Welcome!

So much of life is waiting. . .

As a Christian, I am waiting for a lot--for God to do His refining work in me, for Jesus to return, for me to GET how much God loves me and for me to see what He is doing . . .

What to do in the meantime? I have learned much about what the Lord is trying to teach me, tell me and show me through the discipline of daily time spent reading the Bible. So often we make this time harder than it has to be.

This blog was born out of wanting to share what God is showing me and wanting to be an example that daily time with God is not a deep or mysterious thing (well, every once in a while it can be), but simply a time to read scripture and note what jumps out at you that day. We don't have to be scholars or super-holy or ministry leaders to do this. Some days I hit the jackpot and others I come up empty--but only by persevering do I give God the space in which to speak and myself the stillness in which to hear and obey.

As of June of 2017, I've now decided to include parts of our adoption journey, which is, so far, yet another chapter of waiting.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Small Things

Reading in Zechariah today, in chapter four, and am thinking about verse ten:

10 For whoever has despised the day of small things shall rejoice, and shall see the plumb line in the hand of Zerubbabel.

Specifically, I am mulling over the idea of "small things", and of waiting for small things to become greater. Jesus Incarnate began as all other babies do, as something very, very small. Nine months of waiting for Mary and Joseph. . . years of waiting for Anna and Simeon. . . hundreds of years of waiting for the Jews both for the Messiah and for hearing the voice of the Lord (Whose prophets had been silent for a long, long time). Then, after the baby's birth, more waiting. There were more than thirty years of waiting until Jesus began His ministry.

As I have blogged before, it often seems like the majority of life is waiting. Waiting to see if something good will be given. Waiting to see if something bad will be taken away. Waiting in anticipation. Waiting in dread. The Lord could have just dropped Jesus fully grown onto the scene, ready to preach. But He didn't. I don't know why the Lord waited for so long to send Jesus, or why He chose to begin His great work of redemption in such a small, unseen way. It comforts me that Jesus Himself experienced waiting: Waiting in the womb. Waiting through childhood, adolescence, young adulthood. Waiting for three days in a tomb.

God must be doing something through the waiting. Maybe He had to wait for a woman who would say "Behold, I am the servant of the Lord; let it be to me according to your word." For a man who would listen to an angel and marry her anyway. . . For twelve men who would follow . . . All of time is in God's hands, and He knows the perfect timing. My struggle is trusting Him. I must remember first of all that my perception of "the perfect time" is flawed and limited, and second of all, that I should not despise the days of small beginnings, but trust the Lord to do the great things that He has promised, even if I must wait much longer than I think I should.

Funnily enough, after thinking about this new-to-me thought about Jesus having to wait, I was listening to the radio and heard one of the radio personalities talking about that very thing. I love it when God does that!

Merry Christmas, and may we remember the miracle of small beginnings as we remember the miracle of a tiny baby coming to save us.

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Singing Lessons

Psalm 137 is a psalm from when the Jews were exiled from their homeland. Verse four says:
How shall we sing the LORD’s song in a foreign land?

The New Testament sometimes refers to believers as "aliens and strangers" (1 Peter 2:11, NAS). I feel strange and alienated in this world sometimes. How do I "sing the Lord's song" in the world of 2011?

I asked the Lord that this morning during my prayer time. Seems that it wasn't as difficult a question as I first imagined: Complain less. Encourage more. Believe the best. Love people. Compliment people. Don't compromise Biblical principles in my life. Reflect God's glory.

If only the singing of the song were as easy as writing the words to it. . .

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Reminded of the Gift

I'm now in the time of "read the Bible in a year" that is hardest for me, when the Old Testament reading is in the minor prophets and the New Testament reading is in Revelation. I am very thankful that reading in the Psalms is a year-long endeavor. Today I read Psalm 130:

Psalm 130
My Soul Waits for the Lord
A Song of Ascents.
1Out of the depths I cry to you, O LORD!
2O Lord, hear my voice!
Let your ears be attentive
to the voice of my pleas for mercy!

3If you, O LORD, should mark iniquities,
O Lord, who could stand?
4But with you there is forgiveness,
that you may be feared.

5I wait for the LORD, my soul waits,
and in his word I hope;
6my soul waits for the Lord
more than watchmen for the morning,
more than watchmen for the morning.

7O Israel, hope in the LORD!
For with the LORD there is steadfast love,
and with him is plentiful redemption.
8And he will redeem Israel
from all his iniquities.


I was especially touched by verses 3 and 4 and verse 7. My iniquities are great--just today I had to ask a friend to grant forgiveness for my bad attitude. The day before I had to apologize to my class for crabby words. Every day I sin. Yet my God is no longer counting my iniquities. They are forgiven through Jesus. I so often get caught up in the Christmas madness of gift-buying and cookie-making and home-decorating and miss the miracle of Jesus. We have been given FULL redemption--PLENTIFUL redemption, in fact. Not just a little bit, but a lot. I am thankful to the Lord for reminding my heart of this.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Get Ready. . .

Reading in 1 Peter right now (and, on a side note, finished Ezekiel today. Woo-hoo!). These verses stood out to me in chapter one:

13Therefore, preparing your minds for action, and being sober-minded, set your hope fully on the grace that will be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ.

"Preparing my mind for action". . . Do I do that when I read the Bible? Not as much as I should. It's easy to just read, close the book, and move on into my day. I feel challenged to add to my prayers each day a request for the Lord to show me what action He wants me to take that day. What do I need to obey from the Scripture I just read (which can be tricky when reading in Ezekiel about the dimensions of the temple) OR how can I be ready to love and serve during the daily grind of work and life?

I want Christ's love and grace to be living and active in me, and my part of that is to have a mind prepared for action.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Even Ezekiel

I confess. Sometimes, in the prophetic books, the lineages, and the painstakingly detailed descriptions of the temple, I skim. It's true. Right now I'm reading in Ezekiel, and I have done my share of skimming, but then the Lord used chapter 14 to speak specifically to me:

4Therefore speak to them and say to them, Thus says the Lord GOD: Any one of the house of Israel who takes his idols into his heart and sets the stumbling block of his iniquity before his face, and yet comes to the prophet, I the LORD will answer him as he comes with the multitude of his idols, 5 that I may lay hold of the hearts of the house of Israel, who are all estranged from me through their idols.

Idolatry I am familiar with. Painfully familiar, because I have struggled quite a bit with it. But to read and comprehend the idea that I have taken idols into my heart was very sobering, especially when God had His finger on a specific idol. To take something into one's heart is a serious thing. My heart is supposed to be where Jesus dwells, not an idol. Israel got in enough trouble over high places that were nowhere near the temple; how much more serious is an idol in our hearts? But isn't that ultimately what makes an idol? Something that takes up more space in our hearts/minds/time than it should? Something inhabiting the inner workings of our hearts where only God should dwell?

More moving to me was when the Lord told Ezekiel that He wants to "lay hold of the hearts of the house of Israel". He describes Israel as being "estranged" from the Lord. "Estranged" is also an emotional word, a family word. The Lord looks on the idols in our hearts and it grieves Him. He wants all of our heart, with no idols between Him and His children.

Most amazing about this Ezekiel passage is that the Lord knew exactly the day I would read it (along with everyone else following my particular "read the Bible in a year plan") and knew the particular circumstances that He was engineering to reveal the particular idol that He was targeting. . . thus showing me that He wants to lay hold not just of Israel's hearts, but of mine.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Loincloth Lessons

Yes, I'm still here, still reading, still listening for the voice of God. I read something in Jeremiah a few weeks ago that I have had stuck in the back of my mind, and, driving home tonight praying and worshipping, I think I see what the Lord is wanting to show me.

The Lord often told His prophets to do some crazy things to be a picture or example to His watching people. In Jeremiah 13: 1-11, the Lord has specific instructions about a loincloth:

1Thus says the LORD to me, "Go and buy a linen loincloth and put it around your waist, and do not dip it in water." 2So I bought a loincloth according to the word of the LORD, and put it around my waist. 3And the word of the LORD came to me a second time, 4"Take the loincloth that you have bought, which is around your waist, and arise, go to the Euphrates and hide it there in a cleft of the rock." 5So I went and hid it by the Euphrates, as the LORD commanded me. 6And after many days the LORD said to me, "Arise, go to the Euphrates, and take from there the loincloth that I commanded you to hide there." 7Then I went to the Euphrates, and dug, and I took the loincloth from the place where I had hidden it. And behold, the loincloth was spoiled; it was good for nothing.

8Then the word of the LORD came to me: 9"Thus says the LORD: Even so will I spoil the pride of Judah and the great pride of Jerusalem. 10This evil people, who refuse to hear my words, who stubbornly follow their own heart and have gone after other gods to serve them and worship them, shall be like this loincloth, which is good for nothing. 11For as the loincloth clings to the waist of a man, so I made the whole house of Israel and the whole house of Judah cling to me, declares the LORD, that they might be for me a people, a name, a praise, and a glory, but they would not listen.

The idea that has been pursuing me for the past weeks is the image of the Lord wanting us to be as close to Him as an intimate undergarment. We all desire intimacy, yet we can't "cling" to other people or we will suffocate them. No one can successfully provide perfect, secure relationship at all times. Only the Lord can meet that need. What made verse eleven so important to me, the idea I've been trying to wrap my brain around for these weeks, is that the Lord WANTS us to cling to Him. He DESIRES us to be intimately close to Him, and is humble enough in His glory to use the image of the whole house of Israel (which here, I think, can be a metaphor for us, as well) clinging to Him like a loincloth.

Yet I still doubt His intent toward me, and during my drive I repented of that and prayed that He would help me cling to Him that closely. How amazing that, thousands of years later, the obedience of Jeremiah and the Word of the Lord is still used to touch my hard human heart.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Gifts from God

Today is my birthday, and I smiled after my quiet time this morning because the Lord knows me so well. First He gave me a happy present from Psalm 71, verse three (the first half):

Be to me a rock of refuge,
to which I may continually come
. . .

