Taking Steps Toward Change

blonde-1031534_1920It really stinks when we blow it. It stinks even more when we blow it repeatedly, and yet, if you’re like me, you keep fighting the same battles again and again. But Scripture says we’re made new (2 Cor. 5:17) and that we have everything we need, in Christ, to live godly, Spirit-led lives (2 Peter 1:3).

So where’s the disconnect? Why do I still lose patience? Say things I wish I hadn’t? Fight for my way and allow my fears, worries, concerns, and selfish ambitions to lead me rather than the will of Christ? 

When our daughter was ten, after five years of educating her at home, we felt led to enroll her in school. We knew it’d be a bit of a transition for her, but we had no idea just how difficult that transition would be. First, I hadn’t emphasized cursive (I focused more on keyboarding and computer skills), and at her new school, cursive was required for everything, from spelling words and in class assignments to homework. Then there was the whole matter of homework period, getting up and out the door in the morning, adapting to teachers other than Mom, she was young for her grade …

Suffice it to say, there were times when her little brain felt ready to explode.

And like she’d always feel behind, ill-equipped, and unable to master her new role.

One night, as I was tucking her in, tears streamed her face, and she shared her fears with me. “I’m trying, but it seems like I’ll never get better.”

Have you ever felt like that? When you look at certain behaviors, maybe how you react while in rush hour ache-19005_1920traffic, or when your child throws a fit while you’re rushing out the door, and you think, “Man! Am I doing this again? I should be past this, much more spiritual mature, by now!”

My response to you is the same as it was to my daughter, eight years ago. “You’ll get this. I promise. Just keep stepping, and give it time.”

And develop an action plan, because as the cliché goes, wanting doesn’t make it so.

The first step in anything is prayer, asking for God’s help, wisdom, perseverance, and grace. And this isn’t just a one time, “Lord, help me out here,” but rather, a practice of remaining in communication with Christ throughout the day (1 Thes. 5:17)–in an attitude of surrender. (Because what good is it to know God’s will if we don’t live it out?)

The next step is, through prayer and self-evaluation, to get at the root cause of your behavior. If you’re reacting with impatience, ask God to show you why. What are you afraid of? That you’ll be late for work and then lose your job? That your child will be late for school and fall behind? That others will be disappointed in you?

Whenever we react negatively, if we dig deep enough, we’ll find there’s a reason, and unless we address that reason, we’ll remain stuck in managing symptoms (reactions) without ever truly moving forward.

Once you’ve uncovered the reason for your reaction, replace whatever that is with truth. For example, right now I’m feeling squeezed. It’s an incredibly busy season where I feel I have more to manage than I have time or energy to do so. My fear is that I’m going to drop the ball, but more than that, as my time grows shorter, those things on my to-do list that are selfishly motivated become more apparent.

The solution, then, is surrender. To help with this, I’m focusing on (reading, meditating on, praying over, and memorizing) key passages of Scripture that are helping me to zero in on God’s will and leading in this crazy time.

My verses are 1 John 2:15-16, Galatians 5:1, 16-24. I’m camped out here, reading the same Scriptures LivebytheSpiritpassagedaily, because I know God’s Word will change my thoughts, attitudes, and behaviors, but this won’t happen overnight.

At this point, I must ask, do you memorize Scripture? If not, I strongly encourage you to start. It is incredibly powerful to be able to pause in the middle of a tense or difficult situation to pray God’s Word. The peace that follows is amazing.

Next, I’m practicing doing better. Notice I didn’t say “trying.” I suppose I could, but practice reminds me that I’m retraining myself, and the more I behave and react in line with Christ’s will, the more it becomes a habit to do so.

Finally, I’m persevering. I’ve mentioned this a few times in this post, but behavioral change, whether it’s changing the way one eats or learning how to handle conflict in a biblical manner, takes time. Often, progress comes slowly, but with God’s grace and power at work within us, it does come, until one day we’ve mastered that thing.

Then God reveals another area within us in need of growth. Ah, Christian maturity. Isn’t it fun? 😉

livingbygracepic-jpLet’s talk about this. Is there one area in your life, one challenge, temptation or character weakness/flaw you believe God may want to change? What are some ways you intentionally grow? Why do you think it might be beneficial to focus on one behavior or attitude and correlating verse for an extended period of time rather than trying to change numerous areas of weakness at once? Share your thoughts with us in the comments below, because we can all learn from each other.

