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.

Saturday, November 24, 2012

Drawing Near

I intended on writing about practicing faith today. I'm reading  "The Fitting Room" by Kelly Minter, and in chapter five she shares a helpful explanation of how we work with the Lord to transform our character by what we choose to "practice".  I was musing over how I so much need to practice faith, and choose to believe God's Word as it applies to my life. . .

And I do. And you do. But there are times in our lives when it's too hard and we can't. We know all the right words and the applicable verses and what we SHOULD do and what we think God wants us to do, and we want to do it. But we can't.

Why can't we? Because it's too hard. Because we can't wait any longer for whatever it is we need. Because we cannot hope one more time only to be disappointed. Because we can't imagine living the rest of our life feeling this way. Because we don't see how to believe when the answer up to this point is always "No" (and maybe it's "Not yet" which is just a nicer way of saying "No".). Because there's nothing we can do to change our circumstances. Because we are tired of trying to be positive and full of faith in the face of denial.

Once upon a time, not so long ago, I would have been rendered even more hopeless because I would have decided that since I can't walk in faith, then God would be mad at me and disappointed in me. Okay, maybe not so once-upon-a-time; maybe just this morning. I'm getting a glimpse, though, that maybe God's not like that.

Have you ever seen a two- or three-year-old when they are in a meltdown? When they are either hungry or tired or sad or mad or all those things at the same time? When nothing you offer or threaten turns off their tears? Reason is out the window. All they know is that they don't feel good and their world is a mess and there is no way to fix it(that they can see). All you can do is to pick them up and hold them (and they often don't want to accept this, either) and wait for the storm to pass.

I think we are like that sometimes. It feels like the most important things to us aren't working. Nothing can fix it. No one helps. We are just tired and sad and mad and we no longer have the strength or ability to walk by faith. Maybe the Lord just wants us to come to Him in all of our weariness, sorrow, and anger. Maybe all we have to do is to "draw near":
Draw near to God, and he will draw near to you.(James 4:8)
Drawing near to the Lord when we are weak IS walking by faith. It's believing that He is there and waiting and good and will accept us even when we have nothing to offer.  I think we forget that we never had anything to offer--it was all God at the beginning, and it remains all Him in the middle. By drawing near I am trusting that God will give me the grace for what I face, and the strength to keep walking. And, sometimes, it's all that we can do.

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Baggage and Blessing

Wrestling over whether to even post this, because it's not EXACTLY from something I learned in my quiet time, but it was something I was thinking about while I was praying, so I guess it counts. .. Our current circumstances tend to color how we see the world.  One of the big circumstances in my life right now involves negotiating the tricky world of online dating. I have definitely learned quite a bit on this adventure!

I'm not twenty (in case you were wondering). My matches aren't twenty. Most of the profiles that I look at are of men who have been divorced and have children. One pitfall of this consumer-based approach to dating is that one can start to judge based on bald facts alone, with no knowledge of the nuances and specifics of that person's unique situation. I have been reminded over and over again by the Lord to reserve any judgement until I have met a person, and He has also gently taught me that all of us, every single one, have baggage. It just looks different. But, even that is not my main point.

As I was thinking about my particular baggage, I at first was focusing on all the bad stuff that I have carried with me in  my large suitcase with the tag that says "Forty(ish) and never married". Some of the contents: Insecurity, worry, fear, frustration, impatience, and loneliness. As a Christian, the Lord wants me to lose that suitcase, and sometimes I do. However, even if (when) I am able to get rid of it forever, I will still remember what those things feel like, and I think that is a good thing.

In my musings yesterday, though, I felt like God was urging me to remember that, along with the baggage, come blessings. My relationship with the Lord would not be what it is without the frustrations of singleness driving me to Him. My increased awareness of the people who are on the fringe of the church is due to being in one of those (often) forgotten groups. My confidence in God's provision of my relational needs comes from seeing Him meet those needs over and over without using a husband to do it. More practically, my freedom to travel (which I love) hinges in large part in being single, and me being the only one relying on my income allows me to give to causes close to my heart. I have discovered that I can deal with mechanics and banks and loan officers and taxes. I can be happy in this single state that He has me in right now.

Though I sometimes hate the struggle of leaving behind the bad baggage, I am comforted to realize that, without the baggage, I would not experience the many blessings that come from "Forty and never married."  Romans 8:28 promises that:
  . . .for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.
For me, for you, for all of us whom God has called to fulfill His purpose, He can and is and will redeem our baggage and transform it into blessing.

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Control Freak Confessions. . .

I'm alive. Still here. Continuing to read my Bible and pray and seek God. I'm also a control freak. Continuing to try to manipulate God (in the nicest way) to give me what I want. It isn't working very well. Do you ever feel like you learn the same lessons over and over and over? A friend of mine refers to it as "coming around the mountain" again and again.