The word that I liked and that made me smile was "continually". I sometimes feel that I am running back to the Lord with the same problems/feelings over and over and over. And I am. But that's okay, because now I have express permission to "continually" come.

Secondly, the Lord gave me a "whack" with Proverbs 29:11:

A fool gives full vent to [her] spirit,
but a wise [woman] quietly holds it back


Over the weekend I had some moments of giving full vent to my spirit which ended up in conflict and hurt and . . .yuck. God just gave me my next memory verse. Somehow correction straight from the Holy Spirit is the easiest to receive.

So, thank you to the Lord for BOTH of my birthday presents, both the happy and the hard.

Saturday, September 18, 2010

It Rests on God

Reading through Psalm 62 this morning, and I am grateful for a God Who knows exactly what I need to hear and when I need to hear it. Verses 5-7:

For God alone, O my soul, wait in silence,
for my hope is from him.
He only is my rock and my salvation,
my fortress; I shall not be shaken.
On God rests my salvation and my glory;
my mighty rock, my refuge is God.

It's so easy to put our hope in something or someone other than the Lord: Success, money, security, growth, friends, family, relationships. But my only true hope is in God. He is my security and my safe place.

I also find great comfort that my salvation and my glory rest on God, and not on me. Not on my faith or my works or my obedience, but on God. This morning is a time when I know without at doubt that my only glory comes from God and it not from me, and I am grateful that He is the one in charge. I don't have to be strong or know what I am doing--He has it covered!

Monday, September 6, 2010

Waiting PATIENTLY

The title of this blog continues to haunt me. . . I am discovering these days that there is a difference between waiting and waiting patiently. Maybe at the beginning of the process, there is virtue simply in the waiting, but now, when I have been waiting for some things for a very long time, it seems that more is required. I'm reading a really good book right now by Priscilla Shirer, called "One in a Million", which is about the Israelites and their wilderness experience, and about how we should handle our own wilderness experience.

The Israelites have lots of trouble with complaining. So do I. From p. 115 in "One in a Million":
The spirit of complaint is born out of an unwillingness to trust God with today. Like the Israelites, it means that you are spending your time looking back toward Egypt or wishing for the future, all the while missing what God is doing right now. . . It takes what God is doing in your life and smashes it into a thousand wasted pieces.

Me waiting on God and complaining the whole time about how hard it is and how I hate to wait is negating any value whatsoever in the actual waiting. As much as I hate to wait (and, yes, I really do), I hate more that I may be undoing any witness or any character growth that the Lord might hope to do through me or in me because I am choosing not to wait quietly or patiently. If I must wait, I at least would like it to be for a purpose and to God's glory.

I read in Psalm 50:14-15 today words which dovetail nicely with these thoughts:

"Offer to God a sacrifice of thanksgiving,
and perform your vows to the Most High,
and call upon me in the day of trouble;
I will deliver you, and you shall glorify me."


When I am tempted to complain or whine, I need to offer thanksgiving instead--which is the sacrifice part. I don't FEEL like giving thanks, but that is when I need to choose to thank the Lord for His love and His presence in my life, and to call out to Him rather than to whine to everyone else.

And I think everyone else might be kind of happy about this plan as well!

Monday, August 16, 2010

Kind Consequences

I tend to be a rule-follower. I like to do things "right", especially when it comes to God. That motivation is not altogether wrong, but I am often trying to get it right so that I can make God love me more (I can't) or so I don't make Him angry with me.

Yesterday, through my sin, God showed me more of His character. I was wanting to do something (that was not in and of itself wrong or sin) and God very clearly told me to wait. I was good with this for the first day, the second day, and almost the third day, but then I decided that surely He didn't mean wait SO long (3 whole days!), so I would just help the matter out a little bit. Oops. This part of the story is when my human nature would write in about how horrible and awful things happened because I disobeyed what the Lord told me to do.

God wrote a different story. I got my way and did what I wanted and. . . the end result wasn't what I had hoped. Nothing bad happened, but I didn't get the good I was seeking. Then the Lord very gently pointed out to me that I did not meet the need that I had, and that I would be much happier and it would be so much better if I waited for Him to work instead of pushing ahead. There were no thunder claps or lightning strikes, just His gentle reminder that He wants what's best for me.

My heart was touched that the Lord knew just what would speak to me the most. I deserved Him to holler at me and be mad, because I ignored what He said to me. However, I felt like He knew my frame and my heart and knew that I needed to recognize that His correction is not always severe, but often (always?) laced in mercy.

Or do you presume on the riches of his kindness and forbearance and patience, not knowing that God’s kindness is meant to lead you to repentance? (Romans 2:4)

May I never presume upon God's kindness, but may I remain thankful to have experienced His kindness that leads to repentance. I'm back to waiting mode. . .

Friday, July 30, 2010

Trusting the Author

Funny how God speaks from out of nowhere. Last week I was on vacation with some friends, reading a young adult book called "The Underneath". I am not a fan of books with loads of sadness or unhappy endings, and since this book contained many sad elements, I was a little worried about whether it would end well. To my relief and satisfaction, the ending was just what it should have been--redemption for the most lovable main characters and justice for the villain.

In discussing the book with my friends, I was sharing how I had been unsure about whether it would be worth it to keep reading, because I wasn't positive that there would be a payoff at the end, but that I did, and there was. A friend commented that it was just another example of how life and the Christian walk is a journey. I'm not fond of the journey analogy. In fact, I pretty much loathe the reality that it's the journey and not the destination. The Lord and I argue about that regularly.

However, this is where the Lord jumped in, and spoke through MY mouth. I replied, "Yes, I know, I know, but in the book I trusted the author that the end would be worth it." Ouch. Therein is the crux of it: Do I trust God, the author and perfecter of my faith? Do I trust that in my story, the sadness and trials will be necessary and I will see their purpose at the end? Do I believe that the circumstances are not the end, but the means? Am I confident that the Lord's authorship of my life is skilled and careful and full of redemption?

I trusted the author of this novel because I could see the care in which she had crafted her characters and the poetry in her story. Evidence of God's caring and craft is all around me. Amazed again at how the Lord knows the perfect way to communicate with me, I am determining to trust the author of my story and keep reading to the end!

Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us. Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. (Hebrews 12:1-2, NIV)

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Setting Our Hearts

While I may no longer be in the desert, I think I am still wandering through the wilderness--hearing God's voice clearly now and then. I continue to pray, read the Bible, and wait. Today I was reading in 2 Chronicles about Jehoshaphat's reign. These verses stuck out to me:

"He [Jehoshaphat] walked in the way of Asa his father and did not turn aside from it, doing what was right in the sight of the LORD. The high places, however, were not taken away; the people had not yet set their hearts upon the God of their fathers."

Though Jehoshaphat was following the Lord and listening to His prophets, and had even officially ordered that the high places be torn down (2 Chronicles 17:6), the people were not wholeheartedly committed to the Lord. They had not "set their hearts" upon the Lord.

What does setting my heart upon the Lord look like? The people had just seen God do a miracle, in winning a major battle for them without them doing anything but go down to meet the opposing army. The Lord struck their enemy dead without them raising a weapon. So, listening to God and obeying Him does not seem to be the same as setting their hearts on the Lord. Maybe it is a deeper, heart work? A decision to commit completely to following the Lord, loving Him, and trusting Him at an emotional level and not only a practical one? Does it mean that, along with reading the Bible, praying, and obeying, I need to determine that my heart belongs to the Lord and that I will trust, praise, and believe His goodness in my life regardless of circumstances? That I won't just listen and obey without engaging my emotions? Lots to think about today.

Monday, July 12, 2010

With the Blessings, Risk

Reading 1 Chronicles right now, and have finally gotten through the geneologies and on to the accounts of David's kingship. Today's portion told of when David decided to move the ark of the covenant, but did not follow the rules set forth by the Lord in how to do so (the ark was considered to be the presence of the Lord). 1 Chronicles 13:10-14 tell what happened:

And the anger of the LORD was kindled against Uzziah, and he struck him downbecause he put out his hand to the ark, and he died there before God. And David was angry because the LORD had broken out against Uzzah. . . And David was afraid of God that day, and he said, "How can I bring the ark of God home to me?" So David did not take the ark home into the city of David, but took it aside to the house of Obed-edom the Gittite. And the ark of God remained with the household of Obed-edom in his house three months. And the LORD blessed the household of Obed-edom and all that he had.

I had never noticed that David was angry with the Lord, and afraid of Him as well. I can relate to David's emotions. He might have been thinking, "Hey, I'm just trying to return the ark to its rightful place, and now this man is dead." Followed by, "Uh-oh. Maybe I don't really want to mess with the ark if death could be a result." So David sends the ark away, and the people who receive it also receive blessings.

I think there are parallels to our lives. We want the presence of the Lord, so we seek Him and try to obey Him. However, this seeking and obedience will sometimes result in death (of a vision, of a desire, of a plan) and pain, as we unexpectedly see the power of God and realize that, though He is our loving Savior, He is also the Great I Am who will not share His glory. That realization, that the Lord is not just the great grandpa in the sky, and that following Him requires sacrifice, may make us fear Him, and choose to "send Him away" by not talking to Him or spending time with Him.

Yet, we then start to notice that others who are following God are receiving blessings. Eventually, as with David, our desire for the blessing and connection to the Lord will outweigh our fear (2 Samuel 6:12):

And it was told King David, "The LORD has blessed the household of Obed-edom and all that belongs to him, because of the ark of God."So David went and brought up the ark of God from the house of Obed-edom to the city of David with rejoicing.

