Wait A Little Longer

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I stood there tapping my toes impatiently.  “Come on!” I muttered under my breath as I watched the timer tick down. 5 . . . 4. . . 3 . . . 2 . . . 1.  Then the shrill “beep, beep, beep.”  About time!  My breakfast pastry was finally done!  I popped open the microwave door and juggled the hot food.  Then it dawned on me.  I just told a microwave to hurry up.  I couldn’t wait a minute and forty-five second wait for my breakfast.

In our hurry-up society, we hate waiting.  Doctors’ offices, the DMV, a child who’s late coming home – they all make us a little crazy as precious minutes –or – hours tick away.  Perhaps you know the anxiety of waiting days for test results, or for a phone call after a job interview.  Or maybe your waiting has stretched beyond minutes and days to months and even years.  And you’re not waiting on a doctor or a kid or a phone call.  You’re waiting on God.  You’ve been praying.  And praying. And God delays.  You haven’t gotten a closed door.  But you also haven’t gotten an answer yet.

You’re in good company.  Revelation tells of some folks who are also waiting on God.  They are “the souls of those who had been slain because of the word of God and the testimony they had maintained.  They called out in a loud voice, ‘How long, Sovereign Lord, holy and true until you judge the inhabitants of the earth and avenge our blood?’” (Revelation 6:9-10).  They are waiting for God to do what they know He alone is able to do – but isn’t.  Sound familiar?  “God, You can do this, You can fix this, You can stop this.  But You aren’t.”

The Scripture says that “each of them was given a white robe, and they were told to wait a little longer . . .” (v. 11).  When God tells us to wait it is because He intends to act.  Are you waiting for God?  Have you been praying for a long time with no end in sight?  Oh, please, don’t despair.  Our Father doesn’t tell us to wait in vain.  And He doesn’t tell us to wait unless there’s something worth waiting for.  Beloved, will you “wait a little longer?”

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Thy Will Be Done

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Recently a friend asked me about prayer specifically about why some prayers are answered and others are not.  And how should we pray? And what about God’s omniscience and sovereignty?  And what does that mean for our prayers when a loved one has cancer or is seriously injured, or a young person is facing a frightening diagnosis?   I know he is not the only one asking these questions.  I have asked them.  And so have you.  I told my friend that I don’t have the best answers, but I have the Bible and that’s where we’ll find them.

Paul said, “Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God” (Philippians 4:6).  James counseled, “You do not have because you do not ask” (James 4:2).  And our Lord told us to “Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you.”  He assured us: “For everyone who asks received; he who seeks finds; and to him who knocks, the door will be opened” (Matthew 7:7-8). We have God’s approval to “approach the throne of grace with confidence,” (Hebrews 4:16).  And nothing is off-limits – we are encouraged to pray about everything.

So what happens when we pray and the situation goes the other way?  My confidence in God and in prayer was severely shaken when my Mom was diagnosed with cancer.  I grabbed hold of Matthew 21:22: “If you believe, you will receive whatever you ask for in prayer.”  No one ever prayed harder than I prayed that God would heal my Mom, and no one ever believed stronger than I believed that He would do it.  My mom died.  What happened to “you will receive whatever you ask?”  Was my whole-hearted-faith still not enough?  Or did Jesus not mean what He said?  The fact is, prayers don’t always get answered the way we hope.  What do we do with that?

We go to the garden with Jesus.  Just before his betrayal and death, Jesus prayed with deep earnestness for this cup of suffering to pass from Him.  He knew His Father had the power to take it away.  He said, “Abba, Father, everything is possible for You.”  Everything – curing cancer, healing broken bodies, taking away suffering.  But he came to the one prayer that God will always answer: “Yet not what I will, but what You will” (Mark 14:36). “Not my will, but Yours be done” (Luke 22:42).  “May Your will be done” (Matthew 26:42).  My friend shared that more and more, this has become his prayer too.  I also have learned the value and peace that comes with this prayer.  Because it is not a prayer of resignation – it is a prayer of trust and of confidence that God’s will, whether it agrees with my desire or not, is “good, pleasing and perfect” (Romans 12:2).

