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Tagged ‘Waiting‘

When Hope Seems Lost

The huge crowd pressed forward, surrounding Jesus and his disciples. Jarius pushed through the throng. He jostled his way to the front of the pack. As the leader of the synagogue, he knew better than to barge through, but the need was urgent. Death had come to the door of his home. At any moment, his daughter might breathe her last. In a final desperate act, he threw himself at the feet of Jesus.

With arms upraised, he pleaded with Jesus. “My little daughter is at the point of death,” he cried. “I beg you, come and lay your hands on her, so that she may be made well and live.”

Time stood still as Jarius waited for a reply. But Jesus barely looked down at the man. Without breaking stride, Jesus and the disciples continued on. In a moment, the wave of people swept past him as he knelt on the ground.

Jarius jumped to his feet and pushed forward in the throng, trying to make his way back to Jesus. If his request were denied, he would have no hope. He had just humbled himself before the Rabbi, and it seemed his request had been completely discounted. He reeled from the knowledge his cry was unanswered.

He had almost caught up when Jesus stopped and asked the crowd, “Who touched me?” Jarius was frustrated and confused. Seriously? I just begged you to save my dying daughter, and you ignored me? Yet in a crowd this size, someone touches you and you stop to find out who it was? It was inconceivable.

Jesus looked around to see who had touched him. For a moment Jarius thought Jesus might see him and respond to his request. But his hopes were crushed again. Jesus looked right through Jarius, and his gaze stopped on a woman who cowered behind him. Jarius watched in astonishment as the realization spread that his plea was unheeded.

Time stopped. Jarius could hardly breathe. His opportunity had come and gone. It was obvious Jesus had moved on. Now Jesus spoke with a woman. To think, a rabbi speaking with a woman! How could Jesus ignore the request of the leader of the synagogue, but give his full attention to an insignificant woman? There was a commotion in the crowd. The woman had needed to be healed. Somehow power had gone out of him when she touched the hem of his garment.

Jesus looked at her and said, “Daughter, your faith has made you well; go in peace, and be healed of your disease.”

In an instant, she was healed! The crowd received what they came for. The rabbi had miraculously healed again! The news spread through the throng. They looked at one another as excitement leapt from face to face. While everyone else celebrated, Jarius stood motionless. His request had been denied, and yet the Rabbi had taken the time to heal someone else. A woman, no less. It made no sense.

He felt a tug on his sleeve, and he turned to see one of his household servants. The servant looked him in the eye, and for a moment neither said a word. Even before he spoke, Jarius knew. He could see it in his eyes. “Your daughter is dead,” he said. “Why trouble the Teacher any further?”

Jarius fought to maintain his composure. Finally, he could hold it no longer. Tears streamed down his dusty cheeks. His body shook. He struggled to silence his sobs.

An odd quiet settled on the crowd. Jarius looked up to find everyone looking at him. Jesus had turned to him as well. He looked down to avoid the stares. He was embarrassed. He smeared the tears from his face with the back of his hands. He tried to compose himself, but his daughter was dead. His efforts had failed. The only one who could help had entirely disregarded his pleas. He could not look Jesus in the face.

But Jesus looked directly at him. He had overheard the servant. He knew. He understood. He had seen Jarius humble himself before him. And though it appeared he had snubbed him, Jesus had another plan in process.

Jesus moved closer to speak to Jarius face to face. “Do not be afraid,” he said. “Only believe.”

What happened next would be retold for generations. For in the moments that followed, Jesus went to Jarius’ home and raised his daughter from the dead.

Adapted from Mark 5:22-43, ESV.

Jarius’ experience is an example for all of us. We pray. We ask God to intercede. We believe he will make a difference. We fall at his feet in our desperate moments and cry out to him. But it seems as if nothing happens. To make it worse, we see God at work around us, meeting needs in other people’s lives, while our needs go unmet. In these moments, what do you do? What will you do when your request goes unanswered?

I share Jarius’ story with you because it illustrates an important truth. In our moments when we feel our prayers are overlooked, Jesus comes to us with two simple commands: Do not be afraid. Only believe.

It speaks to the heart of one of the most difficult aspects of waiting on God: unanswered prayer. Volumes are written on this topic, but the bottom line is this: We don’t know why God chooses to answer some prayers while other requests seem to be disregarded. We do know the words Jesus spoke to Jarius thousands of years ago apply to us today. When hope seems lost, he comes to us in our frailty. He speaks to us in our moment of devastation. His words echo across generations. “Do not be afraid. Only believe.”

