Waiting Well

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It seems as if we’re always waiting. Waiting for the baby to be born. Waiting for school to let out. Waiting for your kid to come home. Waiting for a call about a job or a medical test. Waiting is an unavoidable part of life. You and I need to know how to wait well. Thankfully the Bible – especially the Psalms – has a lot to teach us about how to wait.

Psalm 5:3 tells us to wait expectantly – “Oh Lord, you hear my voice; in the morning I lay my requests before you and wait in expectation.” I love how the NKJV renders this verse: “ I will direct my prayer to you and I will look up.” The heart of expectation is watching intently for what you are certain will come.

Likewise, Psalm 33:20 says, “We wait in hope for the Lord.” Hope and expectation are synonymous.

Psalm 27:14 says to wait courageously: “Wait for the Lord; be strong and take heart and wait for the Lord.” Courage is a by-product of hope and expectation. Courage is the best cure for doubt.

How long must we wait? Psalm 25:5 tells us to wait “all day long.” Wait for the long haul. Wait until we see God act. That’s why we need hope and courage.

I don’t want to include this one, but here goes: “Be still before the Lord and wait patiently for Him” (Psalm 37:7). Waiting is an act of patience and we all know how we learn patience. I’ll just leave that one there.

Psalm 119:166 adds a new wrinkle: “I wait for Your salvation, O Lord, and I follow your commands.” In the waiting, we are still obedient. Those small steps of submission will often lead to the very thing for which we are waiting.

There’s one theme in all these “waiting” verses that is key to waiting well – it’s not what we’re waiting for but whom.  Psalm 62:5 says, “For God alone, O my soul, wait in silence, for my hope is from him.” Wait for God alone. Not for the desired outcome, but for the living God of heaven. Wait for Him, not just for what He can do for you. His ways and acts are wonderful, but the true treasure is the presence of God in your life. Don’t just wait, Beloved, wait well.

The Call

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I like to look back at my Facebook memories each day. I love seeing Joy grow over almost two years. I cherish memories of friends who are now in heaven. I especially love to recall God’s hand in my life. It helps me remember His faithfulness. And I cringe at times I thought I was so intelligent and spiritual.

This morning FB reminded me that seven years ago today was my last day after 17 years of serving at Tallahassee Heights United Methodist Church. I was devoting myself full-time to seminary, Bible study, writing, and teaching. That was a huge leap of faith. But it wasn’t a decision I made willy-nilly; God called me to it and I had to obey.

A few months before I had encountered a verse that became God’s call on my life and still guides me today: “The gracious hand of his God was on him. For Ezra had devoted himself to the study and observance of the Law of the Lord, and to teaching its decrees and laws to Israel” (Ezra 7:9b-10). God said to me, “Devote yourself to study my Word, live my Word, and teach my Word.”  And that is what I set out to do and am still dedicated to doing.

But the call goes back even farther than seven years. Ten years before that I was sensing a call to ministry. I was ready – or so I thought. God had some sifting and refining to do in me first. And some major humbling. So much so that I thought He had rescinded His call and I burned all my notebooks filled with years of writings because I believed it was all over. But He was just beginning – and so was I. Today, seven years from the day I surrendered to that call, I am still studying, writing, teaching, and preparing – now in graduate school.

Why am I sharing this memory and my story? Because someone has felt God’s call in the past. You were excited about it and ready to go. But you’re still waiting and it seems like a long-lost dream. You may have had to go through some hard refining and you wonder if God has changed His mind. He hasn’t. He’s just been preparing you. Paul said, “God’s gifts and His call are irrevocable” (Romans 11:29). I’m living proof of that. Beloved get yourself ready to do what God called you to do. He’s not through with you yet.

When You’re a Long Way From Where You Thought You’d Be

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“God, I know you called me to ministry, to teach and share your Word. Why am I fluffing flowers at a grocery store? I thought there would be more to my life than this.”