The longer I follow Jesus, the more I think there really isn't that much new to learn, just re-visiting bedrock truths until I finally rest in them.

I recently experienced a disappointment. Most of you can probably guess in what arena.  Apparently finding a husband requires dating, and dating requires risking, and risking often results in hurt. Intellectually, I understand this equation, and I understand that part of the dating process is figuring out whether to continue in said relationship, and that sometimes we all change our minds.

The tricky part, which I didn't realize until the last week or so, is not so much dealing with the other halves of the dating equation, but with the Lord. All through this process I have been trying to pray diligently.  Really godly, good prayers like "Lead and guide me.  Lead and guide him. I just want to glorify you. Do what is best." Don't those SOUND godly and humble? And they can be, depending on the heart from which they come.

Cynic that I am sometimes tempted to be, I know that my heart will never be completely pure until I die and am with Jesus. However, I tend to forget how selfish and manipulative my motives can be underneath the submitted-sounding words. I mean those words--I DO want the Lord to lead me, and I want Him to be glorified and I want Him to do what He wants with my life. But I also want Him to hear me and reward me for saying the right words and even trying to believe that I mean them 100%.

However, the proof comes when God answers my prayers in a way that I don't like. "No, not this time" is an answer. It is proof that the He is leading and guiding me; it's just that He's not leading me in the direction or guiding me into the relationship that I wanted. He's doing what's best for me because the Bibles tells me so (Romans 12:2 one example of reminding me that God's will is good, acceptable, and perfect), but it's not what I think is best. When I think this way, I end up angry at God. Mad that He's not giving me the goody when I tried to be the good girl.

After walking around in a funk for a week or two, I finally just sat down and really told the Lord exactly how I was feeling.  Somehow I never go straight to Him, but have to be miserable for a while first. Over and over I find that when I finally do get honest with God, I am able to see myself clearly, and the games that I play, and the reason I need Jesus in the first place. I am also finally able to breathe, to relax and to quit trying to make things happen.

Guess what? I can't control if I ever find a husband (well, at least if I ever find a good, godly one). When I try to control it, I end up stressed out and anxious, and with the danger of enshrining dating, a relationship, or marriage as an idol. In the preschool Sunday school class that I co-teach, we have been trying to explain to children how the Israelites built a golden calf to worship.  We made "jewelry" out of  Play-doh, smashed it up and then make a calf (well, kind of). It seemed utterly idiotic for the Jews to melt down their own earrings and then worship them. And yet, I am again reminded that I am not so different.

A touchstone verse for me the past year has been Psalm 138:8 (NAS):
The Lord will accomplish what concerns me;
Your lovingkindness, O Lord, is everlasting;
Do not forsake the works of Your hands.
 I need to stop saying it and start believing it!

Sunday, August 19, 2012

Even If. . .

Today I read one of my favorite passages in the Old Testament, in Esther.  The exiled Jews have just heard about the edict against them--that in months, they will be slaughtered, legally, by the government.  Queen Esther's cousin Mordecai delivers a message to her, urging her to go to the king and plead for the lives of their people.  Esther at first gives all the reasons why that will never work.  Mordecai responds: 
“Do not think to yourself that in the king's palace you will escape any more than all the other Jews.  For if you keep silent at this time, relief and deliverance will rise for the Jews from another place, but you and your father's house will perish.” (Esther 4:13b-14a)
What stood out to me this morning was Mordecai's utter faith that, whether Esther spoke up or not, the Lord would deliver them. As a Jew, he would have known that the Lord had promised to protect His chosen people.  Mordecai had a plan--Esther to intervene with the king--but greater than his trust in his plan was his faith in his God.

I am thankful that we can see Mordecai's humanness.  "When Mordecai learned all that had been done, Mordecai tore his clothes and put on sackcloth and ashes, and went out into the midst of the city, and he cried out with a loud and bitter cry." (Esther 4:1).  He didn't just nod and pray and twiddle his thumbs, waiting for divine intervention. He wailed.  He grieved.  He sought out Esther and had to ask her not once, but twice to speak to the king. Once Esther was persuaded, he led the Jews in fasting for her for three days.  

Mordecai was facing certain death if the edict were carried out as written.  He responded with honest emotion, a plan, and faith in a God who might or might not work through the plan Mordecai had conceived.  Where did his faith come from?  The knowledge of the promises of God to be faithful to His people.

