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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.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Look Up

Once again, a concept that I have heard roughly four gazillion times in my Christian walk suddenly becomes clear. This summer I'm doing Beth Moore's "Steppin' Up" study. On week two, day two (and don't panic if you're in the same study--I'm working ahead because I have vacation coming soon), we are looking at Psalm 123:
To you I lift up my eyes,
O you who are enthroned in the heavens!
Behold, as the eyes of servants
look to the hand of their master,
as the eyes of a maidservant
to the hand of her mistress,
so our eyes look to the LORD our God,
till he has mercy upon us.

Have mercy upon us, O LORD, have mercy upon us,
for we have had more than enough of contempt.
Our soul has had more than enough
of the scorn of those who are at ease,
of the contempt of the proud.

The very first verse of the psalm talks about lifting our eyes to the Lord. I've heard that so many times: "Keep your eyes on Jesus." "Look at God, not your circumstances." "Where is your focus?" Yeah, yeah, yeah, I know, I got it. Apparently I didn't.

Beth takes us to Acts 3, the account about the lame beggar (who was healed) that I blogged about a few weeks ago (gotta love God's continuity). The beggar is just hanging out at the gate when Peter and John show up. Acts 3:3 finds Peter telling the beggar to "Look at us", and then in verse five it says that the man "fixed his attention on them. . . ". Here is how Beth described what happened (p. 43 of the "Steppin' Up" study):
"Therefore, he looked, which caused him to more effectively listen, which in turn altered his feelings, manifesting in a change in his expectation. Needless to say, the beggar got far more than he expected, but until he 'Gave them his attention' he had no real expectation of anything out of the ordinary."
She also puts in a little diagram that looks (somewhat) like this:
Where I look----> What I hear ----> What I feel ----> What I expect
Using the diagram sparked my "aha" moment. I put in a circumstance from my own life, online dating (yes, the idea makes me want to run screaming most days, too. Trust me, the reality is sometimes even worse than you imagine.). The gist of the diagram: If I focus on online dating, what I hear is "This isn't working. No one is interested. You're too. . . (old, short, whatever)." What I feel is frustrated, rejected, and discouraged; and what I expect is nothing. However, if I go back and put the Lord in the first slot, well, it all looks SO much better: If I look to God, then what I hear is "I'm here, I'm in control, you belong to me, and I will take care of you." What I feel is secure, safe, and encouraged; and what I expect is that God will do the very best thing for me.

Once again, "Duh!!!!!"

As I was thinking about this further, I tried thinking through other circumstances. No matter what it was, if I take the problem/worry/concern out from in front of my eyes and put the Lord there instead, it helps me to stand in truth, to feel encouraged and hopeful, and to believe that the Lord will work it all for His good. Glad to know that, on the four gazillion and first hearing, I finally get it.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Following Orders

Two posts in two days! The wonder of summer break. . .

Still reading in 1 Kings. Today was the account of a prophet of the Lord coming to warn Jeroboam of the destruction of the altar at Bethel, thus voicing His disapproval of Jeroboam's new alternative worship system that was not ordained by the Lord. Jeroboam isn't too happy about this, and invites the prophet to come home with him to try and sway his opinion/prophecy. At this juncture the prophet stays true to what the Lord told him (1 Kings 13:8-10)
And the man of God said to the king, "If you give me half your house, I will not go in with you. And I will not eat bread or drink water in this place, for so was it commanded me by the word of the LORD, saying, 'You shall neither eat bread nor drink water nor return by the way that you came.'" So he went another way and did not return by the way that he came to Bethel.

A little later, though, the prophet lets down his guard. Another, older, prophet hears of this younger prophet and invites him into his home. At first the young prophet declines, repeating what the Lord had told him. The older prophet lies to the younger one (verse 18):
And he said to him, "I also am a prophet as you are, and an angel spoke to me by the word of the LORD, saying, 'Bring him back with you into your house that he may eat bread and drink water.'" But he lied to him.
I'm not sure what the younger prophet thought at this point. That this older (and therefore wiser?) man also heard from God, so he'd defer to him? That maybe the Lord was changing the rules but didn't tell him? That he could believe the other guy just because he invoked the Lord's name?

