Please Wait

I began reading the gospel of Mark, and I was struck by the number of times the author wrote IMMEDIATELY. In fact, the word euthys occurs 41 times in the book. Things were always happening at a very quick pace. Immediately, the Spirit impelled Jesus to go out into the wilderness.  Immediately, Simon and Andrew left their nets and followed Him. Immediately, the leprosy left a man and he was cleansed. Immediately another man picked up his pallet and went out. Throughout the gospel, someone immediately receives sight or is healed immediately.

Not so with my life. Nothing seems immediate. There is always waiting and more waiting and process. Healing and growth happen over time. Understanding and insight are not gained all at once. Even after I have prayed, the path is not immediately clear.

A few weeks later, I was reading Genesis and Exodus and there was not the same sense of immediacy. Abraham waited until age 100 before the child of God’s promise, Isaac, was born. Joseph was estranged from his family over 20 years. Moses shepherded 40 years in the wilderness before the Lord brought him into the role of deliverer. The people of Israel were slaves in Egypt for 400 years.  In these accounts, I recognize how God is more concerned about refining those he has chosen through crafting character over time.

In the fullness of time, God sent his own son, Jesus. For centuries the people longed for the coming Messiah, yet this event was pre-ordained before the creation of the world.

Why does immediate seem preferable? Why is waiting so difficult? Maybe the problem is that I have a temporal mindset and God is eternal not subservient to time as I understand it. Or perhaps it is because our society has idolized time-management and waiting seems to be doing nothing. Or perhaps longer waiting takes more faith and trust. For all the longing and waiting, we do have one guarantee of immediate.  In the twinkling of an eye…in an instant our earthly bodies will become immortal. When Jesus appears, we will become like him for we shall see Him as He is.  And for that, I eagerly wait.

They Gave Us Instruments

Here’s something you may not know about me: I feel a strong connection with persecuted Christians. Nearly 30 years ago I was introduced to the work of Open Doors and Voice of the Martyrs and began giving and praying for these ministries who provided support and resources to believers in areas where faith costs the most. When I chose to be baptized at age 30, part of my testimony was that I had been thinking that if I was following Jesus, baptism as an adult did not seem necessary. However, after hearing a sermon seemingly directly from the mouth of God and receiving an issue of Frontline Faith, my heart was changed. I told those present that I realized baptism is an immense decision in countries where people are not permitted to openly practice their faith. Even though it was easy for me to confess my belief in Jesus, I was reminded that for some the decision could cost their family, their source of employment, their standing in the community, and even their life.

Two books I read early in my life as a believer were God’s Smuggler but Brother Andrew and Tortured for Christ by Richard Wurmbrand. The latter was especially difficult to read because of the horrific extent those who confessed Jesus were persecuted. Their unwavering devotion to Christ, still leaves me astonished. One place in Tortured for Christ Wurmbrand states, “They gave us instruments” which compelled the imprisoned believers to praise God and share the good news of Jesus.  He wasn’t alluding to a harp or a hymnal. He referred to each instance of abuse and torture that became a means where they chose to sing praise instead of becoming angry or despondent. In the midst of excruciating and unimaginable pain, these followers of Christ reaffirmed this commitment to Him by lifting voices in thanksgiving and proclaiming the gospel to all.

In even minor difficulties in my life, the tune escaping my mouth sounds more like a whine than a song. It takes a transforming work of God to see hardship as an instrument of God’s love. I am so not there, but I take heart in the witness of persecuted believers who teach me that rejoicing and thanksgiving are possible even in the face of suffering and persecution.

Who is Writing your Story?

Recently, I have become aware that I was reading a counterfeit version of my life story. When I would wake in the middle of the night or have a difficult time during the day, Satan kept voicing a narrative where nothing I do matters. In this account, nothing will ever change and no one really understands. In this sad story, because I am always lacking, so I have no hope of living a fulfilling or wonderful life.

Maybe it is set on auto-play or that story plays more loudly than my Heavenly Father’s quieter whispers. However, no matter how loudly or how many times it is played, this false narrative never becomes the epic story written by the author and perfector of our faith. In the true version I am chosen, loved and unconditionally accepted by God. How can I be helpless or my life be pointless when the same power that raised Jesus from the grave dwells in me? The light of the world shines through me. In God’s account, He works in ways I can’t perceive bearing fruit in the midst a seemingly mundane life. In His book, I am not defined by my failures but by Jesus’ perfection, so my identity is spotless blameless and free. Who I am becoming is more important than anything I do.