Facebook memory reminded me today of a dry season in my life. I had felt God’s call more than ten years before but I was toughing it out in seminary and working at a grocery store. Every attempt I made to start Bible studies and discipling fell apart. I was frustrated and disappointed. Had I heard God wrong?

In Acts 23 Paul is under arrest for declaring the name of Jesus, accused by the Romans of inciting riots, and by the Jews of blasphemy. I often wonder if, in that prison, Paul questioned whether he had gotten it wrong too. To understand his call, you have to go back to Acts 9:15, when God declared that Paul would carry His name before Jews, Gentiles, and kings. At this moment, he is a long way from fulfilling his destiny. But then the Lord Jesus came to him in his cell and said, “Take courage! As you have testified about me in Jerusalem, so you must also testify about me in Rome” (Acts 23:11).

Paul endured multiple trials and great persecution, faced a storm at sea, and was shipwrecked and snake-bitten along the way. But Acts 28:14 says, “And so we came to Rome.” God was faithful to His promise to Paul, and he did indeed preach the Gospel and declare the name of Jesus in Rome. But there was a lot of space between the promise and the fulfillment. 

V. Raymond Edman said, “Never doubt in the dark what God told you in the light.”  As I look back at that memory, and consider that today I am working in a seminary, teaching Bible studies, teaching through writing, and continuing to prepare for something more through grad school, I realize God’s call and His faithfulness are just as true for me.

I don’t know what God has spoken over you, nor how long you’ve waited to see it come to fruition. But I do know that His promises never fail and His Word never returns void. Stand firm in the faithful nature of the Lord, Beloved, and believe that what He has declared in the light, will be fulfilled despite the darkness.

“And so we came to . . .”

Bible Lessons with My Cat

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My cat doesn’t know Jesus, but she teaches me some valuable spiritual lessons.

We keep Celina’s dry food bowl full so she can nibble throughout the day (kind of like I do), but every morning when I come into the kitchen she sits by her bowl and cries for food – even though there’s still plenty there! I dump the old food back into the plastic tub we store it in, and scoop it right back up into her bowl. This morning as I set her bowl before her I said, “Celina, you do realize that I’m giving you back the same stuff that was in there.” But she attacked it like it was something new and wonderful.

The world treats us the same way, my friends. When we cry to the world to have our desires met what we receive is the same old thing that failed to satisfy us yesterday and the day before. The world has nothing new to offer us; when we feast on worldly things we’re always hungry for something more. Only God can satisfy.

Another lesson she teaches me is about trust.  When I pick up her bowl and head to the cabinet, she follows me, sticks her nose right in the middle of what I’m doing, and watches intently to make sure I do it right.  She meows as if she’s telling me how much food to put in the bowl.  The thought occurs to me – how often do I bring an issue to God and follow Him around, giving my opinions and expectations for the solution? As if I know better than the Creator and Sustainer of the Universe. “God if You would just . . .” I’m learning – ever so slowly – to stop telling God what to do and just tell Him about the need. He never fails to come up with better solutions than I ever could.

Jesus said that those who “hunger and thirst for righteousness . . . will be filled” (Matthew 5:6). Isaiah said, “Those who wait on the Lord will renew their strength” (Isaiah 40:31). Your Father’s provision is always fresh, and He will always meet your needs perfectly – without your help. Don’t be like Celina, Beloved. Trust God to give you exactly what you need, exactly when you need it, and plenty of it.

Do You Believe?

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But as for me, I watch in hope for the LORD, I wait for God my Savior; my God will hear me. Micah 7:7

Little children become lookouts on Christmas Eve. Their ears strain for the slightest whisper of sleigh bells and they stand attentive at the window, watching and waiting for Santa Claus. They have written their letters and made their pleas for toys and dolls and bikes. The cookies and milk are ready for him. Now they watch with confident hope and expectation that Santa will come. Oh sure, they heard the big kids laughing and saying that there is no Santa, but for them, the magic is real and they still believe. But we are grown-ups and we know that Santa is just a myth. We know who actually bought the dolls and the Legos and who has to put the bike together if the kids will ever go to sleep.