I take comfort knowing Jesus understands my humanity. He knows my fears, so he reminds me not to be afraid. He knows my faith falters, so he reminds me to believe in him. His understanding and kindness are a treasured gift. It is a gift he gives to you as well.

My friend, perhaps you have cried out to God only to feel your request has gone unnoticed. You see God at work around you, while your need lingers. Have hope. The end of our story has yet to be written. We do not know what the outcome will be. While we have no guarantee, we will see the resolution we long for, we do know God is in control. He is kind. He is good. As we wait on him, we choose faith over fear. We choose to believe, even when it seems hope is lost.

While we wait, remember: Sometimes God heals. Sometimes God raises from the dead.

Do not be afraid. Only believe.

This article was originally published in the March 2017 Newsletter.

Waiting For A Change

What do you do when you are waiting for God to do a work in someone else’s life? Perhaps someone you love is making poor decisions. Maybe they have turned away from God, and the consequences are piling up. Possibly it is a wayward child or a wandering spouse. It may be a friend for whom you care deeply. You’ve offered counsel, but it was thrown back in your face. Even with the offense, you are still clinging to hope that they will change. But hope is fading. It is daunting to wait while you watch them struggle.

Wait anyway.

Tucked away in the Old Testament is a short little book called Lamentations. It is only four chapters long. You can read it in one setting. Most scholars believe the prophet Jeremiah is the writer of this text. He writes of Jerusalem, his beloved home. His brokenness over the state of the city bleeds throughout the book. The imagery is haunting. The city is in utter ruins. Piles of stone mark the spot where proud buildings once stood. There is no food. The people are starving. Children beg for crumbs. The children that perish are eaten by their own mothers. It doesn’t get much worse than that.

It is in this context that Jeremiah walks us through his beloved home, street by street, alley by alley. He describes in brutal detail the rubble that once was a beautiful, thriving city. Think of it as his version of Aleppo, the city currently destroyed in the civil war in Syria. Verse by verse he describes the devastation. Then, in the midst of his lament, a strange thing happens. He pauses, and we wait to hear what he will say. He gathers himself as if looking back to a familiar truth. A small glimmer of hope appears. A single shaft of light pierces the gloom. This is what he says:

“But this I call to mind, and therefore I have hope: The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases; his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness. ‘The Lord is my portion,’ says my soul, ‘therefore I will hope in him.’ The Lord is good to those who wait for him, to the soul who seeks him” (Lamentations 3:21-25, ESV).

Jeremiah loved Jerusalem. Surely he had cried out in prayer to God. Surely he had interceded for the people he loved. He had pleaded for them to repent, to turn back to God. But in their stubbornness, they had refused to change.

How Jeremiah must have hurt to stand by and watch, knowing that if there were no change judgment would be swift and thorough. Can you imagine how deeply he must have felt this? I can, and I think many of you reading this know this feeling as well. We cry out to God on behalf of those we love. We beg God to intercede. We speak loving truth to the wayward. We know that if there is no change, judgement will follow.

In my own life there are times when a situation I am facing seems to drag on and on with little change. I pray, “God, what do you want me to do?” He replies, “Wait.” To which I answer, “Really, God? Anything but that.” I imagine God chuckles. Frankly, I laugh at myself as well. For in that moment I see God at work in my life. And if the only work I see God doing is the work he is doing in me, then I am okay with that. I will wait on God. I will put my hope in him. Because he is good, and he is kind.

In the midst of the waiting, God is loving. God is merciful. Day after day he refreshes me with mercy equal to my need. I continue to hope in him. He is enough for me. He is good to those who wait for him to move, to those who seek him with abandon. I am reminded that I am not God. I am not, nor will I ever be, in control. I cannot fix others. Fixing others is the sole domain of the Holy Spirit. I cannot transform anyone. Unfortunately, I am action oriented. I want to get in there and fix it. I’m a guy. That’s what guys do. We fix things. It is part of who I am, and it can frustrate me when I am faced with the fact that I am helpless to change the ones I love.

What I can do is to bring that person to God. I remind myself that the steadfast love of the Lord never ceases; his mercies never come to an end. Morning by morning I bring that one to the feet of Jesus and cry out for him to do a work in their life. Even after Jerusalem had experienced the judgment of God, Jeremiah still held onto hope that there would be change. The same should be said for you and me.

As I wait on God, continuing to pray, I put my hope in him. That makes all the difference. I put my confidence in knowing that the words Jeremiah wrote still ring true today. Jeremiah’s hope came from reminding himself of the character of God. He washes himself with thoughts of God’s love. God’s love is steadfast and never ceases. He is always merciful. Every morning God gives me enough mercy and love for the day ahead. He is faithful. He is my portion. He is good to all who wait for him. Therefore I will hope in him.