Sometimes we pray and God miraculously answers – this past year has been living proof for me.  But sometimes we pray, and God says, “No.” which, by the way, is still an answer.  My Mom’s grave is proof of that reality.  I don’t know why.  What I do know beyond any shadow of doubt is that I will continue to bring every petition to God, I will ask, and seek, and knock, and then I will put it all in His hands and surrender it to His will.  And I will trust that He is good.  For my friend and for all of us who pray the prayer of Jesus in the garden – may the Father’s will be done.

Don’t Let the World Change Your Song

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“He put a new song in my mouth, a hymn of praise to our God” (Psalm 40:3).

For many years I sang in church choirs.  I am not a great singer, but I always tried to “make a joyful noise unto the Lord” (Psalm 98:4).  I am an alto – I sing on the low female range.  I remember one church choir I was in, I was seated with a soprano to my left, a tenor directly behind me on my left and a bass directly behind me on my right.  Everyone was going in different vocal directions and I had the hardest time staying on my alto notes. Because the soprano was a strong singer, I was constantly being pulled in her direction.  I spoke to our choir director, and he told me he didn’t want to move me, but he did give me some good advice.  He told me to concentrate more on my note – and to lean just a little towards the alto to my right.  He said that he could hear me singing the correct notes, but at the same time, he could tell that I was listening to all the other singers around me and losing confidence in myself.  I will always remember what he told me, “You’re on the right notes, but you have to stay focused and not back off.”

I think about that often when the world is loud and I’m struggling to stay on the right way.  Many different voices are saying many different things, and they are apt to draw me away from what I know is true.  The culture wants me to embrace things that God’s Word has clearly forbidden.  The scholar wants me to trade truth for worldly philosophies that have no regard for God.  The unsaved world wants me to stop singing God’s praises altogether.  My choir director’s advice rings loud and clear: stay focused. Concentrate on what you know is right and true; lean in to godly wisdom and don’t back off.  This world is becoming more evil and more vocal every day. If we are not intentionally listening to God, you and I will be pulled away from what is right and true.  I love this word from Paul to his protégé Timothy, “But as for you, continue in what you have learned and have become convinced of” (2 Timothy 3:14).  Stay the course.  Focus on the truth.  Let God’s Word drown out the voices of the world. The way of righteousness has not changed just because the music around you has. Beloved, don’t let the world change your song.

Pray and Never Give Up

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“We didn’t have enough money for our rent last month.  I prayed to God for help, and the next day, this unexpected check showed up in my mail – just enough to cover the rent!”

“Amen!  God is so good!  Who else can testify?”

“God healed my sister from cancer – her scans showed several spots in her lung, but when the doctors went in to remove her lung – there was nothing there!”

“Glory to God!”

I sat there in my chair, trying my best to rejoice with these testimonies of God’s action in the lives of these precious women.  But I didn’t have a victory story.  I had a long, drawn-out prayer that God seemed to be ignoring.  I had been lifting this before Him for several years and it seemed that heaven had shut the door on me.  My friend sought me out after the gathering – she knew of my long-standing prayer and she knew that, while I was happy for these ladies, my heart was heavy for my own situation.  She tried her best to encourage me while I washed serving spoons in the kitchen.

“Don’t give up your prayers,” she said with a hug.  “God will be faithful to you too.”  Then she told me “When you get home spend some time reading 1 Kings 18 – I think it will encourage you.  I’m praying with you and for you.”

I gathered my purse, Bible and the used kitchen linens and headed out the door.  At home I made a cup of coffee and headed to my porch swing with my Bible.  Pushing my feet against the wooden porch floor, I set the swing in motion and flipped to the story of Elijah, the Old Testament prophet of God.  In this chapter of his story, the land had been under a long drought, and because of the drought a severe famine had taken many lives. Elijah pointed his finger directly at the problem – the wickedness of King Ahab and his queen, Jezebel and of the nation of Israel that followed them into the worship of Baal.  Elijah proposed a challenge: the God of Heaven and Earth against Baal.  The priests of Baal prayed and danced and cut themselves all day to entice their pagan god to set fire to the sacrifice on the altar.  No response.  No fire.  No god.  Elijah prepared the same sacrifice, and even drenched it with water, making it an even greater challenge.  With one prayer “the fire of the Lord fell and burned up the sacrifice, the wood, the stones and the soil, and also licked up the water in the trench” (v. 38).  Instant answer to prayer!  That’s the God we like to see!