We live in a world that tries to tell us that God is not real, that he is a myth, a fool’s wishful thinking, an imaginary friend. They have lost their ability to believe in the Almighty God who created the heavens and the earth and you and me – and them. They tell us we are praying to the winds, there is no one there to hear us.

 But as for me . . . I will continue to believe. I will watch in hope for God to fulfill His promises – just as He did with a Baby in a manger. I will trust in Jesus as my Savior and Lord. I will wait for Him because I know with all my heart that He is real and He is coming. I will proclaim His great name in every place and in every way. I will stand under the banner of Christ, even if no one else stands with me. And I will continue to bow my head in prayer because my God hears me. I know He is true.

Friend, won’t you come and stand watch with me at the window—I believe I hear the sounds of angels in the distance.

Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, goodwill toward men (Luke 2:14).

God Always Comes

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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 131:3

The watchman waits with expectation.  The morning came yesterday.  It came the day before that and the day before that and all the days before.  It will come today. It is dark through the night but the morning never fails to come.

You can hope in God because He will never fail to come. He has come every time you’ve had a need. It is dark in the moment but He will come.

He will come with new mercies (Lamentations 3:23).

He will come with glory (Exodus 16:7).

He will come with redemption (Ruth 3:13).

He will come with listening ears (Psalm 5:3).

He will come with healing (Luke 6:19).

He will come with power (Isaiah 40:10).

He will come with rejoicing (Psalm 30:5).

He will come with strength (Psalm 59:16).

He will come with salvation (Psalm 62:1).

He will come with wonders (Psalm 65:8).

He will come with unfailing love (Psalm 90:14).

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

He will come with justice (Zepheniah 3:5).

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

He will come with daily provision (John 21:4).

He will come with His Spirit (Acts 2:1-4).

He will come with truth (John 16:13).

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

He always comes.

He comes with peace.

He comes with Joy.

He comes with promise.

He comes with even more hope. He always comes Beloved. Will you watch and wait for Him?

Look Up!

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War. Poverty. Unrest. Disease. Hate. Violence. Shutdowns. Layoffs. Recession. Politics. Confusion. Facemasks. Distance. Disorder. Death. Sadness. Fear. Anger. And that’s just the first half of the year. It’s no wonder we are weary. I want so much to encourage you Beloved. There’s only one thing I know that will.

Jesus is coming again!

We’re not the only generation who needed encouragement. As the church took root and grew, the Roman government and the Jews began to persecute Christians. They oppressed, tormented, tortured, and put them to death.

How did they endure? With the promise of Christ’s return.

Listen to Paul: “The Lord Himself will come down from heaven, with a loud command, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet call of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first.  After that, we who are still alive and are left will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air.  And so we will be with the Lord forever” (1 Thess. 4:16-17). This was great news to the weary and oppressed Christians.

How will you and I persevere?  The same way they did.  By reminding ourselves of Christ’s promised return.  Paul closed his passionate message by saying, “Therefore encourage each other with these words” (1 Thess. 1:18).

What words? Jesus is coming again!

The prophets of old foretold it, Jesus Himself proclaimed it, and for two thousand plus years, God’s people have kept their eye on the eastern sky, watching for His glorious return. I pray that the promise of His return fills you with hope and Joy and strength to persevere in life – and in this crazy year.

Beloved, Jesus is coming again!

Waiting for the Sunrise

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How we wait is as important, if not more so, as the act of waiting itself. And whether we wait patiently or impatiently has everything to do with our vision of God.