My friend, what is the situation in your life that is weighing you down? Who is the one for whom you are praying? You’re exhausted from carrying this burden. You’ve come to the place where you realize there is nothing else you can do except to wait. Wait anyway. Don’t give up or give in. Pray. Have hope in God.

When someone you love is struggling, and there’s nothing left to do, try waiting for a change.

This article was originally published in the February 2017 Newsletter.

The Consequence of Unbelief

Moses rose from his sister’s grave and slowly walked back to the camp. He lowered his head as he made his way through the tents. He avoided making eye contact, but he could feel the people’s stares burrowing into him. The multitude he was tasked to lead had taken a toll on him. He was emotionally bankrupt. He had not even had time to mourn his sister’s death before the people were back to their bickering. Their squabbling was like a whining insect in his ear, always annoying with no way to make it stop. He had little left to give. He was extremely frustrated with them. But more importantly, he was frustrated with God.

His frustration with God was easy to understand. It was God who had called him to this miserable task. It was God who had led them into the wilderness. It was all God, but in the eyes of the people, it was all Moses’ fault. Now the whole congregation had assembled together against Moses and his brother Aaron. Their words were cruel and cutting as they heaped blame on him.

“Would that we had perished when our brothers perished before the Lord!” they sneered. “Why have you brought the assembly of the Lord into this wilderness, that we should die here, both we and our cattle? And why have you made us come up out of Egypt to bring us to this evil place? It is no place for grain or figs or vines or pomegranates, and there is no water to drink.”

Silently Moses and Aaron turned and went to the entrance of the tent of meeting. They fell on their faces, prostrate before God. In a moment, the glory of the Lord appeared to them. At last, God spoke.

“Take the staff, and assemble the congregation, you and your brother Aaron, and before their eyes tell the rock to yield its water. So you shall bring water out of the rock for them and give drink to the congregation and their cattle.”

Moses took the staff from before the LORD, as he commanded him. Then he and Aaron gathered the assembly together before the rock. Inside he was fuming. When at last silence spread across the group, he glared at them and shouted above the crowd, “Hear now, you rebels: shall we bring water for you out of this rock?”

At this, Moses lifted up the rod with his hand and struck the rock. A loud crack rang through the air. Again he lifted the rod and struck the rock, and again the blow reverberated through the air. The sound echoed across the wilderness. Immediately water gushed out. The thirsty throng surged forward, cupping the water in their hands, filling their parched mouths with the cool sweet water. A shout of joy erupted through the congregation as the water filled the pool below.

The sound of Moses’ striking the rock was also heard in heaven. But instead of joy, sadness began to seep from the throne room of heaven as God the Father considered the consequences of this singular act.

Finally God spoke to Moses and Aaron. “Because you did not believe in me, to uphold me as holy in the eyes of the people of Israel, therefore you shall not bring this assembly into the land that I have given them.”

The people drank like wild animals, oblivious to what had just transpired in the heavens. Moses slowly closed his eyes. A tear filled the corner of his eye. Finally it spilled over and traced a wet line down his weary, dusty cheek.

(Adapted from Numbers 20:1-12, ESV).

When I consider this period in Moses’ life, I am filled with sorrow. I cannot comprehend how devastated he must have felt. His sister Miriam had just died. The sand mounded on her grave had not even settled. Add to this the ongoing pressure of trying to lead a multitude of unruly people through the desert. Surely he was emotionally and physically drained. In his humanity, he did the unthinkable. Instead of following what God has said to do, he took matters into his own hands.

The consequence was staggering. Instead of joining the people when they finally took possession of the land that God had promised to them, he was only allowed to see the land from afar. He would not step one foot on the land. Can you imagine? After all the problems, all the complaining people, all the wandering, because of this one act he was not allowed to enter.

If you are like me, you question why this is such a big deal. Gratefully, in his response to Moses and Aaron, God tells us why this matters. This is what he says:

“Because you did not believe in me…”

Let that sink in for a moment. Do you understand the consequence of unbelief? Do you understand that when you chose to live your life apart from God’s design that there are consequences?

Trusting God is not optional. Following God is not discretionary. We don’t get to decide when it is right to obey, and when to do it in our own way. It is all or nothing. Doing the right thing in the wrong way is always the wrong thing to do.

