Leaving Home

My home town, Tulsa Oklahoma.

Now the Lord had said to Abram: “Get out of your country, From your family And from your father’s house, To a land that I will show you. Genesis 12:1 NKJV

Some people can’t wait to get away from home. As soon as they turn 18 they marry or join the army and get stationed on the other side of the world. After being so far from home, some return as soon as they can. Others stay away forever-by choice. 

Some people never leave home. I have friends who I grew up with in Tulsa, Oklahoma who never left Tulsa. I am glad they are still there for me to visit when I return home to see dad. I meet them at our favorite restaurants that are still standing from the previous century. They watched me move off to Texas and then Florida, all the while staying in Tulsa. I am proud of my native Tulsa, and am always glad to visit, but I can’t imagine myself living all my life in one place. Then again, the Tulsa I visit now is not the Tulsa I grew up in. Dad doesn’t live in the house I grew up in. The stores we go to weren’t around when I was kid. I visit my childhood church, but its like going home to strangers. The people there now never knew me, which is fine, I love meeting new people, but you know what they say, you can never go home again

So I wonder about Abraham. Was he happy to leave home and go on an adventure, or was he afraid to leave home? Did he miss his family and friends? Did he miss the old places where he would hang out? 

I grew up in Tulsa always dreaming of living in Dallas. When we went to the baseball and football games there I was always impressed with the modern architecture. It just seemed like the place to be. Tulsa had the minor league baseball team for the Texas Rangers major league team at the time. So when the Tulsa players got good they went to Dallas. I knew people in the Oklahoma Adventist conference who went on to the Union conference in Burleson, close to Dallas. Somehow I had it my mind that once you “arrived‘ you ‘arrived” in Dallas. So you can understand how happy I was when I had the opportunity to be a Bible Worker in Fort Worth, which is Dallas’ neighbor. 

I remember when I left home, mom cried. I did not realize at the time how cool it was having my own apartment in Tulsa, but having my parents right there in town to see at church and meet for dinner and even run into at the store by chance encounters. At the time I could not appreciate all of that and was just excited to begin my new adventure. It wasn’t until years later when I stood at my mother’s coffin that I finally understood and appreciated her tears that day I moved away. 

So I “arrived‘ In Dallas. Actually it wasn’t Dallas, it was Fort Worth. And fact is, I never “arrived.” I just thought I had. My new church district fell in love with me right away and I thought I was doing great! I was living the dream in the Dallas area. The people loved me so much I thought I must be a legendary Bible Worker. It took a few years for me to grow up and realize I was no legend. I was not even one of the better Bible Workers. I had all kinds of weaknesses and faults. Finally one day I woke up and realized these people don’t love me because I am good. They love me because they are loving people. I realized they were not encouraging me because I was good. They were enduring my follies, and  patiently encouraging me because they saw my potential for good, if I ever grew up. Living in the Dallas area was good for me. Not because I had arrived like the sports stars who moved from Tulsa to Dallas, or the local Oklahoma conference officials who got called up to the union office. Living in Dallas was good for me because it got me away from home so I could grow up. I thought I had grown up and left home, but actually God had me leave home so I would grow up. 

I wonder, did Abraham grow up before or after he left home? How did his ordeal in Egypt help him grow up? His actions in Egypt showed he had not arrived yet. 

After more than ten years in the Dallas-Fort Worth area it had become home. I pictured myself living all my days in Texas. God had other plans. He let me live ten years where I had always dreamed of living but now He was calling me to another land. An opportunity came to serve as a Bible Worker in the Tampa Bay area. I had no interest. I did not know anyone there. Before I moved a friend assured me, “you will get to Tampa and make friends and start doing things with them there and that will become your home. You won’t miss Texas anymore.” Well I knew my friend was right, and that was what scared me! While my feet were still on Texas soil, the thought of feeling at home in another place terrified me. 