I realize we cannot draw a perfect parallel from the Old Testament world of the law to the New Testament world of grace, but I do think that I in my life have had moments of pulling away from the Lord--sending the ark away--because of anger and fear, and then realized the blessings I was missing, and chosen to try again to walk in the presence of the Lord. The choice is to risk the often painful character refinement and disappointment of "no" in exchange for communion and blessings. As a Christian, God will never leave me, and I cannot really send Him away, but I can chose to live without consulting Him or including Him in my plans. May all of us see that the blessings of walking with God are worth the risk.

Sunday, July 4, 2010

One Little Word

I continue to think about how to understand faith and how to walk in it. The verse I'm still thinking about (trying to memorize) is Matthew 7:20:

He said to them, ". . . For truly, I say to you, if you have faith like a grain of mustard seed, you will say to this mountain, 'Move from here to there,' and it will move, and nothing will be impossible for you."

When I was practicing and trying to get it word perfect, I kept changing the phrase "you will say to this mountain" to be "you could say" or "you can say". But my translation says "will". Hmm. So I looked up the verse in several translations, and in the ones that are the most word-for-word (English Standard Version, New American Standard Version, Revised Standard Version, New King James Version), the word is rendered as "will" or "shall".

What does that really mean? The idea of moving a mountain, according to the footnote in my Bible, is used to denote any very difficult or impossible task. If I truly have faith, is it inevitable that I will exercise it by applying it to something that seems impossible in my life? The verse says that if I have faith I WILL ask the mountain to move. What mountains are there in my life that I want the Lord to move--and right now I can only consider the mountains that I already know He wants to move (disbelief, fear, faithlessness). I'll save the more nebulous mountains (healings, miracles) for another day.

Can I, WILL I apply my mustard seed (the tiny, eensy, weensy grain) of faith to the mountains that seem impossible to move? Is it faith if I don't?

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Logically Speaking

For months now I have felt distant from the Lord. Today, finally, I feel like the Lord and I were connecting again. How did this happen? Wonderful worship music? In-depth study of scripture? Hours of prayer? No, actually, through a very simple and logical question.

I am in the middle of doing Beth Moore's "Believing God" Bible study about faith--ironic, yes, in light of feeling very lacking in faith lately. Today's simple exercise was to answer (in a pros/cons sort of way) the questions: "What are you risking if you decide to surrender to a life of believing God?" and "What are you risking if you don't?". Okay, no biggie, I made my list:

What do I risk by having faith? Disappointment and pain
What do I risk by NOT having faith: Disappointment and pain plus missing God's power, plus lessening my intimacy with God, plus losing the chance to be a part of partnering with God. . .

DUH!!!!!!! The biggest "aha" for me was that the two bad things that I fear, disappointment and pain, are the SAME for both questions. I risk the exact same things by believing God as by not, but by believing I have the potential to gain so much more. . .

I am also smiling at the oddity that such a simple and logical question was the vehicle of God's voice. That the Lord speak in this way shows me how well He knows me. I came to Him initially by the logic of the question "Who do you say that I am? Liar, lunatic, or Lord?" from C.S. Lewis--that, logically, I could not believe in Jesus as just a "good person", but had to choose to either think He was lying, or crazy, or really was Who He claimed to be. Once again, I am pushed to the next step of faith by the rational idea that having faith risks no more pain than not, but has the potential for so much blessing.

Finally, I almost lost the point by starting down my own personal "circle of doubt", which always begins with "But what if I don't have enough ___________,(faith in this case)?". And, from verses I have heard/read/seen one hundred thousand times but apparently never really apprehended (Matthew 17:20):

He said to them, . . . For truly, I say to you, if you have faith like a grain of mustard seed, you will say to this mountain, 'Move from here to there,' and it will move, and nothing will be impossible for you."

Those Sunday School and Vacation Bible School veterans among us know that the mustard seed is very, very small, and yet grows a very big plant. But somehow I have never applied that personally and realized that I just need to believe the teeny tiny bit that I can and it will be enough.

Is there anything better than hearing the voice of God?

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Another Glimpse

Maybe, just maybe, I am starting to see some of what the Lord is wanting to show me through this time of silence. Psalm 138:8:

The LORD will fulfill his purpose for me;
your steadfast love, O LORD, endures forever.
Do not forsake the work of your hands.

The Lord will fulfill His purpose for me regardless of whether I feel Him doing it. He will fulfill His purpose regardless of whether I perceive it. He will fulfill His purpose whether I agree with it. God is God completely and totally apart from my feelings about Him.

I think this is another piece of what faith is. I've heard for years and years how we aren't to be guided by feelings, and I never thought that I was, but these last months have shown me that I rely on my perceptions more than I rely on the simple truth of Who God is. He is working whether I realize it, recognize it, or resonate with it. If I never personally hear God's voice again, it does not mean that He has stopped speaking, or even that He has stopped His work in my life.

We are such fallible creatures, so slow to learn. I am thankful for God's patience with me on this journey.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

ANYTHING

My God can do anything. ANYTHING. Somehow I forget this truth, or minimize this reality, or ignore this fact. Today 1 Kings 17 was relating the story of Elijah and the widow's son. Elijah was staying with a poor widow, and her son dies. She comes to Elijah, and Elijah prays (1 Kings 17: 21-22):

Then he stretched himself upon the child three times and cried to the LORD, "O LORD my God, let this child’s life come into him again." And the LORD listened to the voice of Elijah. And the life of the child came into him again, and he revived.

Dead. The boy was stone-cold dead. In our regular life, physical death is final. No more help, no more heroics, no more hope. Yet God, Creator of all, breathed life back into a corpse. Think of Sarah. In her nineties. Menopause has come and gone. No more possibility of babies. No hope. Yet God, Author of life, knit Isaac together in her womb. Jesus Himself, three days in the tomb, His broken body seen by all. No hope. Yet God, Defeater of death, raises His son.

I still feel very distant from the Lord. Some days I feel hopeless because I don't know how to bridge the distance on my own. I am trying to have faith that God may yet, in His time, open my deaf ears, soften my hard heart, and revive my flickering hope.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Excited to Share?

Reading in Acts today, the account of Cornelius, the Gentile who prays, gives, and seeks God. The Lord sends an angel to him to tell him to go and get Peter to explain the gospel to him. In Acts 10:24, it says:

. . . Cornelius was expecting them [Peter & friends] and had called together his relatives and close friends.

Cornelius had invited everyone that was important to him to come and hear from the apostle Peter. Do I get that excited about hearing from men of God? Would I invite all of my close friends and relatives if a Godly pastor were speaking at my church (which would mean every Sunday. . . hmmm)? Am I that enthusiastic to hear the truth and to share it?

Wanna come to church with me on Sunday?

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Believe

Like a broken record, let me say again that I am still here, still persevering, still feeling disconnected from the Lord.

Today I was reading in John about Doubting Thomas, who doesn't believe the other disciples when they tell him that Jesus is alive. He declares that he won't believe until he sees Jesus for himself and touches the wounds in his hands and sides. Jesus does appear to Thomas, and this is what He says (John 20:27):

Then he said to Thomas, "Put your finger here, and see my hands; and put out your hand, and place it in my side. Do not disbelieve, but believe."


I think this is my challenge right now, as well, to not disbelieve, but believe. What do I need to believe? That God is still there, even if I can't sense it. That He is working when I can't see it. That He is in control and knows exactly what is happening in my life and is using it for good. That He is good. That He loves me. That He hasn't abandoned me. That I will hear His voice again.

Seems like a lot for a Monday morning. . .Pray for me?

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Glimpses

STILL here, STILL feeling distant from the Lord, STILL not liking it. But, as I've said about one billion times now, all I can do is to keep doing what I know I should: reading the Bible, praying, seeking to obey.

I have had some glimmers of hope lately. Small, small glimmers. I am trying to be very aware of how the Lord is working in my life, even if I can't feel it. James 1:17 says:

Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change.

Good things are happening in the midst of this silence, and I have been brought to tears by knowing that, even though I can't perceive Him right now, the Lord is still at work in my life and blessing me. So, I will continue to search for these glimpses of the Lord's hand, and trust that His presence will become more evident with time.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Complete Obedience

Today's passage was in 1 Samuel 15, the episode where Saul, king of Israel, prepares to battle the Amalekites. Samuel, the prophet, tells Saul this (1 Samuel 15:3):

Now go and strike Amalek and devote to destruction all that they have. Do not spare them, but kill both man and woman, child and infant, ox and sheep, camel and donkey.


Pretty clear: Kill them all. Leave nothing. The Amalekites were enemies of the Lord and He wanted them completely destroyed. However, Saul failed to obey (1 Samuel 15: 9):

But Saul and the people spared Agag and the best of the sheep and of the oxen and of the fattened calves and the lambs, and all that was good, and would not utterly destroy them. All that was despised and worthless they devoted to destruction.

Saul decided that surely God couldn't mean for him to destroy all of those fat sheep and cows? There was nothing wrong with them, right? The Israelites needed them for their spoil. They would be useful. They were good. Maybe he thought that if he just destroyed the bad things, that would be sufficient.

I think that we can do the same thing in our lives. All of us have sin in our life that is obviously "despised and worthless"--from drug addiction to harsh speech. If someone points them out, we have no defense. Our only answer is "Yes, that's sin, yes, God wants me to get rid of it." However, I think we also have idols or areas in our lives where the thing itself is not bad, but maybe the value or time we attach to it is. Some examples include Facebook, chocolate, or relationships. Sometimes, for our sanctification or to remove idols from our lives, the Lord will tell us to get rid of something, maybe for a season, maybe forever. It can be very difficult to abandon something that is "good" in our eyes.

Obedience to the Lord is sometimes a very individual matter. For Saul, there were other battles in which Israel was allowed to keep the spoils. With the Amalekites, they were specifically told to devote the city to destruction. Saul's disobedience resulted in him losing the kingship.