Fast forward to me, a 21st century Christian facing not possible imminent physical death, but the possible death of hopes or dreams or security.  I am going to lose loved ones.  The idea I had in my head of what my life would be doesn't seem to be happening.  I have waited and waited and waited for good things that I want (and, truth be told, believe that I need).  Yet I, too, have promises from the Lord as well.  Promises to meet my needs.  Promises to give me the desires of my heart.  Promises that nothing, NOTHING, can separate me from His love:
 For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord. (Romans 8:38-39)
My plan may not work out.  My idea of how God will work may not be correct.  My desires may not be met in the timetable that I prefer (or at all).  Will I, with Mordecai, have the faith to believe that "relief and deliverance" will rise from God's perfect plan, His powerful execution of that plan, and His purposeful timing in when that plan occurs?  I may not get what I want, but I am promised that the Lord will give me what I need:  "And my God will supply every need of yours according to his riches in glory in Christ Jesus." (Philippians 4:19) 

Ultimately, my truest and deepest needs, for forgiveness and restoration to God, have already been met through Jesus.  Romans 8:32 says:  "He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things?"  The deliverance of my soul has been accomplished, arising from the cross.  I can trust the Lord for everything else, as well.

Friday, August 3, 2012

Watching My Mouth

I have been reading in 2 Chronicles for the past week or so.  In chapter 32, Sennacherib, the king of Assyria, is trying to take over the kingdom of Judah.  Part of his ploy involves discouraging the people of Judah by telling them that they are foolish to follow their king (Hezekiah) and trust their God.  I have been pondering these verses for the past few days:   
 And he [Sennacherib] wrote letters to cast contempt on the Lord, the God of Israel, and to speak against him, saying, “Like the gods of the nations of the lands who have not delivered their people from my hands, so the God of Hezekiah will not deliver his people from my hand.”  And they shouted it with a loud voice in the language of Judah to the people of Jerusalem who were on the wall, to frighten and terrify them, in order that they might take the city. And they spoke of the God of Jerusalem as they spoke of the gods of the peoples of the earth, which are the work of men's hands. (2 Chronicles 32:17-19).
The last verse, in particular,  keeps coming back to my mind.  What does it mean to speak of God as I speak of the gods of the people of the earth?  Usually when a verse keeps popping into my head, it means that the Lord is trying to tell me something about my heart.  My list of the present "gods of the peoples of the earth" would include money, status, education, success, beauty, and security, to name just a few.  How do I as a Christian speak of those "gods"?

When I speak of them, I shake my head at the foolishness of trusting in these wordly gods.  I might say things like  "Those things can't save you," or  "You will find out that it's not enough," or "You're believing in the wrong things."

However, there are times when I am speaking of my God, the God of the Bible, that I say things like "Oh, He won't do that for me.  The answer to that is always 'no'," or "Yeah, I figure whatever is the hardest, that's what God will make me do," or "He COULD do that, but He probably won't."

Just today I was talking to a friend about a situation in my life, and she suggested that possibly the Lord might be using it to put me more in touch with my emotions and (this is the one that got me) more open with those emotions in front of other people.  My exact response was a sarcastic "Yippee."  Which really means "Great.  Not what is comfortable, not what I was asking for, and not what I wanted."  Which in turn says to whomever is listening, "Yeah, well, that may be what God is doing, but I think it's a terrible idea and I don't like it and what does He know anyway, and (like Sennacherib told the Jews) HE IS NOT DELIVERING ME from this situation either fast enough or in the way I want."
And they spoke of the God of Jerusalem as they spoke of the gods of the peoples of the earth, which are the work of men's hands. (2 Chronicles 32:19)
 Ouch.  Actually, way more than ouch.  Never do I want to speak of the Lord in a way that denigrates His work in my life or His power and sovereignty.  I had to stop and repent and affirm to God that I want to speak of Him as Who He really is.  My correct response to God working in my life, even when it is not in the way I (and what do I know?) desire, is to say "I don't like this, Lord, but I trust Who You are and what You are doing, and I will accept this as good."

Because the God of the universe is not the work of men's hands, and He deserves glory and honor from my lips.

Thursday, July 19, 2012

David, David, David. . .

Oh, I have been lax with blog posts. . . lack of posting does NOT mean lack of God moving, just sometimes lack of consolidating what He's been doing into any sort of organized form. 

I have had the privilege this summer of going through the Bible study "Anointed, Transformed, Redeemed."  It's published by Lifeway and examines the life of David with teachings by Priscilla Shirer, Beth Moore, and Kay Arthur.  David is such an interesting guy.  He is extolled in the Bible as a "man after God's own heart" (1 Samuel 13:14) and yet he was an adulterer, a murderer, and caused the death of thousands of people because of his disobedience (2 Samuel 24). 

I have blogged before about how I think it's interesting that these accounts of David's sin are included in scripture at all.  It would have been pretty easy to just gloss over that part--indeed, the book of 1 Chronicles does just that, telling about David's reign and neglecting the whole Bathsheba incident.  However, during our Bible study discussion last night, and through another book I am reading ("Desiring God" by John Piper), I think I am beginning to understand more about the nature and character of God and how His grace is most evidence in our weakness.

