Tuesday, December 7, 2021

Week Forty-Nine - What Time is It?

Before you start reading, please take a good look at the picture below. It was shared on Facebook and caught my attention. You see, I have been praying about a situation for several years, and this past week God began opening doors for me to start walking through, or as the illustration shows, the time had come to start walking to the other side. 

I'm sure you can relate. We've all had times when we have prayed and prayed about a situation only to hear God tell us to wait - the time is not right. Maybe you are at that point now? Perhaps you have a need or prayer request that is being met with a "wait" or a "not yet."

Here's what I can tell you from my experience. 

First, waiting can be a hard place. The enemy wants you to become unsettled, try to figure things out for yourself, make moves to manipulate the situation or get things going. But if you do that, like Sarah and Rebekkah, you will be moving ahead of God - you won't walk across to the place God has planned for you, but you'll arrive in an area of more turmoil and incredible difficulty.

Waiting also requires wisdom. Wisdom to know the difference between pushing and trusting. Wisdom to keep your heart with all diligence. Wisdom to rest in the promises of God and not lose hope.

Waiting is also a private place. Some prayer requests are very personal. Opening them to the public before God reveals the answer only creates anxiety and pressure. Better to wait with hope and watch for God's hand than to make loads of noise.

When His glory shall be revealed - when God shows His hand, when He begins moving, you rejoice. Joy rises in your heart and you understand that your prayers are being met.

One verse, among many the Lord gave me while I have waited, and am still waiting, is Psalm 119:49, "Remember the word unto thy servant, upon which thou hast caused me to hope." To me, this verse means I can rest my hopes in what God tells me. Through prayer, His Spirit, and His word, He gave me instruction to wait - He confirmed that with promises and encouragement along the way. And every time my heart grew anxious, He spoke gently and confidently to me through His word.  

Psalm 27:13, 14 is another short passage that resonates in my ears as I wait. "I had fainted, unless I had I had believed to see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living. Wait on the Lord: Be of good courage, and he shall strengthen thine heart: wait, I say, on the Lord." To faint means to quit, but I also see it as having a weakness of heart, or to lose heart. Waiting long holds that temptation. But God assures me of His goodness, His purpose, and His instruction again - just wait.

And the promises of God abound while I wait. "No good thing will he withhold from them that walk uprightly" (Psalm 84:11). "Call unto me, and I will answer thee" (Jeremiah 33:3). And many, many others. I rested my hope in the word of God.

So, I waited and prayed, like the woman pleading for crumbs or the man asking for bread at midnight, and God assured me through His word that He heard my prayer. There's a tremendous little portion on persistent prayer in Isaiah 62:6, 7, which reads, "ye that make mention of the Lord, keep not silence, and give him no rest, till he establish, and til he make Jerusalem a praise in the earth." Now that's God's instruction for prayer! Give Him no rest! Keep praying. And when you get the answer to wait - wait. But when it comes to mind again - pray.

It is tempting to grow anxious and begin to think you are a fool for waiting, but this truth remains - God knows our need, and He has a plan. But, unfortunately, we sometimes just have to wait. This is because the hands of the clock aren't yet in the right place.  And remember, God knows our request before we even begin praying for it, He uses it to teach us more about Himself, and He already knows how it will all work out.

Now, as I see the anticipation of the answer to my prayers, I am thankful I have waited. But, I am also willing to continue waiting if need be, and when the hands of the dial are in the exact place, God will lead me across.

Dear friend, if you are in a place of waiting, content yourself. Don't fight against the Lord; just wait. Don't fret and stew; just wait. Don't lose hope; just wait. God will show Himself mighty to deliver in ways you cannot imagine. He rarely works things out the way we devise anyway. His plans are always for a greater purpose than just rescuing us from our situation. We'd be happy with just that, but He moves that we might glorify His name. He answers prayer that we might testify to His greatness. He meets our needs that we might be drawn to trust Him more fully.

So what time is it?  It is time to seek the Lord. Time to trust and wait. It is time to believe that all things truly do work together for good to those who love the Lord and are willing to entrust their lives and desires to His perfect will while they wait.

Wednesday, December 1, 2021

Week Forty-Eight - Getting Ready to Go!