I need to be listening to the Lord and simply obey what He says, even when I think that "Hey, these 'sheep' are perfectly fine and beneficial, surely You don't want me to get rid of them?" Surely He does if that's what He said.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Waiting Without Sinning

Ah, the irony of my blog title as I am now waiting longer than it seems that I ever have to hear from the Lord. . .

Read in 1 Samuel 13 today about another person who was waiting, Saul. He has just won a battle and is hanging out at Gilgal, waiting for Samuel to come and perform the required sacrifices. Apparently Saul had been told at some point to wait for Samuel to come. Apparently Saul becomes impatient when Samuel doesn't come within the seven-day time span, and he offers the sacrifices himself. Bad idea. The consequence (1 Samuel 13:13-14):

And Samuel said to Saul, "You have done foolishly. You have not kept the command of the LORD your God, with which he commanded you. For then the LORD would have established your kingdom over Israel forever. But now your kingdom shall not continue. The LORD has sought out a man after his own heart, and the LORD has commanded him to be prince over his people, because you have not kept what the LORD commanded you.

While I am waiting, I need to purpose not to "do foolishly" by trusting in idols (my works, someone else, knowledge, etc) or by hardening my heart or by ignoring what I know is true in God's word. Saul lost the kingdom because of his disobedience and lack of trust. I need to keep waiting patiently and trusting the Lord to work, and pray to become a woman after His own heart.

Saturday, May 8, 2010

Stuck

Again, I'm still here, still reading, praying, seeking, still feeling stuck. Today I was in John 5: 39-40:

You search the Scriptures because you think that in them you have eternal life; and it is they that bear witness about me, yet you refuse to come to me that you may have life.

Am I trying to use the Bible as the "supernatural key" to the Lord (as I also read in 1 Samuel 4 a similar situation where the Israelites try to use the Ark of the Covenant as a magical battle charm) instead of simply "coming to Jesus"? And just what does it look like to come to Jesus? I did spend some time praying, and I'm still not sure what the Lord is doing with me right now, or what I need to be doing or not doing. . . All I can do is to keep reading, praying and seeking.
One of my favorite C.S. Lewis quotes is from The Screwtape Letters. The book is written from the point of view of a demon trying to mentor another demon as they try to discourage a Christian:

Sooner or later He [God] withdraws, if not in fact, at least from their conscious experience, all those supports and incentives. He leaves the creature [us] to stand up on its own legs--to carry out from the will alone duties which have lost all relish. It is during such trough periods, much more than the peak periods, that it is growing into the sort of creature He wants it to be. Hence the prayers offered in the state of dryness are those which please Him best. . . . He wants them to learn to walk and must therefore take away His hand; and if only the will to walk is really there He is pleased even with their stumbles. . . . Our cause is never more in danger than when a human, no longer desiring, but still intending, to do our Enemy's will, looks round upon a universe from which every trace of Him seems to have vanished, and asks why he has been forsaken, and still obeys. (p. 39, Screwtape Letters, C.S. Lewis)

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Idle Words

I'm still here! I continue to read the Bible every day, and pray, but I don't feel very connected to the Lord. Today I read in Luke 24 about the time in between the crucifixion and the resurrection, when the disciples were in despair. The women go to the tomb to anoint the body, but instead of a corpse, find angels (Luke 24:5-7):

And as they were frightened and bowed their faces to the ground, the men said to them, "Why do you seek the living among the dead? He is not here, but has risen. Remember how he told you while he was still in Galilee, that the Son of Man must be delivered into the hands of sinful men and be crucified and on the third day rise."


So the women run back and share this good news with the other disciples, and this was their reaction (Luke 24:10-12):

Now it was Mary Magdalene and Joanna and Mary the mother of James and the other women with them who told these things to the apostles, but these words seemed to them an idle tale, and they did not believe them. But Peter rose and ran to the tomb; stooping and looking in, he saw the linen cloths by themselves; and he went home marveling at what had happened.

The women burst into the upper room to impart the words of hope from the angels, but the message seemed to the men an "idle tale", and they didn't believe. The words "idle tale" jumped out at me this morning, because that is how scripture has seemed to me lately--idle words. The opposite of idle is "at work", or, even "powerful". The words in the Bible that I have been reading have seemed devoid of power. I know that they are true intellectually, but the heart connection hasn't been there. Apparently the disciples knew that feeling.

What did Peter do with this "idle tale", however? He ran to the tomb, the last place where he thought Jesus might be, and looked for Him. Interestingly, Peter did not at that moment see the risen Lord. He saw the abandoned grave clothes, and "marveled" at seeing them, and then went home. Extrapolating to myself, I need to keep looking for Jesus and to go back to the last place that I heard Him speak, and see what He wants to show me there. It may not be an epiphany just yet, but maybe a glimmer of hope that God's Word is not, in fact, idle.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Sticking it Out

Okay, here it is: I am still reading in the Bible everyday. In the Old Testament I'm in the chapters in Joshua where the land is divided. Not a lot of practical application (that I can see). Also reading in the Psalms and the book of Luke. Surely I should be able to come up with something pertinent from them? Nope.

This moment is when it is tempting both to stop reading or to make something up that sounds really spiritual to convince myself that I am hearing from God. The truth is that there are many days when I spend time with the Lord and I don't have any giant revelation. I read even about the life of Jesus and just say, "Yes, yes, I remember this, I agree with this, but. . . ".

Today I prayed and asked the Lord to show me if there is anything that I am doing that is blocking me from hearing Him, and I am trusting that He will show me if there is. There may be some specific sin (there's always something)of which I need to repent. However, there may not be. It may be that this is a time that I need to walk in faith and stick with the discipline of a daily quiet time, trusting that the Lord will show up again. My closeness and worth to God are not measured in how much I "feel" Him or what insight I receive each day. Because of the cross, I am God's child as much on the days that I have goosebumps from feeling His presence as on the days when I can't focus to pray for more than ten seconds without thinking about what I need to do that day. I'm so thankful that my security is in HIM and His truth, not in my feelings or understanding.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Another "Aha!" Moment

A few months ago I posted about how sometimes I will suddenly apprehend a truth that seems, in hindsight, pretty obvious, and not anything new at all. Today would be another day like that! In Joshua 10, Joshua and the Israelites are going to go fight some more Canaanites. The Lord says in verse 8:

And the LORD said to Joshua, "Do not fear them, for I have given them into your hands. Not a man of them shall stand before you."


My Bible footnote (yay for footnotes) points out that the Lord had given Joshua the land, yet he still has to go and fight for it. Bells, whistles, applause, I think it has clicked:

The Lord can give us the victory in an area, but we still have to go and fight to take possession of it. The Hebrews knew that the Lord had assured them victory because He told Joshua. However, it wasn't a victory of "Sit down on the couch and watch TV, and then I'll take care of the bad guys and you can move in tomorrow." Sometimes the Lord does move that decisively (Egyptians in the Red Sea), but not usually. The army had to go and fight. The Lord did intervene, in this case with hail and the sun standing still, but the soldiers had to march and Joshua had to lead.

So, when I read in the Bible that the Lord has given me everything I need (2 Peter 1:3), do I just sit and hope that I feel okay with that? I don't think so. I think my battle, in that area and others, is to have faith to believe that what the Lord says is true (the Israelites had to believe that they would win the battle even as they were fighting). I also must seek to know the Lord by prayer and reading scripture and obeying what I know to be true. Even when it looks like I am losing--when it doesn't look or feel like God is enough--I have to believe He is and walk accordingly.

I'm sure I have heard messages about this marriage of God's promises and our work (and let me be clear, salvation itself is a whole other animal), but I've never quite seen how it is all supposed to work together. I hope that I will be able to start playing my part in the battle with faith and determination, trusting that the Lord will give me the ultimate victory.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

We Don't Know Everything

I'm reading now in Joshua, about the Israelites beginning to conquer the Promised Land. They start out well, with the defeat of Jericho. However, even in this victory, the people already are disobeying the Lord. He had told them that all of the gold and silver spoils were to be dedicated to Him, for holy use, but one of the soldiers took some of the treasure for himself (Joshua 7:1):

But the people of Israel broke faith in regard to the devoted things, for Achan the son of Carmi, son of Zabdi, son of Zerah, of the tribe of Judah, took some of the devoted things. And the anger of the LORD burned against the people of Israel.


Joshua does not know that Achan has sinned in this way. So, without asking direction of the Lord, he determines to attack the city of Ai. Because of Achan's sin, the Lord is not with the Israelites, and they lose 36 men, and, worse, their hearts " melted and became as water (Joshua 7:5)." Joshua throws himself before the Lord after this defeat, and then the Lord reveals that someone in the camp has taken treasure belonging to God.

After Achan is revealed and punished, the Israelites try again to defeat Ai, and this time are successful, and, ironically, get to keep the treasure from their victory.

If only Joshua had inquired of the Lord before his attempt to take the city of Ai instead of after the loss. He thought he knew what the Lord wanted Him to do, and thought that he knew how to accomplish it. I have found myself in similar places--thinking that I know what God wants based on what He wanted last time, and proceeding forward without asking for wisdom or guidance. Joshua's problem was that he didn't have all of the facts. I, also, don't always have all of the facts. I need to remember the fact that I don't have all the facts, and remember to always ask the Lord what He wants me to do, even if I think that I know, because, just maybe, I don't.

Friday, April 9, 2010

Loosening the Dirt

In Luke 13, Jesus tells a parable about a fig tree that is not producing fruit. The owner of the fig tree wants to cut it down because, for three years, the tree has been barren. The vinedresser, though, says in verse eight:

And he answered him, 'Sir, let it alone this year also, until I dig around it . . . '

The point of the parable, according to my Bible, is to show that the Jews were not receiving the blessing of God because they were not acknowledging the prophets or Jesus (my paraphrase). The end of the parable is not so good, because it is assumed that the tree will not have fruit the next year, either.