The book of 2 Corinthians, verses 9-10 say this:
But he [the Lord] said to me [Paul], “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me.  For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong.
Yet another verse that I have heard many, many times, but have had difficulty understanding.  One of God's major goals is His glory.  The story of David, great king of Israel who killed Goliath and endured years of hiding from Saul, who took the throne and brought back the ark and received the promise from God of a line enduring forever. . . Well, that's a great story, and I could read it and think "Wow, David was so cool.  No wonder God blessed him."  The story of David, lustful man who sleeps with Bathsheba, tried to cover it up, kills her husband, and as a result loses a baby, has a daughter raped by her half brother and then ends up with another brother killing that brother, the same son sleeping with David's wives and taking over the throne. . . THAT David makes me see God and not David. 

Who is this God who forgives sin?  Who washes David clean?  Who keeps His promise (indeed promises knowing full well what David will do) after David "despises" Him?  David's weakness is the vessel for me to see God's glory.  The consequences of sin remain, but by knowing the unvarnished truth of David's life, the glory of God is revealed as the central message of his life.

Our lives are meant to tell the glory of God, as well, which means that we are going to have to show our weaknesses as well as our strengths, so that people can look at us and say not "Wow, she's such a good Christian," but "Wow, she serves such a great God."

Friday, June 8, 2012

Well, Except for That. . .

I'm reading in 1 Kings, about Solomon.  I feel so conflicted about Solomon.  He was the wisest person ever to live, yet still managed to fall away from what God required of him.  1 Kings 3:3 says:    
Solomon showed his love for the Lord by walking according to the instructions given him by his father David, except that he offered sacrifices and burned incense on the high places.(NIV)
Solomon loved the Lord, except that he sacrificed in unauthorized places.  Solomon loved the Lord, except that he made alliances with Egypt.  Solomon loved the Lord, except that he spent longer constructing his palace than the temple.  Solomon loved the Lord, except that he had hundreds of concubines.

I'm not bashing Solomon.  My heart is exactly the same (minus the great wisdom and wealth):  I love the Lord, except that I say unkind words.  I love the Lord, except that  I spend more time on the computer or watching TV than with Him.  I love the Lord, except that I don't love His children the way He has expressly commanded me.

My first thought about this conflict was to figure out how I can remove the "except that" from my life.  What do I need to do so that the statement can simply be, "Edna loved the Lord."  What plan can I make?  Whose accountability do I need?  What consequence for messing up?  Then I heard the whisper of the Spirit reminding me that there will always be an "except that".  I am broken.  Solomon was broken.  All of us since Adam and Eve are broken.  We can't love the Lord without exception in our own strength because our own strength cannot heal our brokenness. 

Once again I am brought back to the cross and to the wonder and mercy of Jesus.  He died for the "except that's" in my life.  Seen through His redemption, I do love the Lord.  Period.  But not because of me, because of His great mercy.  There is no "except that" in John 3:16:
 For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.

Saturday, May 12, 2012

Right Now is When it Counts

Can you tell I'm a teacher and it's May?  Craziness abounds. . . But, God continues to work in the midst of the end-of-the-year-moving-to-a-new-building-trying-to-live-life busyness.

Earlier this week I read Psalm 106, and I have been thinking about verse seven:
  Our fathers, when they were in Egypt,
    did not consider your wondrous works;
they did not remember the abundance of your steadfast love,
    but rebelled by the sea, at the Red Sea.
The Israelites and I, unfortunately, share the same DNA.  They had just seen the Lord do miracle after miracle in leading them out of Egypt.  Not just one, but several supernatural events.  OBVIOUSLY God was involved in their lives.  He was orchestrating their freedom from slavery.  Yet, they come to the edge of the Red Sea and decide that this last rescue is too much for God.  Throughout the history of the Israelites, they cycle between belief for a while, and then unbelief.

As I continue to read God's Word and to live my life, it seems that, like the forgetful and idolatrous Israelites, I have to continually remember to walk in the truth that I already know.  The particular part of the verse that stands out to me is that "they did not remember the abundance of [God's] steadfast love".  I recently had one of those moments when life didn't go the way I wanted it to, and I was almost down road of rebellion in my heart. I wanted to doubt God and to shout at Him and to give up hope that this particular desire would ever be met.  Many of us have been there--when we still don't get the job after the fifth different interview.  When we still don't get a pregnancy after numerous doctor visits and tests.  When we still don't have a marriage after going on at least a million dates.

Like the Israelites, I can forget the abundance of the Lord's steadfast love that He has shown me consistently over the years and focus on the one area in which I don't feel loved, or where I fear I will never see His hand.  They knew God had already rescued them from Pharoah's control.  Yet they were still afraid they were going to die at the hand of the Egyptians in the desert.  I know that Jesus has rescued me from the pit of hell and has redeemed my life.  Yet I still fear the pain of the lack of the one last thing I think I need. . .

