt to physically infiltrate and stop the work on the temple, Israel’s opponents set about discouraging the people and wrote letters of opposition to the Persian kings Xerxes and Artaxerxes, the latter of whom commanded the work on the temple to cease.

A Dream delayed can be a Dream restored

The work on the second temple was halted for fifteen years, until the reign of the Persian king Darius, who discovered the previous decree of King Cyrus and issued his own decree in the process allowing the rebuilding of the temple. Those fifteen years must have devastating to Zerubbabel, Joshua, and the rest of the people. However, God encouraged Zerubbabel, Joshua, and the people through the prophets Haggai and Zechariah.

“But now be strong, Zerubbabel, declares the Lord. Be strong, Joshua son of Jozadak, the high priest. Be strong, all you people of the land, declares the Lord and work. For I am with you declares the Lord Almighty. This is what I covenanted with you when you came out of Egypt. And my Spirit remains among you. Do not fear.” (Haggai 2:4-5, NIV).

“The angel of the Lord gave this charge to Joshua: ‘This is what the Lord Almighty says: ‘If you will walk in obedience to me and keep my requirements, then you will govern my house and have charge of my courts, and I will give you a place among these standing here.’” (Zechariah 3:6-7, NIV)

“So He said to me, ‘This is the word of the Lord to Zerubbabel: Not by might nor by power, but by my Spirit, says the Lord Almighty. What are you, mighty mountain? Before Zerubbabel you will become level ground. Then he will bring out the capstone to the shouts of God bless it! God bless it! Then the word of the Lord came to me: The hands of Zerubbabel have laid the foundation of this temple; his hand will also complete it. Then you will know that the Lord Almighty has sent me to you.’” (Zechariah 4:6-9, NIV)

Ezra chapter six describes how the temple was restored and dedicated and Passover was celebrated.

Brothers and sisters, how long have your dreams been sitting on the shelf gathering dust? Have you given up hope that your dream will ever come to pass? Have you allowed the voice of the enemy or negative people in your life to deter you? As long as the Lord gives you breath in your body, you have a reason to hope. You can still dream. You can still seek the Lord and find encouragement in His Word. As it says in Zechariah 4:10, “do not despise the day of small things.” (NIV). Start where you are at with the Lord. Maybe one dream has past, but God wants to give you a new dream, He wants to do a new thing in your life. Do not dwell on what could have been, dwell on the Lord and His goodness.