And join me on Christians Read on June 20th to read about a slice in a very busy day when God granted me incredible peace and clarity amidst the rushed chaos.

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Living With Focus

Photo by jesadaphorn taken from freedigitalphotos.net

Photo by jesadaphorn taken from freedigitalphotos.net

There’s nothing more frustrating than looking back on a busy, tiring day and realizing you’ve accomplished nothing. Or at least, nothing of value. Or to embark on a task, perhaps seven or eight times in a day, only to be distracted, seven or eight times.

We all have those days, right? Times when our lack of focus, lack of prioritizing, eats up our productivity. But we mustn’t let those times of distraction and futility, of wasted effort, become a norm.

We all have countless opportunities set before us each day, sometimes even great opportunities, eternally impacting opportunities, but that doesn’t mean each one is for us. God has carved out a unique path for each one of us. He’s created us, gifted us, molded and equipped us, to fill a very specific role.

I love how Ephesians 2:10 puts it: “For you are God’s masterpiece. He has created us anew in Christ Jesus to do the good things He planned for us long ago” (NLT).

We are God’s masterpiece! That word grabs me every time. As does the ending of the verse, “He planned for us long ago.”

It reminds me that God has a plan, a very good and very specific plan, for my life. My role is to discover that plan and follow it ps37v23to24jpgwith everything within me, resisting the constant pull to be everything to everyone. Rather, I am to give everything–my time, energy, thoughts, and actions–to the Son.

Proverbs 4:25-27 says “Look straight ahead, and fix your eyes on what lies before you. Mark out a straight path for your feet; stay on that safe path. Don’t get sidetracked; keep your feet from following evil” (NLT).

This verse speaks of determined focus, of perseverance, of intentionality. Of zeroing in on whatever it is Christ is calling me to do each day. Which implies taking the time to discover what He’s calling me to do. Which in turn implies taking the time to prayerfully read His Word each morning.

livingbygracepic.jpLet’s talk about this! What about you? What is God calling you to do today? Raise your children or grandchildren to love and honor Christ? Reveal Christ’s love and grace in your work place? Serve in a church ministry with excellence? Are you doing that with focus, perseverance, and intentionality? Are you giving your whole self to that task, or have you allowed nonessentials to leave you divided? What time-sappers have you allowed in your day that hinder your effectiveness? Share your thoughts here in the comments below or at Living by Grace on Facebook.

We can’t do it all. Each day, we’re going to have to let something go. Let’s let those things go intentionally so that we can “fix our eyes on what lies before us.”

For all the mommas of little ones out there, my friend (and the marketing manager of New Hope Publishers) has a series I know you’ll find encouraging and inspiring. You can read about that here.

You might also be interested in:

Are the Little Things Really Little? 

In the Little Things

Called and Accountable by Henry T. Blackaby and Norman C. Blackaby

Before I go, I wanted to announce the winners of last week’s give away! Maryann, congrats! You won a copy of the Shepherd’s Song! I’ll be contacting you shortly to chat about the best way to get that novel to you. And, there’s still time to enter the drawing to receive a copy of Kelly O’Dell Stanley’s book Praying Upside Down. You can do so here.

Before I go, I wanted to invite you listen to a radio interview I did Tuesday. You can do so here:

I also encourage you to sign up for my (really, our, as I and the Faith, Friends, and Chocolate gals put it out together) free quarterly newsletter, which is packed with great stuff–a serial story, short stories, recipes, devotions, and more!


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Finding Our Calling–the In Between Years

Your heart was stirred and you responded with enthusiasm, determination, and focus. ID-100148082But that was so long ago, you barely remember the call. In fact, you’ve begun to doubt it. Did you really hear God? Is He in this? Has He given up on me or changed His mind?

You accepted the job, anxious for advancement and to put your unique giftedness to use. Oh, the plans you had! But after ten years of doing grunt work, watching others get promoted, get raises, while you remain stagnant, you’re beginning to wonder… God, do you see me? Do you care?

Obedience. Perseverance. Surrender.

Doing the right thing simply because it’s the right thing.

Many of us long to be used by God, and when we consider this, I think our minds often Luke16-10versepicjump to something grand. We long to be missionaries or to start a ministry, or perhaps lead our entire office to Christ.