After this victory, Elijah declared to Ahab that the same God that burned up the sacrifice would bring the rain the land so desperately needed.  He went to the top of Mount Carmel with his servant and began to pray.  “‘Go and look toward the sea,’ he told his servant.  And he went up and looked. ‘There is nothing there,’ he said” (v. 43).  Not a single cloud in the sky. Elijah had no evidence that his prayer was going to be answered – except for God’s word. The Lord had told Elijah “‘I will send rain on the land’” (v. 1).  Elijah sent his servant back to scan the skies. Seven times.

God said it would happen. So look again.

And again.

And again.

And again.

And again.

And again.

And again.

And the seventh time the servant saw a tiny cloud “as small as a man’s hand, rising from the sea” (v. 44).

Unlike his prayer at the altar, this prayer was not answered instantly.  Elijah had to persist and trust the word of the Lord.  There are two things we can take away from this story:

  1. Watch and pray until the Lord answers. When Jesus said, “Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you” (Matthew 7:7), the phrases were given in the present, active form: ask, and keep on asking; seek, and keep on seeking; knock, and keep on knocking.  Be persistent in prayer, knowing that your God is faithful.
  2. Don’t overlook the small answer – it may be the first sign of a great blessing coming your way. Elijah recognized the hand of God in the cloud the size of a man’s hand.  He knew that this was the first sign of God’s promise being fulfilled.  That tiny cloud signaled the beginning of the end of the drought as “the sky grew black with clouds, the wind rose, [and] a heavy rain came” (v. 45).

The truth is, many years later, I still have not received the answer to my long-held prayer.  But I’m still praying.  My best friend prayed for her son to come to Jesus for more than 30 years.  And God saved him just a couple of years ago.  She never gave up on her son because she never gave up on God.  Beloved, I don’t know what you’ve been praying for nor how long you’ve been praying, or if you’re even still praying.  But I know that God is faithful – in the short-term and in the long-term.  He has never failed.  He’s not about to fail you.

“He who asks receives; he who seeks finds; and to him who knocks, the door will be opened” (Matthew 7:8).  Jesus said “always pray and never give up” (Luke 18:1).  Friend, you can take Him at His word.

Have You Drifted Away from Jesus?

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I have several cousins on my Dad’s side – folks I haven’t seen since my childhood.  We used to get together and play from sun-up to sun-down when we made the trip home with our parents.  We never fought or argued, we were having too much fun.  We ran through the fields or played dolls in grandma’s back bedroom.  We sat on her front porch swing and made up silly songs.  We ate all our meals together, sitting at grandma’s Formica table.  We often piled up in one bed together at night just so we could start the day together again.  Then we all grew up and I stopped making the trips back home. I haven’t seen those cousins in more than thirty years.  I remember some of their names, but we could share a seat on a bus today and I doubt that I would recognize them – or they me.  They will always be my cousins, but the fun times we had together as kids can’t sustain a relationship now after so many years apart.

I fear that many folks have the same kind of relationship with Jesus that I have now with my cousins. Every Sunday found you at church – God’s house – with your parents.  You played with your church friends and shared cookies and Kool-Aid and wiggled in your chair watching the flannel-board Bible story.  You sang “Jesus loves me” and meant every word.  But you grew up, and Jesus became less important and now you remember the name, but not the person.  And it shows – in your language, your habits, and your choices.  You and Jesus hung out together a lot when you were a kid, but that can’t sustain a relationship now.

Jesus said we must remain connected to Him – “I am the vine; you are the branches.  If a man remains in me and I in him, he will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing” (John 15:5).  Branches that separate from the vine wither away and die.  So do people.  Beloved, Jesus longs to welcome you home.  He wants to share more than cookies and fruit punch, He wants to share His life with you.  He wants a real relationship with you that will enrich your life today and endure for all eternity.  He’s right where you last saw Him.  Won’t you come back to Jesus?