As I walk by faith, I’ve chosen to live my life completely reliant upon God. Many years ago I made a commitment to rely solely upon him. As God has led me in my relationship with him, I do not share my needs with others. I bring my needs to him, and then I wait for him to provide however he sees fits. This is non-negotiable for me. It is not that I am more spiritual than others. In fact, it is the opposite. I know how unspiritual I can be! I know my humanity! I know I can make emotional decisions. I know that when I am physically exhausted I can make horrible choices. I’m aware that I can easily try to manipulate others to get what I want. I actually find security by following God in this way. It sets a boundary for me in my walk with God. It minimizes my humanity. Sometimes that means I have to wait. But for me, the difficulty of waiting on God is easier than dealing with the consequences of unbelief.

As we live by faith, you and I have similar opportunities presented to us. Like Moses, we hear the word of God. We move forward in faith, believing what God has said, he will do. Then trials heap upon us. We grow weary. We feel a deepening frustration. “What if…” We begin to doubt. It’s only human. My friend, in these moments be very, very careful. When you are emotionally drained, or when you are physically exhausted, the enemy will tempt you to take things into your own hands. These are the moments when the enemy will question your confidence in what God has said.

In these moments, choose to have confidence in the word of God. Believe that what he has said is true. He will be faithful. Wait patiently for him. Do what he says to do, when he says to do it.

Remember, the consequence of waiting is always better than the consequence of unbelief.

This article was originally published in the June 2016 Newsletter.

Ishmael Moments

Abram sat in the door of his tent and pondered the idea. His wife Sarai had come to him earlier in the day with a radical thought. She was barren and longed for a child. She also had a handmaid, an Egyptian, whose name was Hagar. What if Abram took Hagar as his wife? She could be a surrogate mother for Sarai. It made sense. It was logical. It also interested Abram because ten years earlier God has promised him that he would be the father of a great nation. At this point, he was childless. Perhaps this was a way that he could see the fulfillment of the promise. It was an intriguing thought.

After much internal debate, at last he consented. It made perfect sense. It would solve so many problems. Abram took Hagar as his wife. In time, she bore a son. The son’s name was Ishmael. The world would never be the same. Unfortunately, this child was not the fulfillment of the promise God had made years earlier.

Abram would later be renamed Abraham. Sarai would later be renamed Sarah. Twenty-five years after the original promise, Abraham and Sarah saw the true fulfillment in the way God intended. Against all odds or human reasoning, Sarah gave birth when she was ninety-one years old. They named the boy Isaac. The nation that would come from their union would become the nation of Israel today.

Today, the religion adhered to by most of Ishmael’s descendants is the fastest growing religion in the world, Islam. Ishmael’s descendants fill the ranks of ISIS, Al Qaeda, and Hamas. If only Abram had been willing to wait on God! How different would our world look today?

In Abram’s reasoning, he had figured out a way to help God. I call these moments “Ishmael Moments.” They are the moments when we debate giving God a hand in fulfilling his promises. They never end well.

Last month I wrote about the idea that when we follow God by faith, sometimes faith and obedience go hand in hand. We obey in faith when we have a clear directive from God. But what do you do when the path forward is not so clear? You’ve been praying and seeking God’s direction. Perhaps you think you have figured out a way that you can help God fulfill his promise. It makes sense. It is completely logical. Be very, very careful. You may be experiencing an Ishmael Moment.

Let me be very clear here. God does not need my help in fulfilling his promises! Obedience? Yes. But God does not need me to figure out how I can make his promise a reality. This is where I think many of us struggle. I know I do.

I have a situation in my life right now. I have prayed about it extensively. I have seen God at work in other areas of my life, so I know he is aware of my circumstances. I believe his promise regarding the situation. But I feel stranded in the Valley of Wait. As I waited, I figured out a possible solution. Then I brought my idea to God. I prayed, “Hey God, what if I did this? What do you think?” All I got in response was silence. Undeterred, I continued to pray about my solution. After all, it just made sense. So I repeatedly asked God about my idea. I sought counsel from other godly friends, but no one had any clarity on the issue. I read the word of God looking for advice. Zip. Nada. Nothing. Still I continued to pray! Surely my idea had merit. Surely it would be a blessing if I helped God out. It was so logical, but it was not from faith. It was an Ishmael Moment.

So why does God cause us to wait? Why does God drag out the fulfilling of a promise in our lives? Perhaps he is waiting for us to learn a lesson.

Thousands of years after that pivotal moment for Abram, Paul faced a great trial when he was ministering in Asia. He briefly mentions it in his second letter to the church in Corinth. This is what he says:

“For we do not want you to be ignorant, brothers, of the affliction we experienced in Asia. For we were so utterly burdened beyond our strength that we despaired of life itself. Indeed, we felt that we had received the sentence of death” (2 Corinthians 1:8-9, ESV).

