I Feel Like I Don't Belong 

Imagine, you’re homeless in the freezing cold.  It’s just after dark when you come near this beautiful log cabin home, it’s nearly all windows and you see people inside, some laughing, some smiling, some obviously in heartfelt conversation.   These are people who really care about one another. 

Then the front door opens, and you’re invited in.  Now you’re in this cozy living room, the fireplace crackles with warmth.  Someone you don’t know embraces you and has you sit down next to the fire.  They bring you a cup of hot cocoa.  They say you can stay. 

But you just have the nagging feeling that you don’t belong, that someone’s going to ask you to leave. 

This is how I feel sometimes.  I feel like I don’t belong in God's family and like someone’s gonna ask me to leave.

If you’re like me, let’s get some reassurance. 

Jesus's words in Matthew 11:  Come to me, all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you. Let me teach you, because I am humble and gentle at heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy to bear, and the burden I give you is light.

This is the invite into the cozy log cabin, into the family of God.  And if you’re like me, you’re in.  And there’s no need to feel like Jesus will ask us to leave. 

We find this out right in the verses prior to this. 

Jesus says:  Father, thank you for hiding these things (that I’m the Messiah) from those who think themselves wise and clever, and for revealing them to the childlike.

And he says:  No one truly knows the Son except the Father, and no one truly knows the Father except the Son and those to whom the Son chooses to reveal him.

Here's the point:  Jesus is saying, Whoever can see that I’m the Messiah, can see because I’ve opened their eyes.

And that’s when Jesus then says: Come to me, all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest

So, our coming to Jesus to find rest is proof that Jesus has opened our eyes to see and savor who he is and what he has done. 

And the fact that you’re in, means you’re in to stay. 

Cause Jesus says in the gospel of John:  All those the Father gives me will come to me, and whoever comes to me I will never drive away

At this point you may have a couple questions:  "Does God choose me, or do I choose God?"  Yes!  This is a mystery, we cant' figure it out.  I think if we could figure this out then God wouldn't really be that big.

We’re in God’s family because Jesus has done everything for us to get us in.  And if he’s done all that to get us in.  Why would he ever kick us out?

And if you're thinking that maybe these nagging feelings of not belonging in God's family mean that you never have been a part of it.  Well that's easy.  Just come.

Dreams and Visions 

Alim was an assassin for Iraqi dictator Sadaam Hussein back in the 90’s. After Sadaam’s execution, Alim the assassin made a radical career change--he started building cell phone towers. 

Just into his new career, Alim was kidnapped by terrorists. His company refused to pay the demanded ransom. Alim was a dead man. Then Jesus appeared to him. “Alim, you belong to me. I will deliver you.” 

The next day, Alim’s captors got into a firefight with each other, and Jesus appeared again. “Alim, leave now.” Alim argued, “I’ll be killed in the crossfire!” Jesus persisted, “Leave now.” And Alim did. 

When he got home, Alim’s wife was waiting at the front gate. “Why are you late?” she asked. 

Alim was confused. “I was being held for ransom,” he said. “I should be dead!” 

His wife was undeterred. “Jesus appeared to me,” she said. “He said you belong to him and that he was bringing you home. I expected you sooner!” 

Alim and his family now follow Jesus. 

Maybe you put this story in the category of ‘Extremely Rare.’ 

No. Not rare at all. This phenomenon of Muslims having dreams and visions of Jesus is happening all across the Muslim world. 

And actually, when you consider the core beliefs of Islam, it makes sense that Jesus would be reaching out to Muslims through dreams and visions. 

Islam considers men like Abraham and Jacob to be true prophets of God, and because these prophets had dreams from God, and because Muhammed himself, the founder of Islam, claimed to have had visions from God in receiving the Quran, Muslims not only believe that God speaks through dreams and visions, but they also seek to hear from God through them. 

Jesus is using this expectation embedded into the very core of Islam to reveal Himself as “The true light that gives light to everyone” (John 1:9). 

I’ve been collecting stories of what God is doing in the Muslim world for the last ten years, and I keep running headlong into these stories again and again and again. I personally have interviewed Muslim background believers in Jesus who have had a dream or a vision of Jesus. 

That Jesus is revealing himself to Muslims in this way is clearly a message to Muslims. 

The message from Jesus to Muslims is, “I love you. I want you in my family!” Dreams and visions are a message of love from Jesus. 

I also believe this is happening because Muslims don’t have access to God’s word. And so few are bringing God’s word to Muslims. So these dreams and visions are creating a hunger to find out more about Jesus in the Bible. They are a bridge to the gospel. 

But at the end of the day, I believe that this phenomenon is as much a message to you and me who are followers of Jesus as it is to Muslims. 

Jesus told his first followers, all Jewish, to share the gospel with non-Jews or Gentiles. But they were afraid. They had prejudices. So God sent a vision to Peter, the leader of the all-Jewish church, to move him past his fears. 

At that same moment, an angel appeared to a Gentile named Cornelius, telling him to send for Peter. Peter accepted the invite, shared the good news, and Cornelius and everyone in his house was transformed by Jesus. The door of the kingdom was opened to Gentiles. 

These signs were a message to Cornelius that God was pursuing him. And the signs were a message to Peter to go to the Gentiles. 

I think that’s what’s going on today. Jesus is appearing in dreams and visions to Muslims to say, “I’m for you.” But he’s also saying to us, “Look what I’m doing. Don’t be afraid! Join me!” 