Messiah over my Messy Life

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Confession: I am not the best housekeeper. It’s not that our home is filthy, but mostly cluttered; it’s not exactly fit for the cover of Southern Living. Perhaps I should just entertain folks on my back porch to keep them from seeing the inside. Heaven help me if they need to use the bathroom! As much as I want to hide my messy home from others, I also want to hide my messy life from Jesus. I don’t want Him to come past the porch and see the clutter, the dust, and the dirt. Can you relate?
Here’s the problem with that – the Bible says that unless we open the door to Jesus and allow Him entry into our lives – yes our messy, un-Jesus-looking lives – we don’t really have a relationship that will sustain us. He said, “Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with him, and he with Me” (Revelation 3:21). Tea and cookies on the porch won’t feed our hungry souls. Jesus desires a full, deep and abiding relationship with you and me.
But what will He think when He steps over the threshold and enters our tattered, cluttered, dirt-encrusted lives? How can we ever explain to Him the mud and the muck that has crept into our hearts? I cringe just thinking about all the junk and trash He will have to walk over. But here’s what I know about my Jesus – wherever He is allowed to enter, He brings His transforming power with Him. Somehow, when His feet step over the welcome mat of our heart, His robes sweep away the dirt and dust. He brings with Him the cleansing we so desperately need. By His blood we are washed, and, to our astonishment, our hearts become pure and fit for His presence.
Beloved, Jesus will not glare at the mess in your life and order you to clean yourself up before He will come in. He comes to make you clean, to make you whole; to transform you heart, your life and your world into a place of order and beauty. Do you hear Him knocking? Won’t you open your life to Jesus?

(P.S. – NO – this is NOT a picture of my kitchen!)

Just Believe

 

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“Don’t be afraid; just believe” (Mark 5:36).

Jesus spoke these words to Jairus, a synagogue ruler and more importantly, a father.  His 12-year-old daughter was desperately ill, and he had sought out Jesus to come and heal her.  This was great faith, especially for one entrenched in the Jewish hierarchy.  On their way, Jesus was delayed by an old woman who had suffered for many years.  Jesus stopped to heal her, and during the interruption, Jairus’ daughter died.  Can you imagine the swirl of emotions and thoughts this father was experiencing?  Grief, despair, heartache, disappointment, fear, and let’s be honest, probably some anger at Jesus and the old woman for wasting his daughters’ last living moments.  One emotion we know he wasn’t feeling was hope.  One thought he wasn’t having was belief.  But that is exactly what Jesus said to him: “Don’t be afraid; just believe.”  It was much the same words he spoke to Martha at the tomb of her brother, Lazarus: “Did I not tell you that if you believed, you would see the glory of God?” (John 11:40).

Did you notice what Jesus didn’t say?  He didn’t say, “Believe that your loved one will be raised from the dead.”  “Believe that I’m going to do a miracle for you.” He said explicitly to Martha, and implicitly to Jairus – “Believe in Me.”  He told Martha, “I am the resurrection and the life.  He who believe in me will live, even though he dies; and whoever lives and believes in me will never die.  Do you believe this?” (John 11:25-26).  “Martha, believe in Me.”  “Jairus, believe in Me.” Don’t believe in an outcome.  Believe in Me. It took faith to call for Jesus to heal a dying little girl and a dying brother.  But Jesus asked for greater faith, because He was going to accomplish a greater miracle that simple healing.

Beloved, what has “died” in your life?  What did you pray for and hope for day after day after day until there was no reason to hope anymore?  Are you sure about that?  Can you believe still?  Not in an outcome, but in Jesus – the I AM. If it only takes faith the size of a grain of mustard seed to move a mountain[1], then surely you and I can muster enough faith to believe in Jesus who has proved Himself over and over and over again.  Remember, we are not believing Jesus for anything we need, we are believing Jesus is everything we need.

“Don’t be afraid, just believe.”

Lord, hope in You is hope that never dies.  You are everything I could ever hope for.  Please help me keep my heart focused on You alone.