I am trying to grasp that right here, right now, in the place of feeling like this one thing will never change, NOW is when I have to remember the Lord's steadfast, abundant love and His faithfulness.  Right this minute is when I need to believe in God's goodness and mercy toward me and trust that He will, if not give me what I want, rescue me from the despair and disappointment that threaten.   The Lord did part the Red Sea.  However, because of the lack of belief of the people, they did die in the desert, as a result of refusing to believe in the promises of God.  I have the choice whether I believe or not, and while I don't risk dying in the desert, I do fear missing the peace and glory of God in my life if I forget the love He has already abundantly shown me through Jesus.

Saturday, April 7, 2012

May God Be Ever in Your Favor

"May the odds be ever in your favor" is the go-to phrase from the current movie "The Hunger Games", and the irony is, of course, that the odds most definitely are not in the favor of the tributes to whom the phrase is spoken.  In the read-the-Bible-in-a-year plan that I am following, the schedule hinges on reading some from the Old Testament, some from the New Testament, and some from Psalms and Proverbs every day.  Currently I am reading in Deuteronomy chapters 29-32, where Moses lays out for the people of Israel the blessings and the curses.  The gist is:  choose God, and you will be blessed.  Turn away and disobey and you will be cursed.  And not just theoretically cursed.  Punished.  Starved.  Killed.  I've been having a hard time reconciling the seemingly harsh God of the Old Testament with the forgiving God of the New Testament.

Last night I attended a Good Friday service at Lifepoint Church .The Lord used the message I heard to help me to understand more of Who He is and what He has been doing in history.  I will apologize in advance to Pastor Eric in case my interpretation of what he said is not exactly what he meant.  The message ought to be up soon on iTunes if you would like to listen to it (iTunes - Podcasts - The Lifepoint Connection by Eric Darst).   Following is what I gleaned out of the message:

In the Old Testament, God warns His people over and over and over again that they need to obey His commands and give Him the glory.  A main theme throughout the Bible is that God will not share His glory with another.  Isaiah 42:8 says:  "I am the Lord; that is my name;  my glory I give to no other, nor my praise to carved idols."  In God's dealings with His people, He tries to woo them to Him, they reject Him, and they are punished over and over for idolatry and disobedience.  The punishment to me has seemed harsh.  Yet, in the New Testament, if anything, the consequence for rejecting God's glory (trusting in idols, disbelief, pride. . . really, all sin) appears even more cruel, for Romans 6:23 states  "For the wages of sin is death. . . ".    Christians often avoid the use of the word Hell, but Biblically speaking,  it's pretty clear that to reject God is to choose Hell, which is an eternal separation from God and an absence of all that is good and true and right.

Hell is not a fun idea.  People often say "God wouldn't do that."  Yet, the very idea that WE are saying what God will and will not do to preserve the holiness of His Name only further belittles His glory.  My objection to the curses in Deuteronomy are MY sin of thinking that surely God's glory is not that big a deal.  So the Israelites disobey.  So they turn to idols after seeing God's glory more up-close and personal than any people in history.  So they grumble and disbelieve and sin.  Can't God just overlook it?  The Bible says clearly no, though God even in the Old Testament, even after His repeated warnings and urgings and punishments, shows His people mercy.  Psalm 78 is a wonderful picture of Israel's rebellious history and God's mercy to them:
 When he killed them, they sought him;
    they repented and sought God earnestly. 

 They remembered that God was their rock,
    the Most High God their redeemer. 

 But they flattered him with their mouths;
    they lied to him with their tongues. 

 Their heart was not steadfast toward him;
    they were not faithful to his covenant. 

 Yet 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. 

 He remembered that they were but flesh,
     a wind that passes and comes not again.

(Psalm 78: 34-39)
 Reluctantly, I have to believe that Hell is justified because God says that it is.  However, gloriously, thankfully, amazingly, Hell is not the sole response that the Lord has to the trampling of His glory.  God's compassion and love for us is so great that He provided another way.  God really did love us so much that He sent His son Jesus, to pay the price for our sin and disregard for His glory.  God Himself bore the punishment for our sin so that we could be united with Him and in relationship with Him forever.

Why did I find this so momentous that I needed to blog about it?  Isn't this basic Christian doctrine?  What is so earth-shattering?

I needed to blog about this because, though I grew up going to church and have been a Christian for a long time now, I still do not grasp the depth of God's grace and mercy toward me.  The Old Testament people deserved death for their sin.  I deserve death for my sin.  Yet God made a way so that I don't have to die.  I don't have to be separated from God for all eternity even though I have belittled and trampled upon and not even fully grasped the extent of God's glory and holiness.  He made a way for me when I could not make it myself, and He continues to love and guide me even when my understanding is so woefully lacking.  His grace is SO much bigger than I imagine, and whenever I come even a teeny bit closer to seeing it, I want to share it with everyone!

Though my thinking that God should always be "in my favor" is false, the reality that He truly does have a heart to bestow favor upon me is true.  May you see more of God's glory this Easter!

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Missing Jesus

Pretty humbling to have a blog centered on hearing from the Lord and then have no posts for over a month.  Yikes.  Sometimes it's like that, though, at least for me. I'm still reading my Bible and still praying (though I've been missing more days than I like to), but I'm not hearing as clearly as I sometimes do.  When that happens, I try to acknowledge it, bring that concern to God, and just keep walking in obedience the best that I can. 

Last Sunday my pastor at LifeSpring Community Church was talking about Jesus appearing to people after the resurrection.  He was sharing from John 21.  Verse one says that "After this Jesus revealed himself again to the disciples by the Sea of Tiberias, and he revealed himself in this way.Then, in verse four, we find out that " Just as day was breaking, Jesus stood on the shore; yet the disciples did not know that it was Jesus."

Jesus had already appeared to the disciples about a week earlier, in the upper room (John 20).  He had stood among them, talked to them, shown them the nail holes in His hands and the wound in His side.  Yet, seven days later, the disciples don't recognize Jesus even as they see Him and He speaks to them.  Not until Jesus re-creates a moment from their past (a miraculous catch of fish) does John realize that the man on the shore is Jesus.

I am often comforted by the disciples, because I, too, have seen Jesus at work on one day, and then missed Him just a short time later.  This blog absence when it seems that I am not hearing from the Lord is one such instance.  I know that He is speaking, but somehow I am not hearing His voice.  There are many reasons why I may be hard of hearing. . . sin, impatience, lack of time with God, or an incorrect perspective, just to name a few.  A recent example of the last:  In the past few years I have been braving the dangerous and unsure waters of online dating.  Goal:  a godly husband.  Two years into it:  No husband, thereby causing me to view this venture as unsuccessful and lacking God's blessing.  Revelation upon waking up Saturday morning:  God has blessed this journey mightily, though not in the way that I envisioned.   No, I'm not married yet, but I have met some good men, learned a ton about myself, and had my faith strengthened hugely by having to trust the Lord even more directly in this arena. 

Even as I peer uncertainly from my boat, wondering who that man is on the shore and what he is doing, Jesus is busy directing my net and providing me with exactly the food that I need.  My prayer is that I recognize His hand and hear His voice faster and more clearly every day.

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Greater Glory

I often rue the day I named this blog.  Sometimes the worst four-letter word I know is spelled w-a-i-t.  Yet, I believe God has His hand in all things, even blog titles, and I know that He keeps showing me more and more about the why of waiting. 

Reading in Matthew last week about Jesus' crucifixion, I noticed these verses (Matthew 27:41-43):  
So also the chief priests, with the scribes and elders, mocked him, saying,“He saved others; he cannot save himself. He is the King of Israel; let him come down now from the cross, and we will believe in him.   He trusts in God; let God deliver him now, if he desires him. For he said, ‘I am the Son of God.’”
The priests said that since Jesus trusts in God, then He should ask God to deliver him NOW.   In my economy, I think of "now" as a happy word, as the antidote to "wait".  I trust in God (imperfectly, but I do).  So, how about I get what I think I need now?  However, if God had rescued Jesus from the cross at that moment, all would have been lost.  The crucifixion was God's answer to our sin and our only hope of salvation.

I have been thinking a lot about God's glory, lately, as I have been reading (very slowly, in small bites) John Piper's "Desiring God".  God's greatest glory was to be achieved a few days after the crucifixion.  Had God removed Jesus from the cross right then, the great glory of resurrection and triumph over sin would have been lost.

Maybe, just maybe, the reason that we wait, even as we trust God, is so that God's greater glory can be realized.  Had Joseph been released from the dungeon earlier, all of Israel could have been lost.  Had Elizabeth become pregnant in her youth, she would not have been carrying John the Baptist to herald the arrival of the Messiah.  Had Jesus healed Lazarus before he died, the miracle of a body four days dead, emerging from the tomb still wrapped in grave clothes (John 11) would have been missed.

God is about His glory, not my convenience.  The challenge of my faith is to believe that the reason that I'm waiting (for the job, for the healing, for the husband, for the baby, for the reconciliation, for the answer, for. . . whichever thing each of us waits for) is to achieve God's greater glory, and that seeing His glory will be worth the wait.

Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Unrighteous Indignation

It is an awful thing to see oneself reflected in the attitude of the Pharisees (the text says "chief priests and scribes--what I will call Pharisees--forgive my liberty if they are not technically that set of priests with that name).  Over the years I have thought more than once that I identified with those men at several levels.  In a positive light, they were trying to obey God, they wanted to do everything right, they were striving to follow all of the rules and be accepted by the Lord.  Looking at it negatively, they were trying to elevate themselves over others with that perceived righteousness, their very nature and attitude bred pride, and they were sorely lacking in grace and mercy.  On my worst days, in my worst self, without Jesus, that is who I am as well.