That is quite a trial! The affliction was so severe that they felt completely helpless. They had even lost hope that they would survive the situation. In their minds, they felt like they had been sentenced to death. This is no small trial we are talking about. Perhaps you can relate.

What is important to note is Paul’s understanding of the value of the trial. He says, “But that was to make us rely not on ourselves but on God who raises the dead” (2 Corinthians 1:9, ESV). God’s purpose in the situation was to bring them to the point where they understood their reliance must be in God alone, not in their own abilities. This is very important.

When you and I face Ishmael Moments we have a choice to make. Will we figure out a way out of the situation, or will we rely on God alone?

When I read Paul’s words the other day, it was a moment of clarity for me regarding my own challenge. I immediately saw what God was trying to teach me through this time of waiting. My reliance must be in God alone! There is no room in this equation for me to help God out with my own great ideas. It must be God or nothing. Either God will come through, or I will continue to wait until he does. For me, learning to rely on God alone is far more important than a resolution of my situation.

My friend, what is your Ishmael Moment? What is in your life right now that you are trying to figure out? The situation has dragged on and on. It feels like God has forgotten you. As time has worn on, you’ve come up with a solution that you think will help God out. Right now you are debating whether to move forward or not. For some reason, however, there is no clarity, no clear word from God on what you should do. It may be your Ishmael Moment. You have a choice to make. Will you wait to move forward until you have a clear word from God? Will you rely on God alone, or will you try to give God a hand? Choose carefully my friend. The consequences could be more devastating than you could possibly imagine.

This article was originally published in the February 2016 Newsletter.

Waiting for direction

When I left the airport it was already past 10:00 p.m., and I was looking forward to getting settled into the hotel for the night. The day had been long. I was tired from leaving home, driving to Tampa, parking the car, taking the shuttle to the airport, navigating security, boarding a flight, switching planes in Atlanta, boarding another flight, arriving in Manchester, New Hampshire, and getting my rental car for the ride to the hotel.

In the parking garage at the airport, I pulled up the map app on my phone and typed in the address to the Motel 6. It took a moment for the GPS to load, but soon the directions to the hotel were displayed on the screen. I set the phone to start navigating, and in the darkness of the car I heard the automated voice say, “Turn left onto Airport Road.” I turned out of the parking lot and onto the road exiting the airport.

That was when it happened the first time. I had set the phone where I could see the map of the road as I was driving. The little navigation arrow is supposed to show you where you are on the map and let you know where your next turn will be. But as I looked at the screen, nothing was happening. The little arrow was frozen still. The map was not refreshing. I was quickly coming to a roundabout and I could only guess which direction I was supposed to go without the aide of the GPS. I turned right, hoping it was correct. But a few moments later the GPS came back to life and told me to turn around at the next possible opportunity. I was going in the wrong direction. I turned the car around and drove back to the traffic circle. This time I exited the proper road and followed it along, still trying to make my way to the motel.

Unfortunately, this scenario was repeated over and over again. Clearly something was wrong either with my phone or the map app. Every mile or so I would hear an automated voice drone, “GPS signal is lost.” I had no idea where I was going. I would pull off the road, reset the phone, get the GPS to connect again, and start back on my journey. This happened over and over again. Frustration grew with every delay. I was helpless without the directions. I was tired. I just wanted to get to the hotel, but I was completely lost without some guidance along the way. Finally, I sat in the car on the side of the road and in exasperation I spoke to God.

“You know, God, this is great,” I said. “This is exactly how I feel in my relationship with you. I keep coming to you for direction, and I am not talking about the motel. I’m talking about my relationship with you. I don’t know the way I should go. All I keep hearing is, ‘GPS signal is lost.’ I keep feeling like I am disconnected. I try to reconnect with you, but the next thing I know I feel lost again. All I want is direction, so this is perfect, just perfect.”

As I sat on the side of the road with the engine idling, I imagined somewhere in the heavens, God smiled, not in a mean way, but in an all-knowing kind of understanding of my situation. You see, this is not the first time he has heard this prayer. He has heard it for centuries.

In fact, if you look back about 5,000 years you can hear a similar prayer spoken by Moses as he led the people of Israel through the wilderness. They were following God. God even made the path extremely clear by providing a pillar of cloud during the day and a pillar of fire during the night to hover over them. When the pillar moved, they moved. When the pillar stood still, the people stayed put. This is how Moses describes it:

“And the LORD went before them by day in a pillar of cloud to lead them along the way, and by night in a pillar of fire to give them light, that they might travel by day and by night. The pillar of cloud by day and the pillar of fire by night did not depart from before the people” (Exodus 13:21-22, ESV).