[1] Matthew 17:20

In the Morning

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I wait for the Lord, my soul waits. And in His word, I have put my hope.  My soul waits for the Lord, more than watchmen wait for the morning.  More than watchmen wait for the morning.  Psalm 130:5-6

 If the past eighteen months have taught me anything at all, it is that waiting on the Lord is never futile.  It may be uncomfortable, it may be nerve-wracking, and even a bit frightening, but it always ends with blessing.  I have also learned that the key to waiting is to put my hope in God – not in an outcome, but in the Person.  The outcome I hope for may or may not come to pass.  But I can put my hope in God because He never fails.

 The Psalmist understood that as he talked about watchmen waiting for the morning.  The city slept as the watchman kept vigil.  His responsibility was to be alert for any possible danger.  It was an intense and exhausting job.  And he couldn’t wait to see the sunrise so he could go home to his bed.  As he stood guard in the black of night, he never once doubted that the morning would come. It came yesterday.  It came the day before that and the day before that and all the days before – all the way back to the day when God said, “Let there be light” (Genesis 1:3).  It was dark through the night, but the morning never failed to come.

 You and I can hope in God through the night because He never fails to come in the morning.   He comes just as surely as the sun rises morning and morning.   Even more than this – He is the reason the sun rises morning after morning.  Yes friend, God always comes.  No power in heaven or earth could keep him from coming, not even death. 

He comes every morning with new mercies (Lamentations 3:23).

He comes with glory (Exodus 16:7).

He comes with redemption (Ruth 3:13).

He comes with listening ears (Psalm 5:3).

He comes with rejoicing (Psalm 30:5).

He comes with strength (Psalm 59:16).

He comes with wonders (Psalm 65:8).

He comes with unfailing love (Psalm 143:8).

He comes with a sustaining word (Isaiah 50:4).

He comes with justice (Zephaniah 3:5).

He comes with resurrection power (Luke 24:1-6).

He comes with daily provision (John 21:4).

He comes with His Holy Spirit (Acts 2:1-4).

He comes with the Morning Star (Revelation 2:28).

 

He comes with peace.

He comes with joy.

He comes with promise.

He comes with faithfulness.

He comes with unfailing love.

And when you hope in Him, He comes with even more hope.

Beloved, are you surrounded by the darkness of a long night?  Put your hope in the Lord.  Morning is coming.   Like the sun that rises at dawn, He always comes.  Keep watching.  Keep waiting.  Keep hoping.  The Lord your God is coming.

When You Struggle with Prayer

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Are you satisfied with your prayer life? Here’s my confession: For the past several years, I have struggled with prayer. I know it is powerful and vital in the life of the believer, but for some reason, I haven’t been as disciplined in it as I once was. Somewhere, somehow, prayer became less of a daily priority and more of a fire extinguisher.  But over the past year, and through the influence of my prayer-warrior sister-in-love, God has pricked my heart to return to prayer and daily sweet communion with Him. May I share a something that has helped me greatly?
Pray God’s Word back to Him. One reason I drifted from prayer is because I just didn’t know what to pray over certain situations or people. The issues were overwhelming and long-standing and I honestly didn’t know what to say.  Jesus said that if we pray according to God’s will, He will hear us and grant us our prayer. What better way to pray His will than to pray His Words? I searched the scriptures for prayers and promises that I can pray over these issues and over my loved ones and it has make me bolder, more confident, and more faithful in prayer. For example: I know it is God’s will that my loved one “be rooted and established in love . . . and be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God” (Ephesians 3:17-19) and “be filled with spiritual wisdom and understanding, pleasing the Lord in every way, bearing fruit in every good work, with great endurance, patience, joy and thankfulness” (Colossians 1:9-14). I used to think that prayer meant I had to give God a detailed list of all the problems, and my heart just became heaver and heavier as I went.  But now I hone in on what I know He wants for my loved one and trust that, when these things are fulfilled in his life, the problems will also be resolved. That’s powerful praying my friends.  To borrow from Charles Spurgeon, that is “simply asking for what He has already faithfully promised.” I hope this encourages you to grow deeper and more faithful in the discipline of prayer. 
I’ll meet you at the altar Beloved.