It has been established that Satan lies, steals, and kills. The English word devil comes from the Greek diabolos which means slanderer or “back-biter.” That was exactly what was happening when I was forgetful or caught off guard by his strategies. The devil was in the shadows falsely accusing God and slandering the new creation God made me. Since I was listening, I was unfortunately giving credence to these lies. The voice I believed impacted my daily experience. However, the reality has never changed. I was never who Satan claimed and my life will never match his plans for me, but I lost strength and confidence.

I’m getting a little better at recognizing those first lines from the tale of woe Satan weaves. Before I get sucked into the evil plot, I slam that book closed and refuse to read one more line. Which version of your life are you reading and re-reading?

The Right Answer

The scribe approached Jesus with a question, “Good teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?” When Jesus asked how he would answer, the scribe replied, “Love the Lord with all your heart, soul, mind and strength and love your neighbor as yourself.” Jesus told him, “You have answered correctly.” Having the right answer was not enough for this man who wanted to justify himself, so then he asked Jesus, “Who is my neighbor?”

I think this man probably was very generous toward his fellow Israelites – to those who lived and thought like he did. He wanted Jesus to pat him on the back and wish him well as he sent him on his way. He wanted to gain confirmation for what he already believed so he could continue in self-righteousness. Instead of commendation, Jesus challenged his thinking and his heart.

Who is my neighbor? My answer reveals the extent to which God’s love has penetrated my heart. I imagine the scribe in this account would do his duty, but he was not motivated by the kind of love God has for us.  He wouldn’t go out of his way or use his money or time for someone he considered a distraction from his “real” purpose. Ironically, the Samaritan, whose actions aptly fit the description of neighbor would be considered inferior by those listening to the words of Jesus. Contrary to public opinion of the day, Jesus portrayed the Samaritan as the hero of the story because of his sacrificial love.

Do I want life as Jesus promises or do I want to be right? When researchers approach a topic to study, they consider something called confirmation bias which is seeing information through a certain lens that agrees with what the researcher already believes to be true. I can fall into this pattern as I listen to teachings, read books, or even study God’s word. As Jesus demonstrated to the scribe, abundant life is not characterized by how much I know but how much I love.

I found this quote by an unknown source, “ The difference between a wise man and a fool is not that the wise man is right and the fool is wrong but that the fool always assumes himself right and the wise man wonders if he would be wrong.”

Lord, instead of having the right answer, I desire humility, a teachable spirit and to be a conduit of your boundless love to whomever you bring into my life.

Following Jesus is not a Virtual Experience

I have a confession. I have become lazy in the last 12 months. In the early months of the pandemic, our church did not hold in person services, so if I wanted to connect with the body of Christ, I had to participate on-line. As the restrictions eased, I found it is so much easier to watch church on-line from the comfort of our living room. Then this morning, I joined the prayer time with both my audio and video off. I did not want to be seen or heard. While those things are fine on occasion, I realize following Jesus and being in fellowship with other believers is not a virtual experience. It is not watching a you tube video of a great sermon (and there are many) and getting on to the next thing in my day.

I worry I am in danger of becoming like the person in James who looks in a mirror and comes away unchanged – a hearer of the word and not a doer. When I hear and hoard, I am not really following Jesus. It is not how much I know or how much that message spoke to me but how the word of God transforms me to love God and others. As appealing as it is to remain in the shadows, I feel God’s prodding to be present and participating not merely observing and listening.

I have no doubt God hears me and is present with me as much when I am alone as when I am with others, but I find there are things that happen in community that don’t happen in my living room. I see others experiencing joys and hurts who are following Jesus through the mountains and valleys which strengthens my own resolve to persevere and to keep my focus on God. I may encounter someone (perhaps I have never spoken to them) to encourage or to simply look into their eyes to communicate that they are valued and matter very much to Jesus. Sometimes being with people is hard because their personalities or opinions rub me like sandpaper, but even in this God can refine me.

Admittedly, I will continue to watch services on-line at times and may not always speak or show my face during our prayer times, but I will also not choose comfort over being present. Following Jesus together strengthens me, challenges me, and shines light on my blind spots in ways that being alone with Jesus does not.

Gather Your Weapons

We are living in perilous times. It is not the time to stand on the sidelines but to prepare for battle. When faced with the option of holding your position or retreating, what will you choose? Perhaps the weapons you are considering are not the ones I have in mind.