What I am thinking about this morning is the process of "digging around" the roots of the plant. The idea was to loosen the dirt around the roots so that water could get in and nourish the plant. I think the Lord does that in our lives. We have places that are tightly packed with junk we are holding onto--fear, sin, shame--and He needs to loosen that soil so that His love and forgiveness can seep into our hearts.

I don't think the plant probably likes this--it feels all secure and safe in its bundle of roots and tightly packed soil, and then comes God, poking and prodding and digging. . . I know I have felt that way before--there are moments when I don't want the Lord digging around in my life, pulling things out and loosening things up so that I will have to let go and deal with them. However, that's part of the growth process.

I do like the picture of the water of God's love and forgiveness flowing freely around the roots of my heart and life. May I have the faith to trust that the digging will yield fruit. . .

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

He's Not Us

I am thankful that the Lord is not like us. I am simultaneously reading in Deuteronomy about how the Israelites should be faithful to God but won't be, and in Psalm 78 about God's faithfulness to the Israelites in the face of their disobedience. The Lord did punish them for their "whoring" (Scripture's word, not mine) after other gods, but He did not annihilate them, which they deserved. The verses that spoke to me today were Psalm 78:37-39:

37Their heart was not steadfast toward him;
they were not faithful to his covenant.
38Yet he, being compassionate,
atoned for their iniquity
and did not destroy them;
he restrained his anger often
and did not stir up all his wrath.
39He remembered that they were but flesh,
a wind that passes and comes not again.

The line "He. . . atoned for their iniquity" touched me. It has always been the Lord atoning for our sin, making a way to be in relationship with Him, even before Jesus. If I could just understand how much God's heart is longing to be intimate with me. . .

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Unfaithful

I continue reading in Deuteronomy, where Moses is laying out before Israel their choice: Obey, trust, and follow God, and they will have abundance and blessing. Turn away and follow idols, and they will have curses. Even as Moses is describing the benefits of following God, my Bible's footnotes (ESV Study Bible) points out that it is assumed at the end of chapter 29 that Israel will be unfaithful. They are unable to be faithful because their hearts are not circumcised. Chapter 30 goes on to relate how Israel will repent and God will relent, and, finally in verse six:

And(I) the LORD your God will circumcise your heart and the heart of your offspring, so that you will love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul, that you may live.

God had to work in their hearts so they could fully obey the Lord. I don't understand how all of that works or doesn't work. Why was Israel seemingly incapable of obeying, even after seeing with their own eyes the faithfulness of God--eating the manna, wearing the shoes that never wore out, following the cloud by day and the pillar of fire by night? Yet they could not or would not be faithful. Why? Why did they run after gods of wood and stone when they had the power of the living God among them?

Why do I turn away from the Lord and worship idols of relationship, security, safety? I have seen God's goodness and power. Is it because I don't WANT to do what God wants me to do? It is because my flesh is selfish? Is it because I don't like to follow when I don't understand? I don't really believe God is for me? I don't really believe God is good? Are our hearts that prone to wander?

The end of chapter 30 (verses 19-20) is where I would like my heart to be:

Therefore choose life, that you and your offspring may live, loving the LORD your God, obeying his voice and holding fast to him, for he is your life and length of days. . .

Thursday, April 1, 2010

When Thoughts are Wearisome

Do you ever get a headache from trying to figure out life? From trying to understand how people who aren't following God receive accolades and material success, and people who are trying to obey the Lord have hardship and pain? The person who wrote Psalm 73 struggled with these thoughts, too. He is thinking about how evil people appear to have many material blessings, and how that didn't make sense to him, especially after all of the instruction of the Lord that if the people obey the Lord, they will be successful, and if they don't, they won't. Verses 16 and 17 were what struck me today:

But when I thought how to understand this,
it seemed to me a wearisome task,
until I went into the sanctuary of God. . .

So often I try and process events and it seems like a "wearisome task"--I can't wrap my brain around it, it doesn't make sense, I just have a headache and don't want to think any more about it all. This verse shows me that I need to take my thoughts to the "sanctuary of God"--I need to bring my thoughts and feelings before Him and have Him help me sort them out. In this psalm, the verses go on to reveal to the psalmist that, though the evil may flourish for a while, they will come to a bad end--that he needs to view them in light of eternity.

May we be quick to take our "wearisome thoughts" to the Lord.

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Over & Over

Do you ever feel needy and like you struggle with the same issues over and over and over? The Lord encouraged me through Psalm 71:3 this morning:

Be to me a rock of refuge,
to which I may continually come. . .

Specifically, the word "continually" made me smile. I know that I continually need to know that God loves me. I continually need His strength. I continually go to Him for wisdom and help. I am so grateful that He can handle me. Indeed, this is the relationship to which He has called me: Utter dependence.

Monday, March 29, 2010

Questions

Sometimes I come away from Scripture with more questions than answers. Reading in Luke 8 about Jesus healing the man with all of the demons. This man has been an outcast on an island, naked and crazy. Jesus comes and heals him, sending the demons into a herd of pigs. You would think that the observers would be excited and happy, eager to follow Jesus and see what He would do next, or what He would do for them. No. Verses 36-37 say:

And those who had seen it told them how the demon-possessed man had been healed. Then all the people of the surrounding country of the Gerasenes asked him to depart from them, for they were seized with great fear. So he got into the boat and returned.

The people were so afraid that they asked Jesus to leave. Why? Were they afraid of what Jesus would do to them? Were they fearful of what belief in Jesus would require of them? Were they scared of what they could not understand? I have thought a little about it, and I don't know. I can't think of a parallel for my life, exactly. I know I have been fearful of what the Lord will require of me, and have kept my heart from Him sometimes because of this, which is comparable to them asking Jesus to leave. . . I just don't know.

Thoughts?

Sunday, March 28, 2010

It's Not Us

Continuing in Deuteronomy, with Moses reminding the Israelites of who they are and Who God is. He is urging them not to imagine that the Lord is giving them the Promised Land because of their good deeds or merit (Deuteronomy 9:6):

Know, therefore, that the LORD your God is not giving you this good land to possess because of your righteousness, for you are a stubborn people.

Ouch. I guess God has no illusions about what lies beneath our service and sacrifice--I know that I myself, anyhow, underneath it all, pretty much want what I want and don't like it when I don't get it. I have moments of unselfishness and love because of the good God has put in me, but in my heart remains the tendency to choose what I want. Yet, I am redeemed and God has given me a new heart. . . That paradox, (which Paul apparently understood: Romans 7:19: For I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want is what I keep on doing.) makes this life frustrating sometimes. When I mess up, I am tempted to think that God is surprised or disappointed in me. However, God already knows the evil of my heart, and He didn't save me because of my righteousness and He doesn't love me because I am good.

Later on in Deuteronomy 10 (verses 14-16) Moses states it even more clearly:

Behold, to the LORD your God belong heaven and the heaven of heavens, the earth with all that is in it. Yet the LORD set his heart in love on your fathers and chose their offspring after them, you above all peoples, as you are this day. Circumcise therefore the foreskin of your heart, and be no longer stubborn


The Lord chose Israel, and us, because He wanted to. HE decided. Not me. He decided knowing full well the sin and stubbornness of our hearts. Knowing this should be motivation to submit our willful hearts to Him so that we can fully experience His fellowship, but that submission will not increase His love, only our awareness of it.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

He Knows

I continue to read through the Old Testament, and started Deuteronomy this week. It's one of my favorite books of the Bible, I have decided. The Israelites have been wandering in the desert for 40 years, but are about to get the the go-ahead to conquer and possess the Promised Land. A good deal of Deuteronomy is Moses talking to the people and reminding them of the past and encouraging them to trust the Lord. In Deuteronomy 2:7, Moses says:

For the LORD your God has blessed you in all the work of your hands. He knows your going through this great wilderness. These forty years the LORD your God has been with you. You have lacked nothing.

The Lord knew about the wilderness, the Lord knew the people in the wilderness, the Lord stayed with them through the wilderness. Even though the people deserved the wilderness for their lack of faith, and in spite of the fact that the Lord is the One who put them in the wilderness, He has walked with them and sustained them in the wilderness.

Even when I am in a wilderness of my own making, or a wilderness of punishment, the Lord has not abandoned me. He led the Israelites daily. He sent manna and water and gave them shoes that never wore out. I have trouble seeing the mercy and tenderness of the Lord, but this verse makes it clearer to me. The Lord remained in the wilderness with the people. He didn't say "See ya in 40 years" and walk away. In fact, I wonder if there was a part of the experience that was special to God, because He had His people all to Himself.

I want to remember that, no matter how alone I feel, or how many times I have circled in the desert, the Lord is still with me, leading me and providing for me all the while.

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Ethiopia Thoughts

I'm back!! I plan on continuing to share thoughts from my quiet time, but also wanted to write about the things the Lord showed me in Africa, so there may be "Africa" posts mixed in with "quiet time" posts.

I think that travel helps me to broaden my image of God. Somehow I tend to imagine that the Lord is just working here in the USA, in the life of my church, my friends, me (just a wee bit of self-centeredness). Seeing Christians in other countries helps me realize that God is SO much bigger than I think that He is.

The first Compassion program that we visited was the Child Survival Program (CSP) in Holeta, a little village outside of Addis Ababa. The CSP is a program in which the poorest of the poor moms are linked in with a Child Development Center. They work with a health worker and a program implementer to have their needs met. These women are usually illiterate, frequently single moms, often destitute. They live in huts with mud or cow dung walls and mud floors. There is often no bed, no crib, no playpen, no toys, no inside kitchen or plumbing. Babies crawl on dirt floors. There are no diapers, no wipes, no sweet-smelling disinfectant. Imagine having a baby in such an environment.