I love this verse from the Psalms: “I wait for the Lord, my soul waits, and in His Word, I put my hope. My soul waits for the Lord more than watchmen wait for the morning, more than watchmen wait for the morning.” Psalm 130:6

It is a cry for the Lord to rescue and redeem His people Israel. The Psalmist says “my soul waits for the Lord,” and this is not just aimless waiting, it is from a Hebrew word that means “to hope in, to look for, to expect (emphasis added).” It’s the difference between waiting with doubt and waiting for something you are certain will come.   Notice that the Psalmist twice says he waits “more than watchman wait for the morning.” Have you ever gone outside before dawn, while the night was still black to see the sunrise? Would you have been out there if you didn’t think the sun would actually come up? We watch for the sunrise because we know it will come, and when it does it will be a glorious sight.

When we are in a position of waiting, whatever we may be waiting for, we must adopt the attitude of the watchman and trust that when the waiting is over, the sun will shine on our face.

So I ask you, do you trust God? Are you waiting with doubt or with expectation? Then find peace wherever God has placed you for the moment, and know that when the waiting is over and the promise comes, it will be more glorious than you ever imagined.

 

 

God’s Not Done With You

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“Dear friends, now we are children of God, and what we will be has not yet been made known” 1 John 3:2.

The children of the great composer, Bach, found that the easiest method of awakening their father was to play a few lines of music and leave off the last note. The musician would arise immediately and go to the piano to strike the final chord. His spirit could not leave the song incomplete. We all have projects we’ve started but shoved aside and left unfinished. We run out of time or funds or motivation. We lose interest and give up.

I look at my life sometimes, at all my starts and stops of Christian growth, and wonder if God has considered giving up on me. Has He just decided that I am just more trouble than I’m worth? Has He become frustrated with me (as I do with myself) and moved on to someone more capable, more intelligent, or more “spiritual” than me? Is He just going to leave me here in this unfinished state?

The Bible assures me that “He who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus (Philippians 1:6). I remember a song I taught to the children at church:

He’s still working on me

To make me what I need to be

It took him just a week to make the moon and stars

The sun and the earth and Jupiter and Mars

How loving and patient He must be

‘Cause He’s still workin’ on me

Beloved, if you are frustrated because you just can’t seem to “get it right,” don’t give up on yourself. God hasn’t. He’s still working on you.

Waiting for Jesus

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The old man shuffling through the temple courts was a common sight. You could tell exactly what time of day it was when Simeon came around. Same gait, same expression, the same sense of yearning. But today there was something different about him. He was excited, his eyes darted around and his feet moved as if every step was determined by a force outside of himself. Suddenly his weathered face lit up like a thousand candles as his arms extended towards a young couple. With Jesus cradled in his arms the old man began to speak in the sing-song voice of worship: “Sovereign Lord, as You have promised, You now dismiss Your servant in peace. For my eyes have seen Your salvation, which You have prepared in the sight of all people, a light for revelation to the Gentiles and for glory to Your people Israel” (Luke2:29-32).

Just then an old woman came up to the little group, her eyes bright with wonder and fixed on the infant in Simeon’s arms. “This is Him! This is the One! Oh, praise the name of the Lord – He has sent the Redemption of Israel!” Simeon smiled at Anna and nodded his head in agreement with her proclamation. They had both held tightly to the assurance that God would one day comfort and redeem His people and he was glad to share this glorious moment with his friend.

For the two elderly people, the baby was the fulfillment of a promise they had long held to and yearned to see. Simeon, filled with the Holy Spirit, had been assured by God that he would see the Hope of mankind before he died. Anna, widowed early in her life, had dedicated her years to worship, fasting and praying for the Messiah to come. It had been such a long time – not just their lifetime, but hundreds of years for the oppressed nation of Israel. In the temple courts that day, their faith was rewarded and they received the child with great joy.

How do you hold on when the promise of God is a long time in coming? Just like Simeon and Anna did – with faith. They never wavered in their expectations. They never stopped believing that every promise God made was as sure as His name – El Emunah, The Faithful God. Beloved, His name still stands today. You can wait in faith because God is still always and forever faithful. Christmas is the blessed proof that He will never fail to do what He says He will do.

Image: “Simeon’s Moment” by Ron DiCianna