It was a reminder to me that we always, always, always need to stand on the Lord's promises and words to us (as long as they are in line with scripture) and not be swayed by what someone else says the Lord is telling us to do. Of course, we need to listen to counsel from others, and be teachable that God may indeed speak to us through them. There are times, however, when each of us KNOW that God is leading us a certain way, or has impressed upon our hearts what we are to do in a given situation. When we know what God has said (this prophet knew exactly what his directions were), we need to obey it no matter what other people tell us. The price for the young prophet's disobedience was severe: Death. Thankfully, because of Jesus, there is forgiveness and grace for our disobedience--though we may still pay a steep price.

Just a sobering reminder to take God's words seriously.

On my list of "Questions to ask God when I'm Dead", though, is why the old prophet, who lied, doesn't have any consequence that we see. These are the things that I wonder about. . .

Monday, June 13, 2011

Head vs. Heart

Sometimes I get tangled up considering the differences between our soul and spirit, will and desire, heart and head. I'm reading the account of Solomon right now. Solomon was the wisest man ever--he asked for wisdom from the Lord and it was granted to him. Royalty came for miles to inquire of him and listen to his wisdom. Much of the book of Proverbs was probably written by Solomon. Israel under his kingship was prosperous and at peace. However, Solomon's heart was seemingly divorced from Solomon's head. In 1 Kings 11: 1-3, we read about what Solomon was doing with his heart:
Now King Solomon loved many foreign women, along with the daughter of Pharaoh: Moabite, Ammonite, Edomite, Sidonian, and Hittite women, from the nations concerning which the LORD had said to the people of Israel, "You shall not enter into marriage with them, neither shall they with you, for surely they will turn away your heart after their gods." Solomon clung to these in love. He had 700 wives, princesses, and 300 concubines. And his wives turned away his heart.
The verse I have been thinking about is where it says that Solomon "clung to [his women] in love" and that they "turned away his heart".

Wisdom is good. We are told to seek wisdom, to ask for it, to esteem it. Yet when I look at the people in the Bible, I see over and over again that their heart-choices were much more important than their wisdom or knowledge. Solomon's father, David, made many unwise choices--the biggest of which led to the birth of Solomon. David committed adultery and murder, and made a wreck of his family life. Yet David is called a "man after God's own heart" (Acts 13:22). Time and time again the Israelites are punished not for stupidity or foolishness, but for idolatry and lack of whole-hearted devotion to the Lord.

The passage in 1 Kings goes on (verses 4-6):
For when Solomon was old his wives turned away his heart after other gods, and his heart was not wholly true to the LORD his God, as was the heart of David his father. For Solomon went after Ashtoreth the goddess of the Sidonians, and after Milcom the abomination of the Ammonites. So Solomon did what was evil in the sight of the LORD and did not wholly follow the LORD, as David his father had done.

Dare I say that wisdom and knowledge are easier for most of us--well, I WILL say that it's easier for me--than whole-hearted devotion to the Lord? I could recite many, many facts and verses from the Bible before I had committed my heart to believe. Knowledge is easier than wisdom, but wisdom is easier than love. It's simpler to apply Biblical principles to our life than to share our heart with God and whole-heartedly surrender our lives to Him. No matter how wise we are, the true test is what we cling to with our hearts. I do want to be a wise woman who knows the Bible and can apply it. I don't want to be deceived that wisdom is the goal. I want it to be said that I clung to and loved Jesus, and that I whole-heartedly followed the Lord.

Monday, June 6, 2011

The Rest of the Story

Had I but continued reading in Acts 4 yesterday, I would have seen that God used the healed man for even more than the salvation of five thousand people. After Peter shares, he and John are arrested by the Sadducees and and brought before the priests. Peter then testifies of Jesus' power to the rulers of the people. The council was astonished by the eloquence of the uneducated fishermen, and, because of the circumstances of the healing of a man lame since birth, cannot deny that a miracle has happened (Acts 4:13-14):
Now when they saw the boldness of Peter and John, and perceived that they were uneducated, common men, they were astonished. And they recognized that they had been with Jesus. But seeing the man who was healed standing beside them, they had nothing to say in opposition.