After much fleece setting and protesting on my part I was on my way to Tampa. It was much farther from home. Like I mentioned earlier, you had people moving from Oklahoma to Texas all the time for various reasons. I had connections in Texas from Oklahoma. I was only four and a half hours away from home, which made weekend visits easy. It wasn’t until I moved to Tampa, Florida that I realized how close I was to Tulsa while in Texas. 

When I left Texas people told me how easy it was for me to up and move to a strange new land because I was single. They thought being single made it easy. No, it made it hard. When you have a family and you move to a strange new place at least you have your family. I had no one. Just me all by my lonesome in a strange new place. In Texas I had connections from Oklahoma as well as all the friends I made in over ten years. In Tampa I had no connections and no friends. God knew what He was doing. I had even more growing up to do. Now I have been in the Tampa Bay area over 18 years. I went from being a total stranger all alone, to now not only having friends in my own church, but in most all the neighboring Adventist churches as well. My friend was right. I am comfortable and happy hear now. This is home. When I moved from Texas to Florida I knew exactly how many baptisms I had. Now over 18 years in Florida I have literally lost count. God moved me here because there were people He needed for me to reach.  He also knew I had more growing up to do that would never happen if I stayed so close to home. 

Did Joseph have more growing up to do when He was sold as a slave into Egypt? Did he have even more growing up to do in prison? Did God allow all of those things to happen to Joseph to help him grow up? Is that why God has some of us move around so much? By moving two times God has helped me to grow personally as well as help more people. Meanwhile thanks to Facebook, cell phones and plane tickets home is never far away. I still have my friends in Tulsa and the Dallas area. When I vacation and travel from Tampa to Dallas and then to Tulsa and back to Tampa again I never feel like I am leaving home or going home. Its all home now. I have a home that encompasses Oklahoma, Texas and Florida. I know God is with me wherever I go and He is what makes it home. God is my home. He is everywhere. 

Abram had to leave home so he could grow in faith. Abram had to leave home so he could meet those God wanted him to meet. More importantly Abram had to leave home to go home. Ur was not his real home. Canaan was his real home. 

I understand that while God calls some of us to the other side of the planet that He also calls some, like the demoniac in Mark 5 to go back home. Either way God was calling the demoniac out of his comfort level as it may have been awkward for him to go home after all the embarrassing things he had done. This is for sure, God will call us out of our comfort level to help us grow up and be all we can be for Him. That being said, I would like to ask you a question from Sunday’s section of this week’s lesson

What might God be calling you to leave behind? That is, what part of your life might you have to abandon in order to heed the call of God?

Truth Versus Theories, Fables and Conspiracies

I am writing tonight from the beautiful Tampa Bay area.

I am writing tonight from the beautiful Tampa Bay area.

“…the truth will set you free.” –Jesus Christ, John 8:32

Last week a high school friend of mine, attending a Christian non-denominational school, gave a speech on her belief of the Bible teaching of the state of the dead. She texted me for verses and ideas and used my lessons on Death in Light of the Cross. Instead of endorsing her stand, or refuting it, her teacher simply responded, “I guess we will never really know.” Seriously? For the sake of being diplomatic to other beliefs and to be politically correct, you make God look like He is not smart enough to provide us with a Bible that can be properly understood?

A while back I was watching a family sitcom, where the youth pastor came for dinner, because the family had some theological questions. The youth pastor on the show ends up explaining that the Bible can be interpreted a lot of different ways. While I know this was just an actor and not a real youth pastor, I know too that it is a popular belief. However I do not believe that is true.

We try to be diplomatic and peace keeping by saying there are many different denominations, because the Bible can be understood many different ways. While this may be partially true, we must open our eyes and realize the reason why there are so many different denominations and even religions is not because the Bible is confusing. It isn’t’. The problem is not that the Bible is hard to understand. The problem is that people lie! I hate to call people liars but I would rather call someone a liar instead of making my God out to be too stupid to provide a book that can be properly understood. Revelation 21:8 says all liars will be thrown in the lake of fire. No one will go to hell because they are confused. Those who are lost are lost because they lived on lies.