My first recommendation for maintaining an offensive position is praise. In 2 Chronicles 20, we read of King Jehoshaphat who successfully employed this strategy beginning with prayer and continuing into battle. The singers preceded the warriors. As a result, the Lord made an end to their enemy. When the opposition of this world seems huge, re-read God’s words to his people.

Do not be afraid and do not be dismayed at this great horde, for the battle is not yours but God’s. …. Stand firm, hold your position and you will see the salvation of the Lord on your behalf…go out against them and the Lord will be with you.

We also engage with simple acts of love toward others. Bringing light into another’s world, whether it is a megawatt stadium bulb or a little night light, casts away the darkness. Don’t minimize the impact of small kind deeds to advance God’s purposes. Additionally, these acts may keep us from falling prey to self-focus and defeat. 

Moreover, I advise you to employ the sword of the spirit – the word of God. Jesus used this as the devil assaulted him again and again in the wilderness. The devil convincingly twists the words of God, but when we know God’s word and character, we have the ability to fight these attacks and prevail. Our enemy uses a kernel of truth but weaves it with a destructive lie. For example, he may say, “Gods promises are true, but that one is for someone else and not you.”

Finally, we have a large arsenal of the fruit of the spirit – love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, gentleness, faithfulness and self-control. God’s methods are dissimilar to the ways of the world since it hardly seems like these qualities will change the world, but they can and do. If we belong to Christ, we are not of this world.  If each of us who calls upon the name of the Lord abides in Him and allows him to produce His fruit in our lives, we may not see the systems of this world topple, (until Jesus returns!!!) but again and again we will see God change hearts and rescue his lost sheep from the jaws of the enemy. We won’t live cowering in fear but overcoming through His strength.

Photo by Susanne Jutzeler on Pexels.com

Thank You, Jesus!

…So that you may believe Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing, you may have life in his name.

There is a book called A Long Obedience in the Same Direction which pretty much describes my life. Following Jesus minute by minute, day by day, week by week, year by year. It is more than obedience though; I have a deep longing to grow closer and more in love with Jesus until the time I see him face to face.

There was a restless and an emptiness in me even though I believed in God, I didn’t understand how to draw near to Him. I thought it was by being good enough. When I was invited to a Bible study my senior year of high school, I first understood and believed Jesus paid for my sins on the cross to make the way for me to come to God.  Looking back, I would say I understood the gift of salvation through faith and although Jesus was a significant part of my life, He was not life itself. About 10 years following that original decision, I remember a transition when I wanted every thought, word and action to be His.

I found a love for God’s word and began studying in depth. These truths have been my anchor. My first major struggle was in my marriage. My husband was raised Catholic and our ideas of what it looked like to be a Christian were very different. We attended separate churches and I considered him married to the army. In addition to working endlessly, he was often away on training and deployments so about 5 years of our first 15 years  of  marriage, we spent apart. Parenting 3 young children without my husband would have been impossible without the Lord. When Mike left for Korea for a year, I was not sorry to see him leave as we had grown so far apart. During this year I saw the Lord’s goodness as He provided a ladies Bible study, someone to take the kids for playdates and sleepovers and a prayer partner. I believe though these prayers, Mike was greatly changed by his year in Korea. When he returned, our family moved to Hawaii and began attending church together. 

Over the years, the many moves have been difficult for me – to find a dear group of friends, a Bible study and a place to serve only to have to separate from them after a few years. I felt like a tree that kept getting uprooted just as the roots were beginning to go deep. Between the moves and having 2 more children after a 10-year gap, I  began a downward spiral into depression. While this has improved from where it was is 2010, it is a continual struggle not to give in to discouragement and continue to engage when my flesh wants to isolate and withdraw.  I feel drained of energy and some days just showing up for life is challenging.

Since I feel more confident expressing my thoughts in writing rather than speaking, God prompted me to share my struggles online through a blog.

One verse I return to over and over …He who began a good work in you will be faithful to complete it. The reason this verse means so much to me is because when I look at my life it seems messy and incomplete. No dramatic victorious moments just day after day persevering through the mundane and continually drawing near to God who pursued me and has never let me go. He preserved my marriage and provides daily grace and patience for me as I parent a child with Down Syndrome who has so many needs. God keeps holding me and loving me and I have no idea of all the ways He prevented me from evil or harm. No circumstances in my life, or yours, cannot prevent God from accomplishing the good work He intends in us and through us.  When life is hard and the things God is doing are not visible to me, I can trust He is working and His ways are good and perfect.  He is my strength and I do not know how anyone can go through trials without knowing they are held in the precious arms of a loving father who one day will redeem all our suffering into glory.