But what if God called you to poverty… for Him. To give up everything to align yourself with the destitute and spend your days begging on the street corner?

This is the modern day equivalent of what Ruth did. She gave up everything to align herself with Naomi, to take on Naomi’s plight, and to spend the rest of her days, in essence, begging for food.

Pause for a moment to read Ruth 2:1-17.

Notice, Ruth took initiative. She offered to go out into the harvests to glean grain from “anyone who is kind enough to let me do it” (v. 2).

She humbled herself and served her mother-in-law in a grueling and demeaning position. In essence, she became a beggar. Notice, she didn’t play the poor-me card, bemoaning her situation, asking Naomi to join her. Never once do we read the words, “Why me?” coming from her mouth.

I believe that’s because she was entirely focused on the needs of her mother-in-law. Ruth truly loved and honored Naomi above herself.

In gleaning, not only did Ruth willingly take the position of a beggar, but she also potentially put herself in harms way. She, a defenseless woman voluntarily worked among hired hands; male strangers.

We can sense the potential danger in this through Boaz’s words in verses 8-10.

“Boaz went over and said to Ruth, ‘Listen my daughter. Stay right here with us when you gather grain; don’t go to any other fields. Stay right behind the young women working in my field. See which part of the field they are harvesting, and then follow them. I have warned the young men not to treat you roughly.‘” (Ruth 2:8-10a NLT).

Boaz would not need to warn his men not to treat her roughly unless he knew this was a common problem. Nor would he need to urge her to remain in his field unless he knew gleaning in other fields, among other strange men, could be potentially dangerous.

I believe Ruth understood these dangers as well, and yet, with courage, she set out to do the right thing. Even when it was hard or frightening. Here we see the depth of her love and sacrifice.

In these chapters, we also see her perseverance.

Harvesting grain was a grueling endeavor, one that exhausted the strongest of men. Hours spent in the sun, backs bent, hands rubbed raw by the rough sheaves of grain. Then, once the sheaves were gathered, they had to be winnowed then ground into flour or roasted.

Through all this Ruth persevered, not knowing what lay ahead, not knowing that every step of surrendered obedience was leading her to her calling.

As I read today’s passage, I couldn’t help but think of Luke 16:10

“If you are faithful in little things, you will be faithful in large ones. But if you are dishonest in little things, you won’t be honest with greater responsibilities.”

Faithful in the little things…

Sitting with a neighbor even when it seems no one notices.

Serving in the nursery week after week, even though you’re tired.

Pouring your heart into a blog no one seems to be reading or perhaps editing a manuscript your certain will never go to print.

Going to work every day, giving your all, even though your boss credits your efforts to another.

ID-100189108Raising your children or grandchildren, wiping snotty noses day after day, even if it means struggling financially. While your neighbors hold prestigious jobs.

Faithful in the little things, doing the task, whatever it is, that God has set before you today.

Remaining in God’s will, even when it’s hard, tiring, or lowly.

Following His leading, trusting in His timing, even if the drudgery drags on. And on.

Surrendering your plan for God’s. This past Sunday our youth pastor, Robert Conn, gave an excellent message on trust and surrender. The sermon is titled “Practically Trusting.” I encourage you to listen to it by clicking here.

1. What stood out to you in today’s passage?

2. What do you believe were some of the external challenges Ruth faced during her period of gleaning?

3. What do you believe were the internal challenges she faced during her gleaning?

4. Can you share a time when you served out of obedience and it became difficult or tedious? What do you believe God was doing during that period? In what ways did that time of service help develop your character or grow your faith?

I could discuss this passage forever as I feel it is so incredibly rich, but alas, I’ve far exceeded the reasonable blogging word count. 😉 I will leave you with this:

Each of us are called. God invites each of us to seek after and embrace the abundant life Christ offers. But oftentimes in our journey, we hit numerous roadblocks, set backs, and long winding valleys. It is our choice to give up or persevere.

Hold tight to your call. Hold tight to the One who called you.

Share your thoughts here, join the discussion on Facebook, or join our Bible study email loop. Make sure to visit  Beth’s blog FirstHalfDay on Friday for another discussion on surrender.