But even with this dramatic display of the presence of God directing them, Moses still got frustrated with God. Moses didn’t just need physical direction; he needed direction on how to lead the entire nation. You may remember that Moses and the Lord used to speak face to face as a man speaks with a friend. It was a remarkable relationship. But even with this kind of connection with God, Moses still gets frustrated. On one occasion Moses said to God, “See, you say to me, ‘Bring up this people,’ but you have not let me know whom you will send with me. Yet you have said, ‘I know you by name, and you have also found favor in my sight.’ Now therefore, if I have found favor in your sight, please show me now your ways, that I may know you in order to find favor in your sight. Consider too that this nation is your people” (Exodus 33:12-13, ESV, emphasis added).

Can you hear the frustration in his voice? I can. Because sometimes that is how I feel as well. I believe God has shown his favor on my life. I believe he has given me the gift of his presence so clearly in my life. I relish my relationship with him. Yet sometimes I feel frustrated and cry out, “Please, show me now your ways! Show me the path. I need your direction.”

Look also at the final phrase in Moses’ statement. “Consider too that this nation is your people.” When I read that, I nearly laughed out loud. It is as if Moses is saying to God, “Oh, and by the way, this whole ‘Nation of Israel’ thing, that was your idea, not mine.” That’s funny!

I think it makes me laugh because at the core of it, sometimes that’s how I see my life and ministry as well. It may surprise you to know that I could gladly quit the ministry, buy a sailboat, and sail off into the sunset. Really. I do this ministry thing only because I believe it is what God has called me to do. So in times of waiting, I tend to want to say with Moses, “Oh, and by the way, this whole ministry thing was your idea.”

Gratefully, God understands our weaknesses. I am thankful for his patience when mine is failing. God patiently listens to Moses’ complaint and then answers with a simple phrase.

“My presence will go with you, and I will give you rest” (Exodus 33:14, ESV).

Moses replies, “If your presence will not go with me, do not bring us up from here. For how shall it be known that I have found favor in your sight, I and your people? Is it not in your going with us, so that we are distinct, I and your people, from every other people on the face of the earth?”

And the LORD said to Moses, “This very thing that you have spoken I will do, for you have found favor in my sight, and I know you by name.”

Moses said, “Please show me your glory” (Exodus 33:15-18, ESV).

I am aware that I am quoting a lot of text from this passage. But I have shared this for a reason. A subtle shift happens here in this dialog, and if we are not careful we can miss it. But it is very, very important.

In the beginning of his conversation with God, Moses cries, “Please, show me your ways. Give me direction!” God patiently reminds Moses that his presence will go with him and that he will give him rest.

Upon understanding the presence of God is with him, Moses changes his request. This time he asks God to show him his glory. It is an understated but important shift. Moses was reminded that the presence of God was with him. When he remembers this, he no longer cares where he is going or how he is going to get there. He only cares about who is going with him. He only wants to see his glory. “Please,” he says, “show me your glory. Show me who you are. I want to know you.”

Friend, it is possible that God leads us to wait in order to bring us to the place where we long only to know him more, to see his glory unveiled in our lives. We desire to know his direction for our lives. But instead of giving us direction, he leads us to the place where we care less about where we are going and instead focus on who is going with us. In reality, where we are going really doesn’t matter, only that he goes with us.

I am reminded of Jesus. Remember that he was God in the flesh, the same God who sat and talked with Moses face to face, who walked among us and breathed the air that we breathe.

Thomas, one of the disciples, was speaking with Jesus. “Lord,” he said, “we do not know where you are going. How can we know the way?”

Jesus said to him, “I am the way…” (John 13:5-6, ESV).

This, I believe, is the conclusion to the matter. In our moments of weakness when we feel like we are sitting on the side of the road waiting for direction, God comes to us and reminds us that he is near. In our awareness of his presence, suddenly the direction we are going becomes unimportant. He himself is the way. He is enough. He is sufficient. Because I know him who is The Way, I no longer need to know the way.

My friend, God knows exactly where you are. In his wisdom, he sees the entire landscape set out around you. Better than that little arrow on the GPS, he knows where you are. He is not disconnected from you. In fact, it is quite the opposite. He is with you. It is possible that he has allowed you to be in a place of waiting so that you will find that his presence is enough. When you find his presence is near, then you know he is there with you in the waiting. Find him to be enough. Find that his presence is more important than anything you could be doing. Rest in him. Come to the place where you cry out for his glory instead of his direction.