It’s time for you and me to push past any fears and prejudices we may have to reach the Muslim world. It’s their turn to receive the joy and forgiveness and healing and hope that you and I enjoy with every breath we breathe. But we must respond now. We must pray for Muslims. We must reach out to the Muslims among us. We must go the Muslim people groups that haven’t yet received the gospel. 

We may be on the precipice of a massive harvest of souls in the Muslim world. Or maybe not, if we don’t act now. 

Find your role in reaching the Muslim world at Frontiers USA.

Hope Rises 

Enlarge the place of your tent, stretch your tent curtains wide, do not hold back; lengthen your cords, strengthen your stakes. For you will spread out to the right and to the left; your descendants will dispossess nations and settle in their desolate cities (Isaiah 54:2,3).  

This has to be one of the greatest promises in scripture. It's one the arrests me like few others.  It was written for the exiled Jews who ended up slaves in Babylon after being thrust from the promised land because of their sin. They wondered if there was any hope left; if there was a future for Israel. They wondered if they had out-sinned Yahweh's promises.  

The Lord used this promise and many others like it to assure them they would not be extinguished as a people. They would return to the promised land and Israel would have many children. There was hope and a future for Israel because of Yahweh's unfailing love.  

Ultimately this promise was fulfilled through Jesus. It is promise of a redeemed, enduring people, not just from among ethnic Israel, but from among all the ethnic groups of all the ages. All who have faith in Jesus' death and resurrection have become true Israel and her descendants are a number no one can or ever will be able to count.  

Here's the culmination of the promise: "After this I looked and there before me was a great multitude that no one could count, from every nation, tribe, people and language, standing before the throne and in front of the Lamb...they cried out, 'Salvation belongs to our God!' (Rev. 7:9,10a)."  

What this means for you and mean is staggering:  First, through faith in Jesus we can say with certainty: "I have a future and a hope!" 

And second, we can join Jesus in his work to birth spiritual children from all the peoples on the planet. We live in a day of the exponential growth of God's family. And you and me are called to be a part of this.  

Whether it's reaching out to your neighbor or co-worker, or giving to missions, or prayer for a people group that's never heard, or using your unique talents as a business-person or scientist or artist to display God's fame here and abroad, or teaching your kids or grand-kids to love and serve Christ, or planting a church among an unreached people; or going on a short term mission trip; you are called to be part of birthing spiritual children through Jesus Christ.  

So prepare for growing pains. Enlarge the place of your tent; stretch your tent curtains wide. Lengthen your cords; strengthen your stakes. You will spread out to the left and to the right; you will have many spiritual descendants through Christ. Christ is building his church and the gates of hell cannot resist his unstoppable plan!

Doubters Welcome 

Faith is not the absence of doubt. It is a decision to trust in God's promises in the face of our doubts. To doubt is to be human, it is the human struggle. To trust even though we have doubt is pleasing to God. This is the kind of faith that is pleasing to God: trusting him in the presence of doubt. Don't focus on trying to rid yourself of doubts. Rather, use your doubts as an occasion, a springboard to trust God's promises.

When the doubts come say to yourself: "Whatever I think or feel that unsettles me is not the truth. I choose right now to trust God and not my fleeting thoughts and emotions." This is how faith grows: In the presence of doubt. The journey of faith in the face of doubt is a lifelong process.   As you trust day by day in the face of your doubt, know that your faith is growing. 

"Blessed is the one who trusts in Lord, whose confidence is in Him.  They will be like a tree planted by the water" (Jer. 17:7a).

Two Sides of Faith 

Like a coin, faith is two-sided. One side of the coin is marked with the powerful acts of God through his people.  On the other side we see the perseverance of God's people through intense suffering. Both sides of the coin illustrate true faith.

In Hebrews chapter 11, the Hall of Fame of Faith, we discover that, through faith, God's people "conquered kingdoms, shut the mouths of lions, quenched the fury of the flames and received back their dead, raised to life again." Through their faith in God, these followers saw the mighty power of God in action.

Yet other faithful people, the writer explains, "were tortured for their faith, were put in prison and were put to death by the sword." These persevered in faith through unimaginable suffering.

God wants us to know that faith is not either power or suffering but rather, it is both power and suffering. There are times in the journey when our faith will be rewarded with the unleashed power of God. And there are times when our faith will require teeth-gritting perseverance in the face of our unanswered questions. Don't be surprised by the power and don't be confused by the pain. For you'll find both in a lifetime of trusting in God. 

Yourself Through God's Eyes 

I've been thinking lately, now that we are forgiven and cleansed of our past sins, how does God see us? And further how does God want us to see ourselves? Let me try to paint a picture.

You're looking across a vast, snow-covered field with gently rolling hills. The sun is just rising in a sky of multiple orange hues. The blowing snow gently moves across the unblemished countryside. The few leaf-less trees reach up to grasp the new day, their icicle-covered branches sparkling like diamonds in the morning sun. 

It's a picture perfect postcard. It's breath-taking beauty. When God looks at us, he sees breath-taking beauty. I can't fully explain it. I know we often don't feel this. But it's the truth. It's grace. And this is how we are to view ourselves.

I think this is what the God was trying to get across to his people through Isaiah. He was trying to paint a picture of love: "Come now let us reason together, though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow. Though they are red as crimson, they shall be like wool" (Isaiah 1:18). 

Personally I've made the decision to see myself the way God sees me. I don't always feel it. But I've made the decision. And slowly, surely grace is transforming me from the inside out.  So make your decision.  Engage in the journey of seeing yourself they way God does.