The moms shared their testimonies with us. One mom talked about, how, pregnant with her third baby with no means to support herself or the two children she already had, she was going to commit suicide. She had it planned and was waiting for the opportunity. One night she had a dream in which she saw her baby laying on a Bible, and felt that God was telling her that He would take care of her baby. She didn't know what this meant, but she delayed her suicide plans to find out. A week or so later she was asked to be a part of the CSP, giving her food, medical care, emotional support, and literacy education.

The same God that speaks to me, and works in my church is sending dreams to illiterate, impoverished African women to show His love and care for her and her children. God is not oblivious to anyone's suffering. He is caring for "the least of these".

Appropriately, I read in Luke this morning about Jesus standing up in the temple and sharing these words from Isaiah 61:

1The Spirit of the Lord GOD is upon me,
because the LORD has anointed me
to bring good news to the poor;
he has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted,
to proclaim liberty to the captives,
and the opening of the prison to those who are bound;
2 to proclaim the year of the LORD’s favor,

Friday, March 5, 2010

Therapy for Control-Freaks

I am now reading in the book of Numbers (which has, amazingly, lots of lists of numbers of things). Today I was reading in chapter 9 about God appearing over the tabernacle in a cloud. As long as the cloud was over the tabernacle, the people camped. As soon as the cloud (signifying the presence of the Lord) left, the people packed up camp (no small feat with possibly 2 million people) and moved too. Sometimes the cloud stayed there for one day. Sometimes it stayed for several days. No rhyme. No reason--at least not one discernible to the people.

Okay, fellow control-freaks. Can you imagine? Never knowing day by day whether you would be staying in camp or packing up to move for. . . one day? Two days? To go. . . wherever God leads. No map. No itinerary. Not even a compass. Just keeping your eyes on the cloud and following where it leads:

At the command of the LORD they camped, and at the command of the LORD they set out. They kept the charge of the LORD, at the command of the LORD by Moses. (Numbers 9:23)

If I think too hard about it, I could have a panic attack--it would surely wrench the reins right out of my hands. On the other hand, imagine growing up with that model. A lifestyle of complete obedience to the Lord's leading, submitting the whole of your day to His direction. It would, at least, be clear direction--there was no doubt: Cloud above, stay. Cloud moved, go. Would that I sense the leading of the Lord so clearly and obey so completely.

P.S.: A really accessible picture of this phenomenon is in Francine Rivers' book: The Warrior, which is about Caleb.

P.P.S. There may not be many posts in the next two weeks, as I will be going to ETHIOPIA to meet my Compassion child!!

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Trusting

I haven't posted for a few days. Nothing in scripture has jumped out at me. I know there are things that the Lord is showing me that I need to keep pursuing, but those things haven't presented themselves in an easily bloggable form.

Days like these show me my kinship to the Israelites. It's only been three days, but my unfaithful and fearful heart can magnify those days until they become a Sign That God is Silent. It's hard to wait for any amount of time. Moses left for a few weeks and BAM, a golden calf. I don't hear from the Lord for three days and BAM, He's never speaking to me again.

I am thankful that the Lord knows that I am "but dust", and that He is patient with my fickle and fearful heart. I will keep seeking, and He will speak again. In the meantime, I want to keep a heart that is believing that His next move is right around the corner, instead of preparing for disappointment.

Sunday, February 28, 2010

Happy, Happy, Joy, Joy?

Today I read Psalm 44. It's a psalm from a people who are discouraged because they feel like God is ignoring them. It used to be that (Psalm 44:2):

you with your own hand drove out the nations,
but them you planted;
you afflicted the peoples,
but them you set free;

Now, though (Psalm 44:9-12):

But you have rejected us and disgraced us
and have not gone out with our armies.
You have made us turn back from the foe,
and those who hate us have gotten spoil.
You have made us like sheep for slaughter
and have scattered us among the nations.
You have sold your people for a trifle,
demanding no high price for them.

I appreciate the Psalms because of the writers' honesty. "Okay, Lord, we are supposed to be your chosen people, and long ago you helped us and saved us, and now you don't seem to be around to help us out, and we don't know why. We can't figure out what we have done. Why are you ignoring us?" The Psalms were songs that the people sang. I can't imagine singing a worship song today that says "Hey, God, you're ignoring us. What is going on with You? Where are you?" I wonder why we don't sing honest songs?

We've probably all felt that way--that there are times we hear God's voice clearly and times when it doesn't seem like He's listening. Times when He seems to be doing great things for everyone else but us even though we don't see any major unrepented sin in our lives. Yet all the songs are happy ones about who God is--which is true, and an encouragement to our hearts. Yet there are so many Psalms that talk about pain and hurt and feeling ignored by God that it must be a universal condition--and one that is not surprising or shocking to God.

I especially like the end of Psalm 44 (verses 23-26):

Awake! Why are you sleeping, O Lord?
Rouse yourself! Do not reject us forever!
Why do you hide your face?
Why do you forget our affliction and oppression?
For our soul is bowed down to the dust;
our belly clings to the ground.
Rise up; come to our help!
Redeem us for the sake of your steadfast love!

The psalmist is crying out to God and asking for what he needs, appealing to God's character and past promises. I would so like to see a modern, honest worship song that mirrored this Psalm. Anyone?

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Keep it Simple . . .

As I continue to think about hardness of heart and how to overcome that, the disciples keep providing me with more examples. They were just so clueless. . . I read in Mark 8 today. Jesus, the disciples, seven loaves of bread and thousands of people. I think we've been here before? The disciples, "Oh, no, what shall we do? We don't have enough bread." Once again, Jesus multiples the bread and there are seven baskets left over. Back in the boat, the disciples only brought one loaf of bread (they definitely need a woman in that group) and start arguing about it. Peter, John, Andrew and crew have just seen Jesus restore speech and hearing to a deaf man. They've seen him give sight to the blind and raise the dead. Yet they still don't know who Jesus really is, even though it is right in front of them.

As I've pointed out before, I am very like the disciples. I think the key is that, even though they didn't understand lots (and lots and lots) of things, they stayed with Jesus. They kept following, they kept trying to obey, they kept listening and asking questions and bumbling along with Him until finally their eyes were opened to the truth. I can do that. I can pray. I can read the Bible. I can try to obey what I understand. I can keep seeking and keep asking. In the process, I will come to know Jesus more and more and my heart will become softer and softer. Yay!

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

In Good Company

Guess what? The disciples had hardened hearts, too! I thought it was only Pharoah and the Pharisees, but, there it is, in black and white (Mark 6:51-52):

And he got into the boat with them, and the wind ceased. And they were utterly astounded, for they did not understand about the loaves, but their hearts were hardened.

The disciples had just seen Jesus feed five thousand people with five loaves and two fish. The very same day, they witnessed first-hand Jesus walking on water. WALKING ON WATER. But they still didn't know who He was. My first reaction is "Come ON, can't you see that this man is something more than human?" I have this reaction to the Israelites, too: "Can't you see that God just parted the sea and is giving you food from heaven? Why are you so quick to bail?"

Ahem, yes, well, I've seen God do amazing things, too, and seen Him provide, and seen Him work, and yet, almost every time I feel scared (like the disciples in the roiling sea and the Israelites wandering in the desert), I react with the very same disbelief.

However, it encourages me that the disciples were among those of us who have had hardened hearts, because look at the end of the story! Almost all of them (Judas excepted) became champions of the faith, willing to die for Jesus. If they could become so full of faith and devoted, it gives me hope that I could, too. It also convicts me of the necessity for praying for a soft heart, since I'm still not sure how much of a hard heart is under our control, and because, if the disciples were with Jesus every day and seeing His miracles up close and still didn't believe, then I need all the help I can get! Something to think about: What changed for the disciples, to transform their unbelief into faith? The resurrection and seeing Jesus alive after death? Seeing the power of the Holy Spirit? I'm going to keep my eyes open to try and see how their hearts were changed.

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Would I have Come?

Mark 5:21-43 tells of Jesus' healing of the woman with the issue of blood and Jairus' daughter. I'm still trying to figure out what it looks like to have faith. Today I wonder if it begins even earlier in the sequence than I imagined. Jairus' daughter is at the brink of death. He knows that Jesus, this man with a reputation for healing and miracles is in the area. What makes him go? Desperation? Knowing there was no other solution? Love for his daughter? I wonder how much of his "faith" was true belief that Jesus could do it versus hope that He would do it? And for the bleeding woman? What motivated her to make her way through the crowd (and anyone at any moment could have outed her and shouted "unclean") to merely touch Jesus?

Is the faith all in the believing, or is some of it in the seeking and going? Would I have gone? Would I have hoped/believed enough to try, or would I have let fear keep me home? Fear of embarrassment, rejection, not being good enough to receive the blessing. . . all those fears might have kept me away from Jesus. They keep me away now, and that is what I am trying to analyze and overcome. Jesus is not physically walking among us, but if we are believers, we have the power of the Holy Spirit (the power that raised Christ from the dead) in us. Jesus is still healing and saving today. How do we (how do I) overcome our fear and have the faith to go to Him and boldly ask for what we need?

Friday, February 19, 2010

Keep Going!

I'm now reading in the book of Mark. I've also been reading in Luke, and, by golly, many of the stories are almost exactly the same! The juxtaposition of the books is re-emphasizing to me how important it is to keep reading through the Bible, over and over and over. Just in the past several months, after reading through the scriptures several times over several years, there are stories and ideas and principles that are finally coming together for me. It could just be that I am a really slow study, but the repetition has helped me make connections and understand more of what God is communicating to us through His Word.

Today I read Jesus' words in Mark 4:25:

For to the one who has, more will be given, and from the one who has not, even what he has will be taken away.