Hope For the Soul

carole180I receive emails from many of you, pressing on along the path of God’s calling, and although I do hear of your your celebrations, I also hear of discouragement, of fatigue, of doubt. All normal emotions in any ministry, but as Christians set apart for service by our risen Savior, we must learn to keep those emotions, those moments of hopelessness, where they belong–tucked far beneath God’s Words of truth. Our doubts and fears say we’re not good enough, not talented enough, just plain not enough. but God’s word says we have all we need in Him.

Today, my sweet friend and a fellow ACFW member, Carole Brown encourages us to focus not on our fears and insecurities, but instead, what our Savior wants to do in and through us.

As an interesting side-note, I scheduled Carole to appear here at least a month ago, before I got my contract and before I wrote a post about that. Is it a coincidence you’re reading, yet again, someone’s story of perseverance that led to something awesome?

I think not. 😉

Please note: Carole Brown is giving away a copy of of her debut novel to one of you, randomly selected in the comments. 🙂 

Hope for the Soul By Carole Brown 

“Hope deferred makes the heart sick: but a desire fulfilled is a tree of life” (Proverbs 13:12 ESV).

Quitting time. Is there ever a right time for such an action?

It was 2011, and I was quitting. I’d worked and struggled and relearned and traveled and joined groups. To no avail. It was waste-basket-1217806-mtime to quit, to acknowledge tug toward authorship was useless. Writing was not for me; I really had no talent. It was time to move on.

Until an older lady in a church sat me down figuratively and discussed all laments together. The essence of her encouragement was: Lord, I believe; help my unbelief.

Struggling and unbelieving I reluctantly agreed to give writing another try. Throughout the rest of the year and into the next, I prayed: “Lord, I believe, help my unbelief.”

Fast forward to April, 2012: I attended a writing conference and met with an editor who asked for my manuscript. Hope burst forth like a July 4th fireworks display. In December, 2012, I signed a contract with Lighthouse Publishing of the Carolinas.

What does all this teach? There is ALWAYS hope.

Many times I’ve heard of Christians who quit right before victory comes in their personal lives. The wife who quit because of pressure from her unsaved husband; the couple who call it quits when just a little more effort would have smoothed things into happiness; the young man/woman in college who gave up because of the wrong choices; the highschooler who took his life because of the bullying.

Life has a way of not just showering, but down pouring the feeling that there is not hope.

In my novel, The Redemption of Caralynne Hayman, there is hope, but Caralynne can not see it. Why? Because:

Ÿ Her upbringing in the cult is filled with misguided doctrine. Sometimes, through no fault of our own, circumstances and life give us cards we don’t know how to read or what to do with. We don’t even know we are to do something with them. Ignorance and lack of knowledge prevents us from seeing the hope right in front of our eyes.

Ÿ sad-silhouette-1080946-m Her doubts in God inhibit her ability to see clearly. When we focus on our own thoughts, feelings, and beliefs, it becomes difficult to see God’s light shining even when it’s on the table of our lives there to encourage us and lead us on the right path. We draw curtains on the windows of our hearts, keeping out the shining light and hope God yearns for us to rest in.

Ÿ The hardness of her heart and her determination to blame God. When evil causes havoc in our lives, when the bad seems to conquer all that’s good in our lives, when trouble seems to be unavoidable, then it’s oh-so-easy to point a finger to the all-knowing God of the world. Humans have a strong need to blame and all too often, God is the recipient of that blame.

Ÿ  Her own desires blinded her effectively from seeing the blessed HOPE SHINING THROUGH THE DARKNESS. The bitterness and revenge in her heart was so over-powering and so huge, Caralynne couldn’t see around those mountains. Many times hurting people will scoop even more dirt onto the mountains of doubt and disbelief that are keeping them from seeing God’s strength for our times of weakness. The hope he gives that will strengthen us. As the scripture says, His strength is made perfect in our weakness.

Remember, hope may be deferred, but when it comes, vitality and strength and the glory of God shelters us with his tree of life. We can rest contently beneath his branches because he is our hope–eternally.

Have you faced hard times when all hope seemed gone? How did you get through it?

***

Besides being a member and active participant of many writing groups, Carole Brown enjoys mentoring beginning writers. She loves to weave suspense and tough topics into her books, along with a touch of romance and whimsy, and is always on the lookout for outstanding titles and catchy ideas. She and her husband reside in SE Ohio but have ministered and counseled nationally and internationally. Together, they enjoy their grandsons, traveling, gardening, good food, the simple life, and did she mention their grandsons?

Connect with her here online at her blog, on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, and Goodreads.

