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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.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Whose Hand?

Reading now about Gideon. Doubting, fearful Gideon. The Lord tells Gideon that he will deliver Israel from the Midianites, but reduces the force with Gideon from about 22,000 men to 300. The Lord's reason is found in Judges 7:2:
The LORD said to Gideon, "The people with you are too many for me to give the Midianites into their hand, lest Israel boast over me, saying, 'My own hand has saved me.'"
This verse makes me think of times in my life where I was struggling with getting close to the Lord and was turning to everyone and everything to try to fix it, but nothing was working. The sources I was turning to weren't bad, just as Gideon's fighting men weren't bad. Some things I was trying were talking to wiser people, reading books, and listening to worship music. Those are all good tactics. However, as much I was seeking the right formula (note: NOT really seeking the Lord as much as a way to succeed at Christianity), none of those things were the magical answer to my problem.

Eventually (And that is a kind word. It took a very long time. Years' worth of time) I have become close to God. Annoyingly, it's so much easier to see clearly how from this side of the situation. As I reflect upon that frustrating time, when I felt like I was failing, that I wasn't doing this faith walk right, that I was missing something important, I can see that I was the problem. . . The Lord, I think, wanted me to be able to look back on that time and see that the Lord's hand and the Lord's hand alone is what "saved me"--what brought me close to Him and gave me any ability to seek Him, hear Him, or see His work. If I had gotten my answer by following some list of five steps, well, then, I could congratulate myself upon successful completion of a program. I could pat myself on the back for my faithful abilities. . . Instead, I marvel at some of the changes in my heart and know beyond any doubt that the Lord did that mysterious work, and it was NOT by my hand.

Monday, April 25, 2011

Just Follow the Directions

Yesterday was Easter. You'd think this would be a resurrection post. You would be wrong! Always out of step with the mainstream, I have been thinking about the days in between Good Friday and Easter Morning. In Luke 23, the end of verse 56 tells what the disciples and the women did after the crucifixion:
On the Sabbath they rested according to the commandment.
Luke's account is the only one which directly states this (I looked). It's a little snippet of a verse, but with big implications.

Jesus' followers had just witnessed his agonizing death. Some had run away, some had betrayed him, all had forgotten His warning to them that this very thing would happen. They were probably some combination of dazed, hurt, despairing, numb, angry, frightened, and lost. What should they do? What could they do? What was even going on?

Many of us know those feelings. While I have never had a day as bad as that, I have had days of numbness, despair, sadness, helplessness. I have had days of not knowing what to do, or where to turn, or how to fix anything. My nature is to want to solve my problem--what steps are there to take, what verses are there to memorize, what counsel is there to seek? And there are times when all of those solutions are valid. However, there are also times when we can do nothing.

"On the Sabbath they rested according to the commandment." Good Jews, the disciples and Jesus' other followers had little choice about what to do. The Sabbath was designed for rest. They couldn't go to the tomb and finish preparing the body. They couldn't run around and make a plan. They could only obey the commandment that they knew, to keep the Sabbath.

There are times when I need to just take a breath, stop trying to solve my problems, and obey the commands I am sure of: Love the Lord your God with all your mind and strength and heart. Love your neighbor as yourself. Seek God. Help the poor. Listen for the Lord's voice. That's all. There will be time enough the next day to go to the tomb. Observing the Sabbath forced Jesus' followers to wait (yes, the dreaded "w" word) until the next day to make a battle plan, to enact a strategy, to pick up the pieces. The Lord was using that day to complete His awesome work of resurrection and salvation. Once the women were released to the tomb on Easter morning, God's glory was ready to be revealed. Everything had changed!

God uses those days in between crucifixion (of desires, of hopes, of dreams) and resurrection to ready us to see His glory and resurrection power. We need only walk in faith and follow the Lord's commands.

Monday, April 18, 2011

Halfway isn't Good Enough

I'm reading Joshua in the Old Testament right now, and it's chronicling the conquest of the land of Canaan. The Lord had previously commanded the Israelites regarding the promised land (Deuteronomy 20:16-18):
But in the cities of these peoples that the LORD your God is giving you for an inheritance, you shall save alive nothing that breathes, but you shall devote them to complete destruction, the Hittites and the Amorites, the Canaanites and the Perizzites, the Hivites and the Jebusites, as the LORD your God has commanded, that they may not teach you to do according to all their abominable practices that they have done for their gods, and so you sin against the LORD your God.
The Lord clearly told the people that they were to drive out and destroy all of the people in the Promised Land.

However, we read in Joshua 17: 12-13:
Yet the people of Manasseh could not take possession of those cities, but the Canaanites persisted in dwelling in that land. Now when the people of Israel grew strong, they put the Canaanites to forced labor, but did not utterly drive them out.
Oops. I think the Israelites once again forgot what God told them to do. What I found interesting was that even after the Israelites grew strong enough to defeat the Canaanites, they didn't, but kept them as slaves, probably reasoning that forced labor was close enough to destruction, right? And far more useful. . .

The Lord also commands me to be holy and to not entertain the slightest bit of sin. Yet I think sometimes that I do the same thing the Israelites did. God tells me not to be anxious. Instead of ruthlessly confessing, praying, and turning to the Lord whenever I have an anxious thought, I reason that since the anxiety is not over the top, well, then it's not that big of a deal. Or maybe there are some fears I have or lies that I believe that I ignore--they are there, but I can usually stuff them down. My reasoning is that those sins or weaknesses are under my control (forced labor, if you will). However, like with the Promised Land, the Lord wants my heart to be free of both sin and influences which draw me away from Him. Only by working with the Lord to root out both sin and lies completely will I walk freely in the abundant life I have been given.

The Israelite's disobedience led to their exile and destruction. My disobedience could lead to my downfall as well. I am praying that the Lord will show me any areas where I am letting sin or lies hang around with the mistaken belief that they are serving me.

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Never the Easy Way

Reading through Luke right now. I have been pondering this section from Luke 11:37-41:
While Jesus was speaking, a Pharisee asked him to dine with him, so he went in and reclined at table. The Pharisee was astonished to see that he did not first wash before dinner. And the Lord said to him, "Now you Pharisees cleanse the outside of the cup and of the dish, but inside you are full of greed and wickedness. You fools! Did not he who made the outside make the inside also? But give as alms those things that are within, and behold, everything is clean for you."
I never noticed the last part of this where Jesus tells the Pharisees to "give as alms those things that are within, and behold, everything is clean for you."

The Pharisees were masters of outer holiness--observing the letter of the law so that everyone could see. I can be a master of the easily seen part of Christianity as well (at least most of the time): I read my Bible, I pray, I go to church. I refrain from cursing, I don't steal, I sponsor a child in a developing nation, I go on mission trips. . . Yet all of these outer acts I can, and have, done while harboring jealousy, anxiety, anger, and disbelief.

What does Jesus want from me in those moments? He doesn't only want my outward obedience (which, though I am good at certain areas, is far from perfect as well). Jesus never lets me take the easy way. It is easier for me to grit my teeth and choose rightly than for me to open up my heart to Him and offer to Him my "alms" of ugliness. Yet He says that if I do that, if I ask Him to help me honestly examine my heart and ask Him to cleanse me of my unrighteousness, THEN I will be clean.

I often believe that Jesus doesn't want to see the real me, the yucky, icky, ugly parts of my heart. Yet, He died to save me from those parts, and to receive His grace fully, I need to be emptied of all of it, from the inside out. Seventh Day Slumber has a song related to this, which we sang at church today (God is always working, eh?):

YouTube - Seventh Day Slumber - from the inside out (lyrics)