How Well Do You Wait?

 

It’s hard to wait. Waiting in traffic, waiting in line, waiting on hold with someone else’s choice of music playing in your ear. We find ourselves impatient and frustrated because we want to see progress. We want answers, we want resolution so we can move on.

Our society doesn’t wait well. And in these recent months, that has become even more evident. Everyone, it seems, has no time to wait. We have too much else to do. Places to go, people to see, work to be done.

But there is a lesson to be learned in the waiting. God uses waiting to teach us to depend on Him and not ourselves. To trust His timing and not our own. He is never bound by the clock or the calendar. His timing has eternity in mind where today and tomorrow have little meaning.

Sometimes the things we have been asking the Lord to do in our lives are things we must wait for. You’ve heard the saying that God’s answer is either yes, no or wait.

Trust is like a muscle. It gets stronger when we use it. God uses waiting to strength our trust muscle. In the waiting, we are becoming more like Jesus.

It’s hard, but there is no other way.

“Wait for the LORD; Be strong and let your heart take courage; Yes, wait for the LORD.”  Psalm 27:14

Why You Need a God-shelf

In the Shinto religion of Japan, they have what they call a “god shelf.” It’s a shrine where they place offerings to their god. This is not what I am suggesting.

My God-shelf is not a tangible shelf at all. What it is, is a symbolic way to surrender our burdens to God.

Imagine installing a simple shelf in your home that is nearly out of reach when you raise your hand as high as you can. You can reach this shelf only by stretching just a little. Now imagine that you have been carrying your troubles and worries around with you as you move about your home.

What I am suggesting is that you mentally design and install a God-shelf as a place to deposit all these issues. You walk by your shelf and reach up and place your worries on that shelf for God to deal with, out of sight and slightly out of reach so you can’t easily take them back.

Wouldn’t it be wonderful to be able to leave all your cares on your God-shelf where He is able to deal with everything and you can trust that He will? As you walk by, you simply reach up and say, “Lord, here is my marriage, I trust You to heal it.” Or, “Lord, here is my wayward child, I trust him into Your hands.” Or perhaps, “Lord, here is this difficult diagnosis, I give it to You and ask You to take care of it.”

In every home I’ve every lived, there has always been a small cabinet over the refrigerator. The things I store in that cabinet are usually things I don’t use often. Because they are out of sight, I often forget what I have put there. I think this is what God truly wants us to do with the things we put on our God-shelf. Just put it up there, and then allow God to replace your worries with His peace.

“Cast your burden on the Lord, and he will sustain you; he will never permit the righteous to be moved.” – Psalm 55:22 (ESV)

Who’s Winning the Rat Race?

Today you get to hear from Randy. It’s always a special treat when he writes a devotion. I know you will be blessed!

Do you sometimes feel like you’re on a treadmill? An unwilling participant in the rat race? Spinning your wheels and getting nowhere? On a hamster wheel, running as fast as you can? Putting in long hours and seeing little benefit? Do you lose yourself in hours of watching TV or cruising social media? Need I go on?

I’ve tried over the last few years to read through the entire Bible in a year. I like to read it in chronological order using this plan because it gives me a sense of how God works through history. This year, I was making my way through Lamentations just as our church was presenting a 5-week series on the same book. Lamentations was written after Jerusalem had been destroyed and the Jewish people had been scattered. It was the culmination of centuries of God’s people turning their backs toward God.

Then we get to the book of Haggai. You know, that little tiny book in the Old Testament that nobody reads. A remnant had returned to Jerusalem. There was discussion about rebuilding the Temple. They said, “The time has not come for the house of the Lord to be rebuilt.”

God speaks through the prophet Haggai:

“Is it a time for you yourselves to live in your paneled houses, while this house [my temple] lies in ruins? Think carefully about your ways:
You have planted much but harvested little.
You eat but never have enough to be satisfied.
You drink but never have enough to be happy.
You put on clothes but never have enough to get warm.
The wage earner puts his wages into a bag with a hole in it.”

“Think carefully about your ways. Go up into the hills, bring down lumber, and build the house; and I will be pleased with it and be glorified,” says the Lord. “You expected much, but then it amounted to little. When you brought the harvest to your house, I ruined it. Why? Because my house still lies in ruins, while each of you is busy with his own house.”

Ouch. That hit me between the eyes. Are we so busy trying to maintain and “get ahead” or keep our head above water that we lose sight of our true calling: To worship God. Where are our priorities? Are we so focused on our work, or school, or getting our kids to every sports activity, or just trying to get by that we lose focus of the God who made us and deserves our worship…our time…our devotion?

What if you were to dedicate some of your time to ministering to others? Or giving a percentage of your income to your local church? Or leading a small group Bible study? Whatever it is, God wants to bless us but He can’t until we dedicate our hearts, minds, and time to him.

The temple was rebuilt.

Then God said, “From this day on I will bless you.”

Is there a lesson here for all of us? I think so.

Do You Have a Critical Spirit?

We all do it. Yes, even you. Even me. We all observe someone else’s behavior at times and make an assumption about their character.  True, good character leads to good behavior. But face it, we are all human and have moments of poor judgment from time to time.

When we observe someone doing something “wrong” or “bad,” we can make the mistake of classifying that person as “bad” too. We can then begin a sad, downward spiral, thinking that the judgment we just made will predict future behavior from that person.  I am guilty of this.  We once had a neighbor who was prone to excessive drinking. The loud parties on their deck would cause me great anxiety. The language they used caused me to cringe as I realized my small sons were hearing it. I formed an opinion in my mind about these folks and then it seemed I could find something to be critical about concerning everything they did. Then one day I observed the man playing with his infant daughter and I realized there was a side of him I had never considered. Even with all his faults, that I could easily list if called upon to do so, I had to admit he had one fine quality. He loved his little girl.  What else had I missed as I so quickly concluded that the “bad” was all there was?

In the current culture, the first response seems to be to criticize anyone who doesn’t hold the same opinions as we do. And then begins the labeling. We can see it escalating on a daily basis right now. It’s as if we are sorting people and categorizing them based on what we perceive as flaws, and then we proceed to cast them aside because they don’t fit our criteria.  The fact is, there are no disposable human beings. All are loved and wanted by God.

So when we find ourselves so quick to pass judgment, perhaps we should pause and examine our own hearts. Are we guilty of having a critical spirit? Do we first, jump to conclusions, and then allow those conclusions to form our opinions of others?

“But you, why do you criticize your brother? Or you, why do you look down on your brother? For we will all stand before the tribunal of God. For it is written:
As I live, says the Lord, every knee will bow to Me, and every tongue will give praise to God. So then, each of us will give an account of himself to God. Therefore, let us no longer criticize one another. Instead decide never to put a stumbling block or pitfall in your brother’s way.” Romans 14:10-13 (HCSB)

Is there someone you are feeling critical toward? Maybe a spouse, or child, or parent? Perhaps a neighbor, or co-worker, or maybe the President?  Are you quick to form opinions about someone without giving thought to what you don’t know about that person?

My challenge to you is to think of a person you have been guilty of judging, and spend time this week praying for their wellbeing. Not a prayer that God would change their opinions to make them agree with yours, but a prayer for the individual. For their needs and fears, for their health and for their families. You might just come away remembering that they are all human beings created in the image of God and loved with the everlasting love of a Heavenly Father.

A wise quote attributed to Abraham Lincoln says, “If you look for the bad in mankind, expecting to find it, you surely will.”  

Perhaps its time to step away from the ways of the world and begin to look for the good in people.  We just might find it.

Getting Caught in the Rain Is a Good Thing

As this difficult season drags on, we are all getting a little more weary every day. It seems that there is no end in sight to the difficulties we have experienced for most of this year. We may be tempted to give up; to shut down and just coast mindlessly.

That is how it felt for me a few days ago. Early in the day, we had been faced with a difficult conversation and some challenging decisions. We felt defeated and even headed toward despair. Perhaps we would have had more energy to deal with the day’s issues if we hadn’t already been so weary from the events of the past months. At least we’d like to think so.

In the evening, we decided to go to the beach to walk and just let the troubles of the day go. It seemed like a good place to cast our cares. It had been raining much of the day but was just cloudy when we arrived on the beach. We walked for a while enjoying the shore birds and watching the waves. At one point Randy visited with a young couple while I searched for seashells. We began to notice a storm forming offshore and decided we’d best turn around since the beach is not the place to be in a storm. We quickly began our return walk to our van but not quickly enough. Before we were halfway back, the rain began and thunder rumbled over us. By the time we got to our van we were drenched.

It’s been a long time since I was caught in a downpour that completely soaked me. The rain was refreshing and I found myself asking God to send His Holy Spirit to pour into my heart and refresh my soul like the rain. Of course, our God is faithful and hears our prayers, so He did just as I asked.

What heaviness have you been struggling with lately? You don’t need to get caught in the rain for God to refresh your soul. All you have to do is be willing to surrender your burden and ask for refreshing from His Spirit.

And you can do it right now. He’s listening.

“For I satisfy the weary ones and refresh everyone who languishes.” – Jeremiah 31:25 (NASB)

“Do not be wise in your own eyes; fear the LORD and turn away from evil. It will be healing to your body and refreshment to your bones.” – Proverbs 3:7-8 (NASB)

Press On








Brethren, I do not regard myself as having laid hold of it yet; but one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and reaching forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.” Philippians 3:13-14 (ESV)

Press on. This phrase implies effort toward a goal. It calls us to focus and keep moving forward.  The prerequisite from verse 13 is clear. We can’t keep looking back if we are going to press on.

Sometimes people get caught in a trap of analyzing their past mistakes over and over in hopes that they will learn from them. But there is a danger in this habit. I won’t deny that God causes us to go through a variety of experiences to train us in godliness, but I don’t think it’s His plan for us to dwell on the difficult ones for long periods of time. The danger is looking at our mistakes and falling into a pattern of regret. The more we focus on our past failures, the more regrets we have. We can’t change the past and we don’t get to do it over. We certainly can make better life choices in the future and we can learn from our mistakes. But if we were in a race, as Paul alludes to in this passage, we would surely lose if we spent all our time looking over our shoulder to see where we’d been.

This is not to say that we are never to think about things that happened before this moment. God tells the Israelites in 1 Chronicles 16:12 to remember His marvelous works. We are supposed to remember the wonderful things that God has done in our lives. We are supposed to tell the story of God’s faithfulness to us.

But we are not supposed to dwell on our failures or even our successes.  It’s God’s marvelous works we are supposed to remember, not our own. We have to ask ourselves a question. “Is there any good thing in my life that God shouldn’t get the credit for?”

If we could follow Paul’s example and quit looking behind us—if we could focus on the goal of giving our all for the Lord—how  great an impact we could have on those around us.

No more regrets.  No more looking over our shoulders. We run toward the goal, free as the wind, with nothing to hold us back!  What a race and … what a prize!

Why a Christ Follower Should Heed a High Surf Warning

If you live near the water, as I do, weather advisories like this one are not uncommon. As I read through this information I was struck by how many parallels with life we can find in these simple words.

HIGH SURF ADVISORY – A HIGH SURF ADVISORY MEANS THAT HIGH SURF WILL AFFECT BEACHES IN THE ADVISORY AREA…PRODUCING LOCALIZED BEACH EROSION AND
DANGEROUS SWIMMING CONDITIONS. SWIM NEAR A LIFEGUARD. IF CAUGHT IN A RIP CURRENT, RELAX AND FLOAT. DON`T SWIM AGAINST THE CURRENT. IF ABLE, SWIM IN A DIRECTION FOLLOWING THE SHORELINE. IF UNABLE TO ESCAPE, FACE THE SHORE AND CALL OR WAVE FOR HELP.”

The first thing I saw was how high surf affects the beach.  Beach erosion happens gradually but during a storm or high surf, it can happen much more quickly. Have you ever stood with your toes in the sand and had the water wash over them? The sand under your feet quickly erodes away and you sink further and further into the sand with each wave.  Such a good picture of a life that is not built on a firm foundation.

Next, we see that swimming is dangerous. Riptides are a  hidden danger. The pull of the current is not visible from the shore. The energy produced under these conditions can pull even the strongest swimmer into a life-threatening situation.  The advisory recommends swimming close to a lifeguard.  In life, who is our lifeguard?  Jesus, who promises to keep us safe in every circumstance.

And what should we do if we get caught in a riptide?  The advisory says we should relax and float, not try to swim against it. In life, we face the threat of undercurrents of sin and temptation every day. Sometimes we heed the warnings and stay clear but other times we think we are strong enough that we won’t be in any danger we can’t get out of on our own. And when we find ourselves in deep water with no strength to get back to shore we look to the Lifeguard. We rest in His strength and float knowing He will rescue us.  We face the shore and call for help.

It all reminds me of an old hymn that sums it up nicely.

My Hope Is Built

My hope is built on nothing less
than Jesus’ blood and righteousness.
I dare not trust the sweetest frame,
but wholly lean on Jesus’ name. 

Refrain:
On Christ the solid rock I stand,
all other ground is sinking sand;
all other ground is sinking sand. 

When Darkness veils his lovely face,
I rest on his unchanging grace.
In every high and stormy gale,
my anchor holds within the veil.
(Refrain) 

His oath, his covenant, his blood
supports me in the whelming flood.
When all around my soul gives way,
he then is all my hope and stay.
(Refrain) 

Jesus tells us clearly that our lives need  stability that only He can provide.

“Everyone then who hears these words of mine and does them will be like a wise man who built his house on the rock.  And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house, but it did not fall, because it had been founded on the rock. And everyone who hears these words of mine and does not do them will be like a foolish man who built his house on the sand. And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell, and great was the fall of it.” – Matthew 7:24-27 (ESV)

My If List








checklistWP_20150705_16_34_51_ProDo you have an “if” list? I do. It’s that list of conditions in my head that prevents me from serving God right now, right where I am—with the resources I already have.

I hear the debate going on in my head. If I had more money, I could give more. If I was more organized I could have more time to devote to God. If…the list goes on and on.

Other’s lists would be different than mine. Their lists might contain things like, if I could only find the right husband, if I could live in that city, if I could live in that house or neighborhood, if only my health would improve, if…if…if…

When we fill our “if” list we build up road blocks that prevent us from being effective for God. We find ourselves just waiting for the perfect conditions and THEN we can do what God is calling us to do. What we are really doing is stalling and finding excuses that keep us in our safe, predictable lives. Until all the conditions we have listed are met, we feel justified in waiting. After all, doesn’t the scripture say “wait on the Lord?”

But of course, waiting on the Lord and procrastination are not the same thing. One is a directive from the Lord not to run ahead of him. The other is our own inclination to drag our feet. We need to land somewhere in the middle. Willing to pause and let God lead but not to sit down and do nothing until we decide the conditions are right. Frankly, if you are walking close to the Lord, He will have you doing things you never thought you would do and in the most unlikely circumstances.

So perhaps it’s time we looked honestly and closely at our own lists. Are there ideals that we need to dispel? Things we need to let go of?

What’s on your “if” list? Are you willing to tear up that list of distractions and move forward with the Lord? There’s no time like the present.

“I hasten and do not delay to keep your commandment.”Psalm 119:60 (ESV)

“Do not say to your neighbor, “Go, and come again, tomorrow I will give it”—when you have it with you.”Proverbs 3:28 (ESV)

The Umbrella of God’s Love

We’ve had  a lot of rain lately and that means pulling out the umbrellas. I don’t think we see as many umbrellas now as we used to. It seems that people are not too concerned about getting wet. Some would rather run and hope to avoid a few raindrops than bother with getting the umbrella out. Others would rather just get wet knowing that they will dry eventually so what’s a little rain?

Consider for a moment that God’s love is like an umbrella that He places over you. You can come under His umbrella and be protected from all kinds of evil and danger.  You can be shielded from the hurts of life.

Life under God’s umbrella isn’t perfect. Just because you are under His covering, it doesn’t mean that you are never affected by evil or the ugliness of this world. When it rains, sometimes the dirty water splashes on you even with your umbrella up. Life is like that. Sometimes we are touched by evil and sin and we must make the best of it.

But there is something we should never do. We should never choose to step out from under God’s umbrella thinking that a little of the evil in our world won’t hurt us. We should resist the temptation to just make a run for it on our own, thinking that whatever we encounter will eventually evaporate like a spring rain.

God has offered us His umbrella of love and under His shelter we are safe. Always choose to remain in His care.

Does it look like rain? Don’t leave your umbrella at home.

“There will be a shelter to give shade from the heat by day, and refuge and protection from the storm and the rain.” – Isaiah 4:6

“He who dwells in the shelter of the Most High will abide in the shadow of the Almighty. I will say to the Lord, “My refuge and my fortress, my God, in whom I trust.” – Psalm 91:1-2

How Can You Bear Much Fruit?

This week in my Bible reading plan I am in Isaiah. I try to read through the Bible every year and I always learn something new, that I didn’t see before. This week it was one short verse in Isaiah 37.

“The surviving remnant of the house of Judah will again take root downward and bear fruit upward.” – Isaiah 37:31 (CSB) 

I pondered this verse and got curious about trees that bear fruit. Most fruit trees don’t bear fruit for at least 2 years and some varieties up to 8 years after they are planted. What are they doing during those years? They are growing strong roots and sturdy branches. I watched a video of a man sharing his “trick” to get fruit more quickly than normal. His secret? Lots of fertilizer and water. Not much of a secret. If you feed a plant you will cause growth.

Isn’t it the same with us? If we want to bear fruit—spiritual fruit—we have to feed the roots. How do we do that? Simply spending time with the Lord and in His word. We can’t expect much fruit, or good quality fruit if we neglect to feed our spiritual roots. We need to feed on God’s word and allow the Holy Spirit to bring streams of living water into our lives.

Does your fruit seem a little shriveled and tasteless? Feast on God’s word and watch what happens.

“My Father is glorified by this: that you produce much fruit and prove to be my disciples.” – John 15:8 (CSB)