Her novel, The Redemption of Caralynne Hayman:

The Redemption of Caralynne HaymanHow far would YOU go to avenge a daughter’s cruel death? Cara is considered rebellious and inappropriate to befriend. Dayne is the apple of Elder Simmons’ eye—until he takes a stand against their teachings. Can his prayers and love reach Cara and show her the way to redemption? Will Cara realize God’s love and forgiveness before she goes too far?

Order your copy now!  http://www.amazon.com/dp/1938499948/

livingbygracepic.jpLet’s talk about this! Carole asked if we’ve faced hard times when hope seemed gone. I suspect we can all answer that with an emphatic yes! Maybe some of you are in those times this very moment.

I’m not even going to pretend to have the answer or explanation to what you are facing, but I can say, if you belong to Christ, there is hope. Always. I can also say, looking back on my life, God used some of my most painful moments to bring about the most intense growth and healing. Will that help me stay strong during my next trial? I hope so, but if or when I doubt, may I, like Carole say, “I believe! Lord, help my unbelief.” (Original quote taken from Mark 9:14-27)

Join the conversation in the comments below or at Living by Grace on Facebook.

Additional resources you might find helpful:

God Meant it for Good by R.T. Kendall

Thinking Right When Things Go Wrong by John C. Hutchison

Unshakable Faith (a Bible study) by Kathy Howard.

Taking on the World

Many of us have enjoyed watching the Olympics, myself included. I’m awed by such strength, talent, speed. But my admiration is heightened because I know how many hours–years–worth of diligent and focused training is behind each gold. Today my sweet friend and host of Living Joyfully Free, Lisa Buffaloe, encourages us to view our faith with the same focus.

Taking on the World

By Lisa Buffaloe

I love watching the Olympics. I’m so amazed at those who train and prepare their bodies to be the absolute best. During the Winter Olympics a television announcer commented that one particular Olympic athlete thrived on pressure. What if we had the same attitude when life gets difficult? 

I started wondering how fun it would be to think of life as the Olympics. Just think, we are surrounded by a “great cloud of witnesses” rooting for us, holding up signs cheering us on. We could live each day as though it’s a grand adventure, and hardship and trials, are merely methods for refinement and growth. 

And at the end, for those who call Jesus Savior, there is always a prize – life everlasting, joy forever, and peace in God’s presence.

After the Olympic competition the athlete was asked what was next in his life. His reply, “I don’t know. Sleep, and then take on the world.”

Sounds like a great plan. Woo hoo! Let’s get some rest, rise up, and with Jesus take on the world!

“Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us” Hebrews 12:1 

Think of life as an Olympic event with a great cloud of witnesses, the angels, and friends and family who have gone before you, cheering you forward and Jesus by your side. What ways do your challenges take on a different light?

Prodigal Nights, (a 2011 Women of Faith writing contest finalist):

For two returning prodigals

will the challenge to live “good” withstand the allure to be bad?

 

After a nasty divorce, Bethany Davis returned to college and lived up to the low standards set by gossips. Her dad’s stroke has now brought her home, and Bethany finds herself in a dilemma—how can she get beyond her past, learn to trust again, and live a “good” life?

Bethany’s father’s involvement in the defense industry adds excitement to her expectation of a boring life back home. However, bodyguards, stalkers, and international secrets are the least of her problems—opening her heart to trust again is a totally different matter. And the mutual attraction with her new team leader, Jason Ross, spells the possibility of big-time heart trouble.

Jason’s days of wild living are over, and he’s determined to prove to himself and God that he’s on the right path. When Bethany steps into his office, he sees the girl of his dreams, but is she God’s gift or Satan’s temptress?

Buy it here!

Lisa Buffaloe is an author, speaker, happily-married mom, and host for Living Joyfully Free Radio. Her past experiences—molestation by a baby-sitter, assault, rape by a doctor, divorce, being stalked, cancer, death of loved ones, seven surgeries, and eleven years of chronic illness from Lyme Disease—bless her with a backdrop to share about God’s unending love and that through Him we find healing, restoration, and renewal. She is the author of Grace for the Char-Baked and a contributing author of The One Year Book of Joy and Laughter.

Visit her online:

www.LisaBuffaloe.com

www.ShoutLife.com/LisaBuffaloe

What stage are you in? Are you in training as God prepares you for a new challange? