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 30, 2013

Contentment or Persistence?

Two posts in one month?? Hold on to your hats!

Much of the Christian life is a paradox. We hear how we are supposed to lay down our life in order to keep it (Luke 17:33), how giving leads to plenty (2 Corinthians 9:6), and how the foolish things of this world are chosen to shame the wise(1 Corinthians 1:27). I have also heard a lot about the benefit of contentment, the two main verses cited being 1 Timothy 6:6: "But godliness with contentment is great gain" (In context, it is an admonishment not to love money or seek riches) and Philippians 4:11-13:
 Not that I am speaking of being in need, for I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content.  I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound. In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need.  I can do all things through him who strengthens me.
My current question/struggle/wondering is this: What is the balance of being content and in seeking purposefully after what we want? The Bible contains example after example of people who came to the Lord seeking desperately for something they wanted: Hannah wanted a baby (1 Samuel 1), cried out to the Lord while weeping bitterly, and got one (actually, in the end she had six children). Could not someone have told Hannah to be content with her husband and stop longing for children?

Time after time in the New Testament, people come to Jesus to heal them or someone they love. The woman who had bled for twelve years and who fought through a crowd simply to touch Jesus' robe (Luke 8:43-48) wasn't content to stay in her house alone and accept her fate, and she was healed. Two blind beggars wait for Jesus at the side of the road and yell out for Him until He comes, even after the crowd tries to make them stop (Matthew 20:29-34). They do not seem very content with their lot, and they received their sight. The Canaanite woman nags Jesus about her demon-possessed daughter and won't accept "No" even when Jesus initially doesn't promise her help(Matthew 15:21-28). She ends up with a healthy daughter.

Luke 18: 1-8 is the account of the persistent widow. The Bible says about this that: ". . . he[Jesus] told them a parable to the effect that they ought always to pray and not lose heart." (Luke 18:1) The parable conveys the idea that we need to keep on praying for what we want. The rest of the account does say that what the Lord will give us is justice (Luke 18:7) and not just anything we want, so I have to keep that in mind when I think about that example. 

Matthew 7:7-11 tells us to ask for what we want, for "If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give good things to those who ask him!" (Matthew 7:11) In Luke 11:5-13, Jesus expounds on that story, and tells how a man will give a friend bread because of his "impudence" in asking. 

So, which is it? Be content or seek God to change something in your life? Can we do both? Does it depend on what it is?

No surprise to anyone who knows me or who reads this irregular blog regularly, but I am specifically thinking of this question in relationship to singleness (or any desire we have that is not a promise from God). There are many people who give the well-meaning advice of "Just come to a place of contentment. This happened to me (or my friend, or my sister, or my third cousin-once-removed) and THEN God brought me a mate." Yay for you, and there is some truth to that, but Hannah wasn't content in her childlessness and then God just suddenly sent a baby. She was weeping loudly enough that the priest thought she was drunk, and praying HARD for that child.

We are not to have idols, and any unmet desire can easily become an idol, especially when it is a good thing (marriage, a baby, health, security, even someone's salvation). I believe that God's desire is that we would seek Him above what we want. Yet, would the bleeding woman or the blind men or Hannah have come to the Lord without wanting something? They weren't there just to praise God. They were there to fix the problem, to meet the desire, to get what they wanted. 

I wonder how that made Jesus feel? Happy that they did come, sad because it was only to get what they wanted? Or happy because the trial did what it was supposed to and drew them to Him? I was going to say that there are no examples of people coming to Jesus who didn't get healed/rewarded, but there are. The rich young ruler (Luke 18:18-23) walked away. Pilate refused to really find out who Truth was (John 18:33-38) and washed his hands of it all.  

Obviously, many pray persistently for healing and do not receive it on this earth. People pray for children and never conceive. Others pray for spouses and the answer is "No." How do those of us in these situations--any of us who are going to Jesus to seek healing or the fulfillment of godly desires--balance contentment with persistence? Jesus was denied relief from crucifixion. Yet He did go to God seeking it.

If I know myself at all, I know that I am probably wanting a formula when I just need to be seeking Jesus. I do think there is not an easy answer, and I promise never to tell anyone that they just need to be "content" and then God will do whatever it is that they want, because I don't see that in Scripture (and if your heart is anywhere as devious as mine, you also know that you are trying to achieve contentment to gain the goal which. . . not what God has in mind, I'm pretty sure).

My comfort, as we begin the season of advent, is this:
Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign. Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel. (Isaiah 7:14)
Immanuel means "God with us" and to have God with me, even though my greedy heart fights for more, is all I really need.

I may never figure out this balance. I come to Jesus all the time with my sinful, mixed-up desires and motives. I will never love like He does. In my own strength I can't seek Him wholeheartedly. Yet the miracle of Christmas and Easter is that God did the seeking and finding for me, and made the way for my sinful self to come before His perfect throne.  This fact is the only paradox that really matters.

Saturday, November 16, 2013

It's All Fun and Games til Someone Loses an Ear. . .

One of my favorite things is when I hear a message that God uses to show me something new. Last Sunday, at The Summit, Clayton Pruett spoke about John 18. Jesus is in the garden with his disciples when Judas comes with a band of soldiers, Pharisees, and priest's officers to betray Jesus. Verse 10 tells how Peter took his sword and cut off the ear of the high priest's servant.

Peter is my favorite disciple, because I relate so much to him. He is impulsive and impatient and often doesn't understand what the Lord is doing (to give him credit, though, he is the only person besides Jesus who ever walked on water). What was Peter thinking here? There were probably over 200 men present, the majority of them highly trained Roman soldiers. Injuring one man, or even (had his aim been better) killing one would not have changed the situation. In fact, Jesus had already strongly rebuked Peter for not understanding (or agreeing with) God's plan of redemption: 
From that time Jesus began to show his disciples that he must go to Jerusalem and suffer many things from the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and on the third day be raised.  And Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him, saying, “Far be it from you, Lord! This shall never happen to you.”  But he turned and said to Peter, “Get behind me, Satan! You are a hindrance to me. For you are not setting your mind on the things of God, but on the things of man. (Matthew 16:21-23)
Peter was, to use words from Sunday's message, trying to "save Jesus." Maybe Peter thought he could fix the situation. Maybe he was just afraid. The sermon point I have been thinking about since last Sunday is that we all have the tendency to use metaphorical swords to fix the things in our life that we don't like. When we are unhappy or hurting or uncomfortable or scared, we use our swords of control or gratification or manipulation to try to remedy the problem.

Sometimes we do this when we don't feel that God is giving us clear directions. However, Peter was standing right next to Jesus. Why didn't he ask Jesus what to do? "Hey, Lord, should I just use this sword and fight for you?" Peter decided he knew what to do and just did it.

As a believer, Jesus is always right next to me. I have the Bible for clear direction. I can pray any time. Yet I also often don't go to God first and ask what to do. Instead, I let my emotions and impatience control my actions and start waving my swords around trying to change the circumstances. Which leads, as with Peter, to people getting hurt and me receiving conviction: "Put your sword into its sheath; shall I not drink the cup that the Father has given me?" (John 18:11)

This week I have been challenged to put my sword away and seek the Lord's wisdom rather than start hacking away at what (or whom) ever is in front of me.

If you would like to listen to this message, you can hear it here:
God Who Reconciles, Part 13