I eventually made it to the hotel. What should have taken 20 minutes to drive took me almost an hour. But I did finally make it. Along the way I did learn an important truth. When you’re waiting for direction, where you are going is less important than who is going with you.

This article was originally published in the August 2014 Newsletter.

Patiently waiting on God

As I write this, it is the beginning of the second week of July. I am about three weeks behind in getting the newsletter devotional written. Every month I write the devotional for this newsletter and then send the completed article to my friend Carl DuBois, who edits it for me. Then he sends the article back to me, and I forward it on to my Administrative Assistant, Jackie Schaa, who formats the newsletter for the website and prepares the email version of the newsletter to be sent out at the beginning of the month. All of this takes time, and all of it is dependentLuke upon my getting a devotional written in a timely fashion.

So why is this month’s devotional so long overdue? It is because I have been in a holding pattern for the past few weeks. I’ve been waiting on God for direction on what he would have me to share. But it is not just the newsletter devotional that has been in a holding pattern. It seems like many areas of my physical life and ministry life are in the waiting phase as well. It is frustrating at times. I am a type-A, get-it-done kind of guy. I don’t like to sit still. But that is where I feel I have been for the past few weeks. I’ve been waiting on God and feeling like I’m sitting in a fog in the process.

All of this leads me to today. This morning I was reading in Luke’s gospel and came upon what we commonly know as the parable of the sower. In this parable, Christ compares different types of people and the impact of the word of God in their lives to different types of soil into which seeds are sown. This is what he says:

“As for that in the good soil, they are those who, hearing the word, hold it fast in an honest and good heart, and bear fruit with patience” (Luke 8:15, ESV).

I like everything but the last two words in that verse! I like the idea of hearing the word. I like the idea of holding it fast in an honest and good heart. I like the idea of being the kind of person who is productive and bears fruit. But with patience? Not so much!

Here, I think, is where many of us struggle. We are trying to follow God. We are trying to live our lives according to the word of God. We are in relationship with him. We cry out to him for needs in our lives and the lives of those we love. We rest in his promises. We expect him to intercede. We anticipate the moment when God moves heaven and earth to answer our prayers.

And then we wait.

And then we wait some more.

And if you are like me, you have moments in the waiting when you wonder what is really going on.

Gratefully, we have many examples in Scripture of others who waited patiently on God. Over the past few days, God has been bringing to mind other figures in Biblical history that waited on God. Joseph comes to mind, languishing in a prison for years before God finally raised him up as the second highest ruler in all of Egypt. Or consider Abraham. God promised Abraham that he would make him into a great nation. At the time God made the promise to him, Abraham had no children. So he waited for God to fulfill the promise. And he waited. And he waited. And he waited. In fact, he waited 25 years for God to fulfill the promise! Can you imagine? I cannot.

The writer of the book of Hebrews tells the story this way:

“For when God made a promise to Abraham, since he had no one greater by whom to swear, he swore by himself, saying, “Surely I will bless you and multiply you.” And thus Abraham, having patiently waited, obtained the promise” (Hebrews 6:13-15, ESV).

Abraham patiently waited on God for 25 years. Now, when you read the entire story, Abraham does mess things up quite a bit during the interim when he tries to figure it out on his own. But in the end, his faith in and patience for God are still acknowledged.

What is also interesting in the passage in Hebrews are the few verses that precede this statement about Abraham. This is what they say:

“For God is not so unjust as to overlook your work and the love that you showed for his sake in serving the saints, as you still do. And we desire each one of you to show the same earnestness to have the full assurance of hope until the end, so that you may not be sluggish, but imitators of those who through faith and patience inherit the promises” (Hebrews 6:10-12, ESV).

I found it interesting that he used the phrase, “so that you may not be sluggish.” Isn’t that often how we feel when we are in the waiting mode? We feel tired and unmotivated. We feel like we are dragging our feet though endless desert sand. It is as if the writer of Hebrews understands our humanity, the physical side of waiting on God. He acknowledges this tendency but gives us the remedy for it. We have the full assurance of hope until the end. We imitate others who through faith and patience inherited the promises made to them. We do the same things they did. We chose to live by faith. We chose to be patient.