These words have bothered me for years. So, I have just read them, tried to search whatever helps I had in the particular Bible for that year, and then moved on. Yet, it would nag at me. The words seemed mean--for Jesus to take away things from us? Today I read the notes in my ESV Study Bible (and had just read this same passage in Luke last weekend), and, at last, I'm getting a glimmering of understanding. The idea seems to be that, when we accept God and His wisdom and ways, He will continue to lead us to more and more understanding. If we reject Him and rely solely on our own understanding, we will understand less and less. Aha!!

Now, this revelation is probably not even on my top ten list of light-bulb moments in scripture. But it reminded me that part of the key to growing in understanding is simply to keep reading, over and over again, and to keep seeking as I read, and that, when the time is right and my heart is ready and my eyes are opened, God will help me to understand. I don't like things I don't understand, so it's hard for me to keep going when the words don't make sense. However, I'm seeing, every so often, the payoff for doing that--of living in the cognitive dissonance and trusting that God will reveal truth in His time.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Hardening our Hearts

I don't like the Pharisees. I especially don't like them because I think I would have been one of them. The beginning of Mark 3 tells about Jesus healing on the Sabbath. The whole theme of Jesus healing on the Sabbath and the Pharisees getting upset seems to recur throughout the gospels. This time it is a man with a withered hand, and Jesus asks the Pharisees point blank about the rules of the Sabbath (Mark 3:4b-5):

. . . "Is it lawful on the Sabbath to do good or to do harm, to save life or to kill?" But they were silent. And he looked around at them with anger, grieved at their hardness of heart, and said to the man, "Stretch out your hand." He stretched it out, and his hand was restored.

The words I'm thinking about this morning are that Jesus was "grieved at their hardness of heart." Why were their hearts hard? Why does my heart become hard? What causes us to value rules and order over people's lives? I wonder if part of it is focus. If the Pharisees truly saw the man with the withered hand and understood how that affected his whole life, surely they would have compassion? If they saw the woman bent over for 18 years and realized the freedom she would gain from standing upright (Luke 18:10), would they begrudge her healing?

If, however, their focus is themselves and their need for order, control, and validation, then maybe they only saw the people in relation to themselves, and as a threat to their control and sense of righteousness? I'm still pondering this, because I don't want to be someone with a hard heart and someone without compassion, and I know that, without Jesus, I would be that Pharisee shaking their finger at the "rule-breakers."

Monday, February 15, 2010

I Can't Wait

Ha. Ironic title considering the name of this blog.

Reading in Luke 21 today, and Jesus is talking about the end times. I'm reminded again that when Jesus comes back, we will all know it. Once more, however, there's a verse that I have (I'm sure) never read before (Luke 21:27-28):

And then they will see the Son of Man coming in a cloud with power and great glory. Now when these things begin to take place, straighten up and raise your heads, because your redemption is drawing near."

"Straighten up and raise your heads, because your redemption is near." Wow. I'm generally not someone who is into visual images, but this one resonates with me. Maybe because I'm such a Lord of the Rings nerd and have a pre-made image (complete with soundtrack) to picture in my head. Near the end of the third movie, when Gandalf and Aragorn and the warriors are taking their last stand against Sauron's evil minions, there is a moment when the eagles come and then everyone stops, looks up, and waits for SOMETHING to happen. It's the moment when the ring has been thrown at last into the lake of fire and destroyed, ending the power of that evil in Middle Earth. The battle stops, the evil tower falls, and the good guys win.

What will it really be like when Jesus returns? I can imagine people in countries like Haiti and Ethiopia who are literally bent over working or hauling water straightening up, dropping their utensils, and rejoicing. Martyrs unjustly imprisoned lifting their eyes up to the sky. Those of us in our hamster wheels removing our eyes from our laptops and tuning in to reality.

Someday our Savior will return, and we will, with joy and thanksgiving, straighten up and raise our heads.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

What He Says, Goes!

I'm reading in Exodus right now about the building of the tabernacle, which is one reason for my lack of posting lately. I'm also in Matthew, though, at the end, with Jesus' crucifixion and resurrection. Last year when I was going through the gospels, I saw for the first time that Jesus had foretold His death and resurrection. Jesus' telling of the disciples that He was going to die and then rise again is jumping out at me this time around, too.

In Matthew Jesus tells the disciples at least three times what is going to happen (Matthew 20:17-19):

And as Jesus was going up to Jerusalem, he took the twelve disciples aside, and on the way he said to them, "See, we are going up to Jerusalem. And the Son of Man will be delivered over to the chief priests and scribes, and they will condemn him to death and deliver him over to the Gentiles to be mocked and flogged and crucified, and he will be raised on the third day."


Jesus has told them what will happen, more than once. Yet, when He is taken away and crucified and dead, do the disciples show any indication that they believed Him at all? Nope. They are huddled in the upper room, fearful and grieving. Then the women go to the tomb (Matthew 28:5-7):

But the angel said to the women, "Do not be afraid, for I know that you seek Jesus who was crucified. He is not here, for he has risen, as he said. Come, see the place where he lay. Then go quickly and tell his disciples that he has risen from the dead, and behold, he is going before you to Galilee; there you will see him. See, I have told you."

He has risen, AS HE SAID. How many promises of God do I either not really believe, or, even more soberingly, don't even hear or understand the first (or second, or third) time around? God seems to be hammering away at me that faith is to believe what God says He will do. I shouldn't be so surprised when prayers are answered or God's presence is seen or when He uses me or works in your life. He says He will do all of those things. I am so thankful that the Lord can and does work in spite of my unbelief--He rose whether the disciples believed Him or not--but I also want to see God do more than I "ask or imagine" as I expectantly wait with faith.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Standing on the Promises

Don't you love it when something that you have heard one thousand six hundred and three times suddenly makes sense to you? I was reading in Exodus today, about the Israelites making the golden calf as an idol while Moses is gone up on Mount Sinai to meet with God. Moses comes down and sees this spectacle(having been told what had happened by God). Moses is mad, but the Lord is madder (Exodus 32:7-10):

And the LORD said to Moses, "Go down, for your people, whom you brought up out of the land of Egypt, have corrupted themselves. They have turned aside quickly out of the way that I commanded them. They have made for themselves a golden calf and have worshiped it and sacrificed to it and said, 'These are your gods, O Israel, who brought you up out of the land of Egypt!'" And the LORD said to Moses, "I have seen this people, and behold, it is a stiff-necked people. Now therefore let me alone, that my wrath may burn hot against them and I may consume them, in order that I may make a great nation of you."

Moses must intercede for the people. He actually fasts and prays another 40 days of behalf of the Israelites.

My "aha" moment today was reading that Moses appealed to the Lord on the basis of the Lord's prior promise to Abraham (Exodus 32:11-14):

But Moses implored the LORD his God and said, "O LORD, why does your wrath burn hot against your people, whom you have brought out of the land of Egypt with great power and with a mighty hand? Why should the Egyptians say, 'With evil intent did he bring them out, to kill them in the mountains and to consume them from the face of the earth'? Turn from your burning anger and relent from this disaster against your people. Remember Abraham, Isaac, and Israel, your servants, to whom you swore by your own self, and said to them, 'I will multiply your offspring as the stars of heaven, and all this land that I have promised I will give to your offspring, and they shall inherit it forever.'" And the LORD relented from the disaster that he had spoken of bringing on his people.

God's promises are the basis for the faith and trust that we have in the Lord. I have heard lots of messages about God's promises, but not until today have I gotten a glimpse of their true importance. God, in a sense, is bound by His own promises. He is very angry at the people, and yet must remain true to His promise and His character. Moses comes to Him saying, "Remember your promises? We are your people. You said you would be with us forever."

I need to pray in a similar way, believing that if the Lord said He would be with me, then, He will be with me. If He promised to provide, He will provide. His promises are true and can be trusted, and I need to set my heart, mind, and strength upon them!

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Another Puzzle Piece

Yesterday's post was about faith. Today, as I was reading in Luke 18, God showed me some more pieces to that puzzle. The chapter starts with the story of the persistent widow, who keeps bugging a judge to give her justice. The unrighteous judge eventually gives the woman justice, and Jesus compares God to the judge to show us how much more God wants to give us justice. The account begins with this verse (Luke 18:1):

And he told them a parable to the effect that they ought always to pray and not lose heart.

and ends with this question (Luke 18:8):

". . .Nevertheless, when the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on earth?"


Once again, my trusty ESV Study Bible footnotes give me some insight. For verse eight, it points out that we need to exercise watchfulness and prayer to demonstrate our faith. When I was praying and thinking about these verses, I looked back at the first verse of chapter eighteen, where Jesus says that we need to not "lose heart."

So, if I want to live out faith, I need to pray, to watch, and to not lose heart. Praying seems straightforward--I should bring my requests to the Lord and ask for both what I need and want. This parable specifically refers to seeing God's justice done, so I want to be careful in how much I extrapolate. I need to watch. What does that mean? I think to be looking for evidence of the Lord working, acknowledging that, and thanking Him for it. I need to wait expectantly and be eager to see what the Lord is doing.

Finally, we are to "not lose heart". This part of the exhortation is the tricky one for me. To not lose heart implies that my heart has been fully engaged in the process. Too often, I think I pray and I watch, but I don't really believe in my heart that God is going to do it. It's doubly tricky for me to differentiate between promises that God has given, and desires of my heart. In this parable, the widow is praying for justice. God wants justice, and promises that, eventually, He will bring justice to the earth. Praying in accordance to His will should make it easier for my heart to believe. When I pray for God's provision or presence, I need to believe with my whole heart, because He has already promised these things.

However, what about believing in something that is not promised but is a desire? I still am not sure what the Lord wants from us in that situation. How do we take heart if it's something that is good (like marriage, children, healing) but that we don't know if God is promising? I will keep searching for the rest of the pieces of the puzzle. . . Please share your pieces with me if you have some that will help complete the picture!

Monday, February 8, 2010

Faithless?

Sometimes Jesus says things that I just don't like. Anyone else? Words that sound harsh and mean to me. I was reading in the gospels about the time when the disciples tried to heal the boy with seizures (Matthew 17:14, Mark 9:14, Luke 9:37), but they can't, so the father goes to Jesus. It's Jesus' answer that makes me cringe:

And Jesus answered, "O faithless and twisted generation, how long am I to be with you? How long am I to bear with you? Bring him here to me." (Matthew 17:17)

And he answered them, "O faithless generation, how long am I to be with you? How long am I to bear with you? Bring him to me." (Mark 9:19)

Jesus answered, "O faithless and twisted generation, how long am I to be with you and bear with you? Bring your son here." (Luke 9:41)


Those words feel like a rebuke to me and sound to me like Jesus is frustrated with the disciples and all of us. A footnote in my study Bible is helping me to figure out what to do with these words. The note on Mark 9:19 in my Bible says this:

The fundamental problem of the people (the opponents, the spiritually oppressed, and even the disciples) is that they are faithless. Jesus' burdened expression echoes that of the prophets (E.g. Deut. 32:5,20; Isa. 6:11, Jer 5:21-22).

I just looked up the Old Testament references, and they are mostly the Lord talking about the people's lack of belief that He will do what He promises.

I think it IS a rebuke to the disciples and to me for our lack of belief in God's power and faithfulness. Looking at my own life, I know that my faith is weak. I'm reading in scripture about God parting the Red Sea and sending manna from heaven, and yet I don't believe that God can save people who are lost, or that He will provide for me.

This morning I was thinking how frustrated that I get sometimes with my first graders when they won't even try to read a book that I know they can read. I wonder if that is some of how Jesus felt, or what God feels (does God get frustrated? He sure sounds frustrated a lot in the Old Testament with those fickle Israelites) when we have access to what we need (a relationship with the God of the universe), but we stumble and refuse to even try.

That begs the question--why? Why do my kids not try to read when they can? Fear of messing up? Nervousness that I am watching? Honestly lacking confidence that they can?

What do I not have faith? Fear of being disappointed--because God doesn't always heal people or do a miracle? Nervousness that I will look stupid for believing? Lacking that confidence that God will do it?

I still don't know the balance of common sense and faith. Does common sense even enter into it? Yet I can see in the gospels that miracles were done when people displayed faith, and I can hear in Jesus' words that I need to risk faith much more often than I do.

The comforting part of the story is Jesus' request that they bring the boy to Him. Jesus heals the child anyway--in response to the father's faith and:

"And all were astonished at the majesty of God." (Luke 9:43)

Friday, February 5, 2010

No Doubt

I was hoping for a snow day today. The weather people promised me snow overnight. Yet no early-morning call to cancel school, and no snow. Technology advances every day, but still no foolproof method of weather prediction exists.

In Matthew 24, Jesus speaks about prophecies and signs of the end times. Much of it is difficult to understand and refers to the destruction of the temple that was in the near future for the disciples. When I read passages like this, I may be tempted to try to figure out when the "snowstorm" will come. Is it now? Are we in the end times? What does this mean?

I hoped for a snow day, but I prepared for a school day, since I know, as all of us do, that the best predictions of man fail.

Jesus' predictions will not fail, but I may not understand all of them. However, Jesus' words in the last part of Matthew 24 (verses 24-28) reassure me and give me confidence that, though I may not understand the end times prophecies, I will be unable to miss the return of Jesus:

For false christs and false prophets will arise and perform great signs and wonders, so as to lead astray, if possible, even the elect. See, I have told you beforehand. So, if they say to you, 'Look, he is in the wilderness,' do not go out. If they say, 'Look, he is in the inner rooms,' do not believe it. For as the lightning comes from the east and shines as far as the west, so will be the coming of the Son of Man. Wherever the corpse is, there the vultures will gather.

There will be no second guessing when Jesus returns. No uncertainty, no doubting myself or the Lord. He will be visible to all, and the time for speculation will be over. I'm thankful that the Lord was so clear about the most important part of the end times--Jesus is coming back and and the whole world will see Him and, if they know Him now, rejoice and marvel.

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Sought After

After I finished reading today, I thought, "Okay, I got nothing today." Then I spent some time praying. Sometimes on those kind of days, I try and think back over what I read and ask the Lord what He wants me to see. In both the Old Testament and New Testament today, what I saw was the theme of the Lord seeking after us. The Israelites and Moses are continuing in their desert journey, and God condescends to meet with Moses on Mount Sinai. He comes down to where Moses is. In Matthew, Jesus is preaching to the crowds. He is calling the sinners to repentance and trying to get the Pharisees to turn as well.

None of these people that God is seeking after are really too impressive. Even Moses was too chicken to speak for himself at first. The Israelites can't go one day without grumbling, the sinners are living lives of, well, sin, and the Pharisees don't even realize how lost they are. Yet God came down to pursue all of them simply because He wanted them to be His people. Wow.

Even more amazing? He still pursues each of us, every day, wanting us to come to Him and spend time with Him and grow closer to Him. Wow again!

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

To Glorify God

The verse I'm thinking about today did not come from my regular reading, but from the Faithwalkers devotional for today, by Daniel Goering (Great Commission pastor in Germany). For the past few days, Daniel had been writing about how, since Jesus is no longer a physical presence on the earth, WE are the light of God in the world. Today, the verse he focused on was Matthew 5:16:

In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.

Daniel pointed out that if we live a life full of selfless good works, but don't communicate why we are doing them, or where our motivation and power come from, then we won't be glorifying God, but ourselves. Yikes. As I get ready to go on this trip to Ethiopia with Compassion International, people say to me "Wow, that's so good of you." I don't know how to respond to that, exactly, because the Bible says that any good thing in me is from Jesus, but how do I share that in a way that doesn't sound completely self-righteous?

In reading the Old Testament, God over and over again states that He will not share His glory with anyone. I don't want to inadvertently "steal" any little part of God's glory, and I do want to be faithful to communicate that it's God in me that motivates any service or good work.

I am definitely going to be thinking about how to do both parts of the verse--the good works and the glorifying of the Lord. It will also be my new memory verse. Any ideas on how to practically communicate in this situation?

Monday, February 1, 2010

What was Their Problem?

Still reading Exodus: Moses has just led the Israelites through the Red Sea and the Egyptian army has been destroyed by the Lord. He has delivered the Israelites miraculously out of the hands of Pharaoh. From that day on, the people trust God and believe Him, never complaining, but confidently trusting in His provision. What? That's not the story? Oh, yeah. Not three days later (Exodus 15: 22-24):

Then Moses made Israel set out from the Red Sea, and they went into the wilderness of Shur. They went three days in the wilderness and found no water. When they came to Marah, they could not drink the water of Marah because it was bitter; therefore it was named Marah. And the people grumbled against Moses, saying, "What shall we drink?"

Three days ago God struck down every first born of the Egyptians, parted the Red Sea so they could walk through it, and destroyed their enemies. Today the people have no water and they instantly start complaining. What was their problem?

The footnote in my study Bible says this: "They [Israelites] do not yet trust that the Lord's presence with them is sufficient for their protection and
provision. . . " (p. 170, ESV Study Bible).

Grumbling and complaining is probably my biggest struggle, and I often wonder why. What is underneath that? I have seen the Lord change the lives of others. I have seen Him work in my life. I have seen Him answer prayers and do great things. Yet if I'm too cold or too hot or hungry or inconvenienced. . . what is my problem? Is it that I don't trust that the Lord's presence is sufficient for my protection and provision? I will keep praying about this and seeking both understanding and the discipline simply to not complain--and I would appreciate any prayers from any of you that are reading, too, because, if you know the rest of the story. . . it wasn't pretty for the people of Israel. There were big consequences for their lack of trust.

Sunday, January 31, 2010

Open Our Eyes

Nearing the end of the book of Matthew, Jesus is heading to Jerusalem for the Passover before His crucifixion. On the way, He meets two blind beggars (Matthew 20:30-34):

And behold, there were two blind men sitting by the roadside, and when they heard that Jesus was passing by, they cried out, "Lord, have mercy on us, Son of David!" The crowd rebuked them, telling them to be silent, but they cried out all the more, "Lord, have mercy on us, Son of David!" And stopping, Jesus called them and said, "What do you want me to do for you?" They said to him, "Lord, let our eyes be opened." And Jesus in pity touched their eyes, and immediately they recovered their sight and followed him.

I've always liked this account because I like how the beggars cry out "all the more" after the crowd rebuked them. I've always envied their persistence and their faith that, if Jesus would just hear them, He would heal them.

Today I noticed the sequence of events: The beggars called out to the Lord, asking for their eyes to be opened. Jesus touched their eyes, they recovered their sight, and they followed Him.

It's a lot like the sequence of salvation: We cry out to God for Him to show us Himself. He opens our eyes and hearts to see and believe who He is, and our response should be to follow Him.

Extending the analogy further, even as we are following Christ, there are times when our eyes are shut (or we think they are) and we can't see the next step, or can't understand what God is doing in our life. I think we need to be like the beggars, calling out to the Lord to have mercy on us and to open our eyes to what He is doing. It may not (probably won't) happen right away--who knows how long the beggars had sat by that side of the road, waiting for the Messiah, but Jesus will, in His time, come and open our eyes.

The analogy breaks down a bit in the fact that we need to follow Jesus sometimes even when we can't see where we are going. We need to have faith in who He has already shown Himself to be to us and keep walking, trusting that He will open our eyes to what He wants us to see when the time is right.

Would that I would to be as persistent and shameless as those beggars in seeking the healing of Jesus.