Don’t get me wrong. I believe God has His people in all different churches and denominations. There are godly people from all walks of faith who will be in heaven. My point is simply that instead of being so diplomatic and politically correct that we start accepting every wind of doctrine, we need to stand up and face the fact that someone is out-right lying!

When we don’t want to face the facts we try to confuse ourselves. The confusion does not come from the Bible. The confusion comes from mixing our own opinions and emotions with Bible truth. For example, people are quite certain that Good Friday was on the 6th day of the week Friday. They are quite sure Jesus rose on the first day of the week Sunday. Yet when you mention the Seventh-day Sabbath right smack dab in the middle, they suddenly become “confused” claiming there is no way to know for sure which day is the 7th.

What baffles me is how people will come up with lies in search of the truth! This is how conspiracy theories abound. Now no doubt there are conspiracies, but some conspiracy theorists like to turn everything into a conspiracy.

Some conspiracy theorists like to accept the darkest explanations. For example, after Kennedy’s death, Johnson wanted to be sworn in as president before leaving Dallas. As soon as the swearing in took place he told reporters to share the pictures with the world as soon as possible. Conspiracy theorists say Johnson had a big ego and wanted the whole world to know he was in charge. How about looking at it another way? Johnson wanted the whole world to know that the United States Government had a leader and was not vulnerable to attack? Now you can’t prove either theory. But you can follow Bible principle and try to see the best in people instead of the worst. We destroy a lot of reputations and relationships by looking for the worst possible motives and scenarios.

Conspiracy theorists also rest their cases on the most ambiguous facts. By proving that two people knew each other, they have a hypothesis that they both were involved in a conspiracy, just because they knew each other. Guilt by association they say. This again is a dishonest way to ruin people’s reputations and relationships. So even the truth that some conspiracy theorists have, does not have much weight, and lead to assumptions that may or may not be true.

And when holes get shot in their theories they turn to facts that simply are not true. Oswald was a poor marksman is one accusation. No way could he have made those shots. Fact is Oswald was a great marksman well above average. Some say Oswald could not have made it to the 2nd floor from the 6th floor in time to be caught by the police in the time frame in which he was. Re-enactments have proved that he could. Still, 50 years later, people cling to their fables and call our leaders liars, thinking the worst of everyone in leadership from Lyndon Johnson to Gerald Ford and George Bush.

It simply is not healthy to be thinking of all the bad motives people could have had, especially when all you have are theories. Nothing good comes from looking for the worst possible motives in people.

Fact is, if we belong to God we don’t have to worry about conspiracies. Joseph was a victim of a conspiracy. His brothers sold him as a slave into Egypt and then covered it up by dipping his coat in blood and telling his father he had been eaten by some wild beast. There you have it! A true conspiracy and cover up! No harm done though. While the conspiracy was designed to destroy Joseph, it actually got Joseph to exactly where he wanted to be! Later when Joseph reveals himself to his brothers after becoming the ruler of Egypt, he shrugs it all off and tells them there are no grudges, everything worked out fine. Joseph did not need to see the worst in his brothers. He did not need to expose their evil motives and egos. Instead he proved them to be good decent men in the end. By the way, for those who think the Kennedy assassination was an inside job, Joseph’s attack really was an inside job-done by his own brothers! Still, God used it to get Joseph where he needed to be.

So when it comes to Bible truth or conspiracy theories let’s not confuse the plain facts with our own feelings and emotions. Let’s not look for the worst in others. And last but not least, let’s not worry about lies, conspiracies and hidden agendas when we know that our God is greater than any lie, conspiracy or hidden agenda, and He will take care of us just as well as He took care of Joseph.

So, a high school Bible teacher says we will never know the truth about death, even with all of the Bible evidence right in front of him. Conspiracy theorists say we will never know the truth about the Kennedy assassination while they dream up all kinds of hypothetical scenarios based on their own imaginations, emotions and opinions instead of hard facts. The truth is there. The question is will you accept the truth even though it doesn’t fit with your theories?