I was reading in Matthew 21 this morning, about Jesus' entry into Jerusalem right before his crucifixion.  He is in the temple healing people--restoring health and wholeness, performing miracle after miracle of physical restoration.  Imagine what the healed and their families must have felt:  Relief, euphoria, joy, happiness, disbelief. . . Imagine what it might feel like to, for the first time, walk independently (or at all),  hear a loved one's voice,  see your child's face, be free from pain.  Participating in such celebration would be overwhelmingly joyful and happy and good.  Unless you were a Pharisee:   
And the blind and the lame came to him in the temple, and he healed them.  But when the chief priests and the scribes saw the wonderful things that he did, and the children crying out in the temple, “Hosanna to the Son of David!” they were indignant,  and they said to him, “Do you hear what these are saying?” And Jesus said to them, “Yes; have you never read, “‘Out of the mouth of infants and nursing babies  you have prepared praise’?” (Matthew 21: 14-16)
 C'mon.  They are in the middle of people being made whole and they are indignant?  Why?  Probably for a lot of reasons.  Maybe they were really upset that the children were calling Jesus the Son of David (the Messiah) when they weren't sure He actually was.  However, Jesus was fulfilling signs that the priests should have recognized (Isaiah 35:5-6, Isaiah 42:7).   Most of them, I bet, though, were upset for much less noble reasons.  Jesus was disturbing the order of the temple.  He was daring to put himself forward and mess up the order and flow of temple business.  He was stealing their limelight.  He wasn't playing by the rules and following the protocol.  All they could see was that Jesus was not acting according to their plan.  So they reacted with indignation.

I'm not a stranger to indignation, which exhibits itself in this decade as attitude.  I get attitude when things are not going according to my plan, not happening in the way I envisioned, or are making me uncomfortable.  Would I miss the joy in a room of healing because I was that upset about my plan?  I hope not, but I might.  In a similar situation, after seeing Jesus eating with tax collectors and sinners, the Pharisees (for sure the REAL Pharisees in this passage) criticize Jesus to His disciples, and Jesus responds by telling them that they need to learn what it means that He desires mercy and not sacrifice (Matthew 9:13).

I need to learn what that means.  I do not want to find myself in a room where Jesus is at work and have my prevailing emotion be indignation.  I want it to be awe, or joy, or gratitude.  Thank God for the gospel's power in my life, which transforms my Pharisee's heart into a merciful and grace-filled one.  I just wish it would happen a little bit faster.

Saturday, January 28, 2012

The More Things Change. . .

I just finished reading Genesis and have started Exodus.  Earlier in the week I read about Moses seeing the burning bush, and was pondering these verses from Exodus 3 (verses 2-4):
 And the angel of the LORD appeared to him in a flame of fire out of the midst of a bush. He looked, and behold, the bush was burning, yet it was not consumed.  And Moses said, “I will turn aside to see this great sight, why the bush is not burned.”  When the LORD saw that he turned aside to see, God called to him out of the bush, “Moses, Moses!” And he said, “Here I am."
I was thinking about how I needed to remember to be aware of God working and to be sure to "turn aside" and notice it.  There's an idea for a blog post, I thought.  But, hey, this seems a little familiar to me.  I wouldn't want to post the exact same thing I already posted.  So I checked the archives.  January of 2011. . . nope.  January or 2010. . .yep, sure enough, I posted about that very thought.

Dang!  I must be so dense that I just keep having to learn the same thing over and over.  At first, this was discouraging to me.  But then I realized that, yes, I am that obtuse sometimes, and I became grateful to God for the gift of His Word, and for the discipline to keep reading it.  If you haven't figured it out yet, I do a "read through the Bible in a year" plan (there are many you can choose).  I am often amazed at what new insight the Lord will show me in a passage I've read since childhood.  However, I am now also humbled and thankful that the Lord keeps reminding me of the things that I so easily forget.  Jesus compares us to sheep quite often.  Sheep are not very smart.  Jesus' disciples were not the brightest bunch.  I need to hear things over and over until they sink into my brain, and then my heart, and then work themselves out in obedience through my feet (thank you Beth Moore for that analogy). 

One of my favorite books is C.S. Lewis' "The Screwtape Letters".  On page 119 he discusses how God has given humans both the desire for novelty and the desire for permanence:
[The Lord] has balanced the love of change in them by a love of permanence.  He has contrived to gratify both tastes together in the very world He has made, by that union of change and permanence which we call Rhythm.  He gives them the seasons, each season different yet every year the same, so that spring is always felt as a novelty yet always as the recurrence of an immemorial theme.  He gives them in His Church a spiritual year;  they change from a fast to a feast, but it is the same feast as before. (p. 116).
Reading through the Bible over and over fulfills that same desire--the same people, psalms, and promises over and over and over, until the truth finally becomes a part of me, but balanced by new insights and new comvictions in each new year.  I am amazed at how He takes care of us!