If you confess with you mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. Romans 10:9

2000 Year Old Seeds

Ecclesiastes 3:1 For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven…

I came across a fascinating account about seeds discovered on archeological sites in Israel. When these 2000 year-old seeds were planted, they not only grew but reproduced. Six of these ancient seeds have produced date-palm trees. The seeds couldn’t merely be studied, they had to be planted, watered and placed in the light.

What about the long dormant seeds God has placed within you? Yes, they can still thrive and bring forth life. Nothing is impossible with God. He brings into existence something buried long in the past.

Or perhaps you have spent a life-time planting seeds into the lives of others without observing evidence of sprouts. God is not finished.

Maybe you wonder if you are too old to have God begin a new thing. Take heart from knowing God was never bothered but someone’s number of years but sought out men and women whose soil of the heart is conducive to growth.

I am encouraged because I am reminded of how God’s ways are far above my imagining and His timing beyond my understanding.  Furthermore, some of these seeds were found in Masada, a mountain fortress where the Jewish people refused to compromise or surrender to the enemy. Others were found among the Dead sea scrolls. How apt that these enduring seeds were hidden in places of whole-hearted devotion and ensconced with the words of God.  He makes everything beautiful and  flourishing  in its time.

P.S. Thank you Ellie and Bill for giving me the idea to learn more about these miraculous seeds.

This story was accessed February 11, 2021 and found at https://www.theatlantic.com/science/archive/2020/02/how-to-grow-a-date-tree-from-2000-year-old-seeds/606079/

Prayer Requests

This morning I received an e-mail with 3 prayer requests. Someone had fallen and a long recovery is expected. Another person had a 70% heart blockage and surgery was needed to alleviate the blockage. The third person had 2 brain tumors which would have to be removed immediately and this person would then need months of ongoing treatment.

I prayed, but then I began thinking. These are serious physical issues and God is our Healer; yet how much more vital is our spiritual condition? Spiritually speaking, all these conditions could be applied to any of us. I have a heart blockage that keeps the life of Christ from flowing out of my life into the lives of others. My own selfishness flows through my veins and arteries instead of the love of Jesus.  I fall and need help recovering. Worst of all I have tumors infesting my brain in the form of lies of the enemy that have taken hold. For example, I question God’s goodness or think God doesn’t answer prayer. 

It is easy to request prayer for ourselves or someone else experiencing a physical condition or difficult circumstance, but our pride prevents us from disclosing or asking for prayer for when our spirits experience affliction.  I hesitate to mention that my spiritual health is in jeopardy when someone else voices a prayer request for a life-threatening issue.

Jesus is concerned with every little detail and He heals our broken spirits. I find it interesting that the words for healing, wholeness and salvation are all related. When Jesus asks, “What do you want me to do for you?” are we willing to expose our needs to Him and others so he can respond, “Your faith has made you well.”

Hope

“HOPE is the best stimulant.” This phrase, taken from a fortune cookie, was the writing prompt for my son’s creative writing class. Since I am having trouble coming up with ideas to blog about, I decided to begin there.

First, in order to pursue this idea, I want to describe stimulant. I think a good synonym would be motivator. Hope is what motivates us to engage in living. I include engage because I know there are times when I have been alive but not engaged in living. Some days it is unbelievably difficult to show up for life, but today is not one of those days so I am contemplating hope.

What is hope? In a general sense, hope is an expectation of something better, that something broken can be fixed or that something empty will be filled and that loss is not the end but believing redemption follows.

The longer the delay, the harder it is to hope.  When my husband’s military duties permitted him to return at the end of the week, I could anticipate his return. However, when he was deployed for a year, it was much harder to hope for that day. It is easier to hope for something certain than something that might happen. Nothing is guaranteed unless you know Jesus, but if you have trusted him there is always hope. In Him we have a sure hope

  • That He is with us always even to the end of the age
  • That God causes all things to work together for good to those who love Him, to those who are called according to His purpose.
  • That He is able to keep each one of us from stumbling and make us stand in the presence of His glory blameless with great joy.

This hope motivates us to persevere even when our earthly hopes shatter. While earthly hopes may disappoint, the hope of the glory of heaven can only exceed our wildest imaginings.