Because of the rock-solid proof of miraculous healing, Peter and John are let go. People in the city are praising God, and when the apostles return to the other believers, they also are strengthened in their faith. We also find out that the man at the gate was over forty years old (Acts 4:22). Forty years of being lame changed in an instant. Forty years of suffering turned into the glory of over five thousand people rescued from hell, Peter and John spared jail, and an entire community of believers emboldened. I want the faith to believe that God is even now orchestrating my life to give Him glory, just as he was this lame beggar's.

Sunday, June 5, 2011

At Just the Right Time

There are moments that I rue the inspiration which named this blog (what WAS I thinking?). It seems that the current theme of my life is waiting. This morning I read the following passage from Acts 3 (verses 1-12):
Now Peter and John were going up to the temple at the hour of prayer, the ninth hour. And a man lame from birth was being carried, whom they laid daily at the gate of the temple that is called the Beautiful Gate to ask alms of those entering the temple. Seeing Peter and John about to go into the temple, he asked to receive alms. And Peter directed his gaze at him, as did John, and said, "Look at us." And he fixed his attention on them, expecting to receive something from them. But Peter said, "I have no silver and gold, but what I do have I give to you. In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, rise up and walk!" And he took him by the right hand and raised him up, and immediately his feet and ankles were made strong. And leaping up he stood and began to walk, and entered the temple with them, walking and leaping and praising God. And all the people saw him walking and praising God, and recognized him as the one who sat at the Beautiful Gate of the temple, asking for alms. And they were filled with wonder and amazement at what had happened to him.
While he clung to Peter and John, all the people, utterly astounded, ran together to them in the portico called Solomon’s. And when Peter saw it he addressed the people: "Men of Israel, why do you wonder at this, or why do you stare at us, as though by our own power or piety we have made him walk?

This beggar had been lame since birth, and in an instant (when all he was expecting was alms) was healed. How many years had the man been lame? From the time he was born until he was a man, so at least probably 16, 17 years. Years of sitting by the gate, begging. I wonder how many times he had asked God to heal him. Did he still have hope? Or had he given up and accepted his lot in life?

One of the hard things about waiting, which I come back to again and again, is contained within the uncertainty of it. If we know the length of the wait, we can hold on. Or, as with a woman in labor, if we know the happiness that comes at the end of the wait (and that it for sure will end), we can endure not knowing exactly how long it will take. When we are waiting for something that is not guaranteed (a new job, a mate, a pregnancy, healing) and has no set end, well, that's when we doubt and wonder and want to give up. We lose faith that God is paying attention, that He sees us, that He is, indeed, working it all for good.

The man is just laying at the gate. His friends and the whole neighborhood have seen him there for years. They know him. They know that he was born lame and that he can't walk. So when Peter and John, through the power of the Holy Spirit, heal him, there is no doubt. Unlike when we watch some TV show with people throwing away crutches or leaping from wheelchairs and cynically wonder if they were planted in the audience, this Jewish audience had no doubt. They had seen a miracle. The Lord was at work. The people are hanging on the words of Peter. Later, in Acts 4:4, we read:
But many of those who had heard the word believed, and the number of the men came to about five thousand.

FIVE THOUSAND people believed in Jesus after seeing this man healed and hearing the words of Peter. Five thousand. The man had to wait for years and years for healing so that the miracle could happen at just the right moment in time and would lead to an overwhelming number of people coming to know Jesus. If I believed that my waiting had a purpose, maybe a much bigger purpose than I can imagine, would I wait more patiently? More graciously? More easily? Once again, it all comes down to faith to believe God's promises to me, and to being brave enough to hope in His goodness. As I type this, I'm reminded of a song by Addison Road (one of my new favorites): YouTube - Addison road - Hope Now (w/ lyrics)

It always DOES come down to faith, and hope in the character and goodness of God.