In November, Tom and I traveled home for a reunion with the Gritts family that lasted four full days. Now, that's a lot of reunion, food, and fun! The following week we visited with old friends, more grandkids, and my side of the family. Those two weeks were packed full of sweet memories.

I got to thinking about the anticipation leading up to our journey. Back in January, when we traveled, things were very different. Then, we were traveling due to a bereavement, and the hurdles of traveling during Covid made everything difficult and expensive. But this time, things were much easier, and the expectation of a joyful reunion carried us through every flight.

You know, all of us who know the Lord will soon take a trip of joy with every expectation of a safe arrival and a great reunion. That trumpet will blow, and we will be ushered into the presence of our loving Lord. But what are we doing in preparation?

We ought to be getting ready to go! That would mean laying aside things that spoil the trip, like fear, unforgiveness, or a sour attitude. Sorting your baggage is another good idea. You won't be taking anything with you, so why let stuff bog you down now? Listening to the news and being duped into thinking this old world has the final say is to be listening to the wrong announcements. But oh, the joy when we lift our eyes and look to the future with anticipation and readiness.

The Bible talks about trimming our lamps - getting that Holy Spirit oil stored up and letting our lights shine brightly. It speaks of preparing our house - of putting things in order and knowing we are right with God, ready to stand before Him unashamed. It also calls us to be watching - looking for His appearing. And it talks about lifting Him up so others can also find the way.

Maybe you haven't even made your booking? If you don't know the Lord, now is the time to get that done, too. Today is the day of salvation. There is no need to wait for a better time. Eventually, we will all stand before the Lord. Better to have prepared now because there is no opportunity later.

So, what are you doing in preparation? Have you accepted Christ? Are you getting ready and bringing others with you or plodding along with your knees dragging in the mire of this world?  The future is bright, my friend, when you know the Lord. So, let's get ready to go!

Tuesday, November 23, 2021

Week Forty-Seven - Why?

This morning I had a couple hours to myself. So after tea, toast, and a bit of a jigsaw, I settled down to my Bible reading in the book of Job. Did I tell you I love the book of Job? It is full of interesting illustrations and honesty. Before I get to what I found today, let me share with you some things I already marked in my Bible.

Job 5:26 says, "Thou shalt come to thy grave in a full age, like as a shock of corn cometh in in his season." Isn't that a cool illustration? The ear of corn is ripe, fully formed, ready to pop with sweetness and plenty. That is what we are like as we age. At least, that is how God looks at it!

Job 5:2 reads, "For wrath killeth the foolish man, and envy slayeth the silly one." How true!

Job 7:20 is brutally honest. Job says, "I am a burden to myself." Ever felt that way? I have. Yet, I'm so thankful God didn't see me as a burden and still carried me through. How about you?

Job 9:11 is another place we have all been. "Lo, he goeth by me, and I see him not: he passeth on also, but I perceive him not." God can seem elusive, but even if we can't see Him, He is still there! He never leaves or forsakes.

Well, I was in chapter twenty-three today. In verse 2, Job's complaint is bitter and his burden heavy. But where is God? Job can't find Him. He wants to argue with God about his situation and hear what God would say. Yet, even in the midst of his complaint, he knows God would not beat him down but instead, strengthen him (vs. 6).

He continues looking for God in verses 7-9 and then rests himself in this truth from verse ten. "But he knoweth the way that I take: when he hath tried me, I shall come forth as gold."

So, Job decides to remain steadfast and trust in God's word (vs. 11, 12). Because he knows God has a perfect plan (vs. 13, 14). Though Job might be troubled and afraid of what God's plan includes, he knows it is God at work, softening Job's heart and stirring up his life, even though he wonders why he was left alive and why God allowed this trouble.

We sometimes wonder about life too, don't we? We complain and argue, can't see the why, how, or way through our trial, but look at where Job laid his resolve. God will strengthen. God knows where we are and has a purpose for our good in everything we experience. So we can choose to trust His word, His truth, even though we don't have the answers to "why?".

Next time you are struggling to find the answer to your why remember Job. It's okay to question but come to the same place. Verse 14 reads, "For he (God) performeth the thing that is appointed for me: and many such things are with him."  Only God knows the reasons why. 

I wrote in my journal, "Though I have no comparable heavy trial, I choose again to trust the Lord."

How about you?