I write this today knowing that many folks reading this are likely in a similar position. I hope that you will be encouraged to know that you are not alone. Many great men and women of God go through similar circumstances. Find your hope in God alone. Chose to have faith in a God who is bigger than your circumstances. Even when it does not make sense, wait patiently for him. You and I are not alone in our waiting. We are not the first to find ourselves in that place of waiting. More often than not, God’s timing is different than ours, but do not lose hope. Find your full assurance in him alone. Wait patiently for him. Imitate those who have gone before us in this journey with God.

I continue to learn and grow in my relationship with God and am grateful for the way I can see him at work. For now, I am finally going to get this devotional sent off to Carl, and it is about time to start thinking about what I will be writing for August! Pray with me that I will have patience in the waiting. In the meantime, I’ll be waiting with you.

Have faith in God. Wait patiently for him.

This article was originally published in the July 2014 Newsletter.

When You Are Weary

This article was originally published in the September 2013 Newsletter.

What do you do when you feel weary? We all get there at some point. Jobs wear us down, family issues pick away at our peace, or financial troubles squeeze both ends of the month like a vice. At some point, you become weary of it all. At that point, what do you do?

It may surprise you to know that I have to deal with being weary as well. I rarely speak about it except to my closest friends, but I do understand what it means to be weary.

Something changed in my mindset a couple of years ago. I really can’t tell you the day it happened, but at some point I started to become weary of being on the road, being gone for weeks at a time doing ministry. I’ve talked about it with my board members, seeking their counsel and advice. I’ve talked with pastor friends of mine, seeking their encouragement and wisdom. I’ve prayed about it countless times. Weariness. God help me. Please. There is a subtle pressure in being in a public ministry. It is possibly self-imposed, but it is there none the less, this expectation that I need to be “on” when I am with others, to be the encourager, to share my faith, to be the example. But sometimes, honestly, I get weary of it and just want to crawl away and hide.

So what do we do when we feel weary? For me, I take refuge in my relationship with God. The moment I realize I am becoming weary is the moment I pull back. I pull back from the work of ministry and focus simply on my relationship with God. It always comes back to the relationship with God. I spend more time talking with him than I normally would. I spend more time reading his word than I normally do. I focus on the relationship that matters most.

God is the strong one. I am the weak one. It is helpful to remember that. I am at my strongest when I understand how pitifully weak I really am. But God does not grow weary! He is strong beyond measure. The key then is to learn to wait on him. Consider what Isaiah wrote:

“Have you not known? Have you not heard? The LORD is the everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth. He does not faint or grow weary; his understanding is unsearchable. He gives power to the faint, and to him who has no might he increases strength. Even youths shall faint and be weary, and young men shall fall exhausted; but they who wait for the LORD shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings like eagles; they shall run and not be weary; they shall walk and not faint” (Isaiah 40:28-31, ESV, emphasis added).

It is a familiar passage to many of us, but please don’t miss the significance of what the prophet Isaiah wrote. Running ahead of God accomplishes nothing. It is those who have learned to wait for him who find the strength they need.

Why is it so difficult to wait? It is because we are prone to try and fix it on our own. We believe if we just work harder surely we can fix the situation. Our tendency is to focus on what we can do instead of focusing on what God can do. It seems so silly to just wait on God. But waiting on God is the key. The promise of strength is to those who are willing to wait.

Gratefully, Christ also gave us an example and encouragement to not grow weary. The writer of Hebrews wrote:

“Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured from sinners such hostility against himself, so that you may not grow weary or fainthearted” (Hebrews 12:1-3, ESV, emphasis added).

When we understand how much Jesus loves us and how much he was willing to endure on our behalf, then we can focus on him in the midst of our trial. He has gone before us. He understands our weakness. He knows what it means to endure. We remind ourselves of these truths so that we may not grow weary.

Allow me to share with you one final verse that has been a great encouragement to me personally. It is from the writer of the book of Hebrews again.

“God is not so unjust as to overlook your work and the love that you showed for his sake in serving the saints, as you still do” (Hebrews 6:10, ESV).

I’ve meditated on this verse countless times. I’m grateful God understands my humanity, my tendency to become weary in well doing. I’m humbled that he is “not so unjust as to overlook” the small sacrifices I’ve made that sometimes lead me to becoming weary. And I’m grateful that Jesus has set the example of what it means to give all for the sake of love. He is my friend, my companion, my love.

Perhaps you are reading this today and you can relate to the feeling of being weary. Maybe right now life is kicking you hard. I feel for you. I pray that you will be encouraged in your relationship with God. Find your refuge in him. Spend more time talking with him than you normally would. Tell him how you feel. Spend more time reading his word than you normally would. Wait on God. Focus on Jesus. Find your rest in him.

When you are weary, wait.