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Trusting the Timing

When I get to heaven, I am hoping there will be a chance to see behind the scenes of some of the accounts in the Bible. I have been reading in Genesis, about Joseph, and I really, really wish that I could ask him about those years in prison. We know that he was sent there unjustly, and that "The keeper of the prison paid no attention to anything that was in Joseph's charge, because the LORD was with him. And whatever he did, the LORD made it succeed." (Genesis 39:23). We know that the cupbearer of the Pharaoh was also imprisoned, that Joseph interpreted his dream, and that Joseph said this to the cupbearer: "Only remember me, when it is well with you, and please do me the kindness to mention me to Pharaoh, and so get me out of this house." (Genesis 40:15) We also are privy to the fact that the cupbearer forgot Joseph and didn't remember for two years.

What did Joseph think right after he spoke to the cupbearer?  If he were like me (which he probably wasn't, since he had much more faith than I do, but surely he had his weak moments?), he would have been thinking, "Wow, God, so cool that you sent this cupbearer here, and that I could help him, and that he's going to tell Pharaoh about me, and I'm going to get out of here soon.  Yep, any day now, I'll be free."  And then he waits for two more years.

What's difficult about circumstances like that, at least for me, is to not just rely on the hopeful part of the situation:  "Look at this circumstance.  Surely God heard me and will answer me soon.", but to rely on God's grace for the unspoken (and unthinkable) part:  "Okay, Lord, I think this looks good, but I am going to trust that IF IT DOESN'T WORK OUT WHEN OR HOW I THINK, then that is also the answer from you and it is the better choice."  It's the choice we have after the sixteenth job interview:  "I trust you that if this is your plan, I'll get the job, but if it's NOT, then that is your good work in my life as well."  It's the attitude we choose after another month goes by with no pregnancy, or another date ends with no relationship, or another year passes of estrangement from a loved one.

If I were Joseph, I would think that of course the Lord wants me out of here now.  However, the timing wasn't right yet.  Pharaoh had no need of him.  The circumstances had not yet fallen into place to bring Joseph to a place of leadership so that he could save many lives:  "And God sent me before you to preserve for you a remnant on earth, and to keep alive for you many survivors."  (Genesis 45:7)

It can be so hard to trust in God's timing, because when we are in the middle of the story, it can feel lonely and sad and pointless.  I so want to know how Joseph handled the two years of waiting in prison.  How long did it take him to rest in God's goodness and trust Him that He would work all circumstances together for good?  How was he able to choose a peaceful and calm attitude, walking in the truth that God was at work even if He was silent?  The irony is that Joseph knew far less of God than I do, and yet came through his circumstances knowing that God had purposefully orchestrated his life.  May I learn to trust as well in the God that I KNOW is at work on my behalf:  
"The Lord will accomplish what concerns me.  The Lord's lovingkindness is everlasting.  Do not forsake the works of your hands."  (Psalm 138:8, NAS)

Saturday, January 7, 2012

God's Got It

Happy first week of 2012!  Once again, I am unduly excited to be finished with the minor prophets and Revelation and back reading in Genesis and the gospels.   I wonder if I will be 90 years old and still saying, "I can't believe how God can show me something new in a verse I have read a million times!"?  Last year I participated in a memory verse activity through Beth Moore's blog community (Living Proof Ministries Blog).  One of the verses I chose to memorize was Proverbs 28:13:  "Whoever conceals his transgressions will not prosper,  but he who confesses and forsakes them will obtain mercy."

Probably I am the only person who has ever done this, but when I picked that verse, I had a specific situation in mind.  I hoped that by sharing this verse in "public" as it were, maybe someone would be convicted (by my holy promptings) to do what I thought they should do.  Yeah, that didn't work.  As I re-visit this verse, I notice something new.  My focus had been on how this person should confess so that they can obtain mercy (and do the right thing).  I missed the beginning, which was that if they didn't, they wouldn't prosper.  God has given us built-in consequences.  None of us can conceal sin indefinitely, and, even if we appear to be successfully deceiving people, we will not prosper.  There will be some area of lack, some deficiency as a result of deception. 

I was encouraged to see this not because I want someone else to suffer consequences, but because it reminds me that God has it under control.  He knows what His children are doing.  He sees when we are hurt by someone's sin, and He sees when my sin hurts someone else.  He is not oblivious to how we are living, and, like I remind my students when they tattle by asking them if they are "the cop of sitting on the carpet" or "person in charge of being quiet", I am not the "Police Officer of the Universe."   Thank God for that.