Wednesday, November 17, 2021

Week Forty-Six - The Seed Fiddle

There is a lovely TV show here in England called The Repair Shop where people bring in items with sentimental value to be restored or repaired by experts. It's a fascinating show. 

One night a man brought in a farm implement which he called a Seed Fiddle. I'd never seen one before. Let me see if I can explain what it looked like. It had a bag for holding seeds and a leather strap to go over the shoulder of the user.  At the front of the implement, there was a cog that was moved by a long bow being drawn back and forth at a steady pace. The cog dispensed the seed while the user walked down the row of the field. The moving of the cog and bow caused a type of whine or music. Hence, it is called a Seed Fiddle.

So why am I telling you that? Well, it caught my imagination as I thought about scriptures speaking of sowing seed.

Jesus tells the parable of the sower in the Gospels. The sower casts his seed and it falls in various places with different outcomes.

Psalm 126:5,6 teaches us the value of sowing seed in relation to evangelism. "They that sow in tears shall reap in joy. He that goeth forth and weepeth, bearing precious seed, shall doubtless come again with rejoicing, bringing his sheaves with him."

Ecclesiastes 11:6 encourages us to be sowing at all times. "In the morning sow thy seed, and in the evening withhold not thine hand: for thou knowest not whether shall prosper, either this or that, or whether they both shall be alike good."

We are instructed to sow for ourselves as well. "Sow to yourselves in righteouness, reap in mercy; break up your fallow ground: for it is time to seek the Lord, till he come and rain righteousness upon you." Hosea 10:12

John 4:36, 37 tells us we are all working together in this effort. "both he that soweth and he that reapeth may rejoice together. And herein is that saying true, One soweth, and another reapeth."

But with all our sowing, one truth remains. 1 Corinthians 3:6, "God gives the increase."

So how is your sowing?  Is it liberal and consistent? Do you make a joyful noise as you scatter the word? Or do you need a bit of repair?

Wednesday, November 10, 2021

Week Forty-Five - Helium for my Soul

How burdened down do you feel? Are you dragging yourself through today and dreading doing the same tomorrow? Does everything feel too heavy? Well, let's take a look at Matthew 10:28-30.

"Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.
Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart;
and ye shall find rest unto your souls.
For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light."

Such a tremendous promise! And, such a powerful truth!  Just look at what this verse is saying.

Come to Him if you are tired and burdened down.  Come, and He will give you rest.

But what do we do? We forge on. We keep our to-do list revolving and go to bed exhausted. Our yoke of self-management is heavy and wearing us down, yet we can't seem to schedule in time to come before the Lord.

Take my yoke, He says. Learn of me. I'm not like you.

And, He isn't! Yet we don't seem to want His yoke because that would mean letting go of our plans. We avoid learning of Him because He is so opposite to our experience. Meekness and lowliness are not the call of the day. It takes fortitude, fighting, demanding, and all sorts of prideful emotions to live in our world. How would we ever survive if we were meek and lowly? So we press on feeling heavy and burnt out. 

Rest for your soul? Jesus really says He can give us that?

Yes, He does. But it doesn't come when the to-do list is complete or when we run off for a vacation. Instead, it comes in the heat of the day when we realize what this verse is telling us. 

Come in the middle of your exhaustion. Come when the battle is hottest. Come when you recognize it is all too much. Stop! You are creating yokes the Lord never intended you to carry.  

Come back to your center. Back to His sufficiency for His yoke is easy, and His burden is not heavy.

He brings us to the light; we struggle in darkness. He gives purpose; we wander in confusion. He gives confidence; we hesitate in doubt. 

This verse isn't just about exchanging weight for lightness. It is about learning a different way to do life. Here's what I've found. When the road gets heavy, when frustration is my bed-fellow, or I catch myself intently scheming and planning, I know I am carrying the wrong yoke.

The yoke of Jesus looks like this - it is God-sufficient instead of self-sufficient. Is God-reliant instead of self-reliant. It is praiseworthy instead of burdensome. It is hopeful instead of disheartening.

All I have to do is look at the outcome of my efforts, and I can see if that yoke is mine or His. 

So where are you today? Is that yoke around your neck one you placed there yourself? Are you unwilling to let it go? Why not lay it aside and pick up a gentler one?

Dane Ortlund wrote, "What helium does to a balloon, Jesus' yoke does to his followers." Let Him lighten your load.

Tuesday, November 2, 2021

Week Forty-Four - He Who Hesitates Loses

Tom and I enjoy watching old Western movies. These black and white films with villains and outlaws, heroes and heroines are somewhat predictable but still entertaining. Must usually, when the bad guy gets confronted with exposure, he hesitates. It's a dead give-away that he is guilty. 

I got to thinking more about this when I read this statement in my devotion. "Mixed motives make for slow responses." (Chris Tiegreen) The author uses the example of the invalid at the pool of Bethesda.  He's been there for thirty-eight years, waiting to be healed. Jesus asks him a simple question. "Wilt thou be made whole?" "Do you want to be healed?"  You would think a resounding "Yes" would be his answer, but no.  The man hesitates and gives an excuse. "Sir, I have no man, when the water is troubled, to put me into the pool: but while I am coming, another steppeth down before me." (John 5:7)

How many times are we guilty of the same? We have an apparent need, but we hesitate. Why? The devotion brought up the idea that maybe the man feared the dramatic change healing would bring. After all, there would be questions about how he was healed. And he doesn't seem to realize he is speaking to Jesus. Or, if he does, he knows the religious leader will not be pleased. Either way, he hesitates.

Are we like the invalid? We say we want deliverance from our sin, but we can't take our eyes off them. We say we are finished with our lousy attitude but continue thinking negative critical thoughts. We want our prayers answered but wonder if freedom will mean we don't get the same attention or sympathy? We ask for the filling of the Spirit but remain scared to death of what might be asked of us. We love freedom but are comfortable captives. When confronted with faith, we hesitate.

Our response reveals our underlying motives. Sometimes we don't even recognize them, and when we do, we hesitate and shy away, fearing exposure, unable or unwilling to address and abandon them. Jesus, as he did with the invalid, speaks directly to us. He is brutally and lovingly honest. Do you want to be healed? Then you must lay aside these undercurrents and rise, take up your bed, and walk. Following Christ is an unhesitating action. 

We need not fear. Our Lord knows our hearts, just as He knew the heart and apprehension of this man at the pool.  And we are the same, unable to mend ourselves, hesitant to believe Christ can, but challenged to believe.

Lord, expose and remove ill motives from my life. I see them in little flashes that cause me to feel guilt and hesitate to follow, but you see me through and through with deep and genuine love. Purify my heart and motives by your word and help me to not hesitate but follow faithfully.

Tuesday, October 26, 2021

Week Forty-Three - Captivated

When reading through your Bible is an annual exercise, you begin noticing how God weaves golden threads in even the darkest of books. For example, Isaiah is a book of woes and judgment but interspersed are precious jewels of hope and praise that captivate your thoughts and energize your soul. So pick up your Bible, and let's go through a few verses as we mine out some diamonds.

Isaiah 32:17 promises God's people peace, quietness, and assurance forever. 33:6 tells us that wisdom and knowledge are where we find stability, strength, and treasure. In 33:22, we read our Lord is the judge, lawgiver, and King. He will save us. 34:16 assures us God's word will not fail. And in 35:4, we are told to be strong because God will avenge, recompense, and save. He will come!

Not bad for just five verses, huh? But let's read on.

Isaiah 40:4 is a great verse. Here God says He will make the crooked places straight and the rough places smooth. What a tremendous promise. In 40:8, we are again assured that His word will stand. And no matter how long it takes, 42:4, He will not be discouraged but keep working to His plan. 42:8 tells us God is determined and will not give His glory to anyone else. In 46:11, God affirms His purpose and determination. So, 43:5, we need not fear because He is with us. 43:1, we are His.

Along with these encouraging and affirming promises is a repeated phrase, 44:8, 45:6, 46:9, etc. - "I am the Lord, and there is none else."

Through all the woes and judgments, God points His saints to hope, faith, and confidence in His word and ability. We are living in a time of great turmoil and uncertainty. Would we not be wise to draw on the promises and assurances here in the book of Isaiah to help us stand? I think so.

David knew the power of the word to sustain him during hard times. He also knew where to place his hope, "Hope thou in God for I shall yet praise him." (Psalm 42:5)

In Psalm 119:49, 50, David wrote, "Remember the word unto thy servant, upon which thou hast cause me to hope." Are you that focused? Hoping solely in God's promises?

Let's be captivated by the Word and our God because - there is none else.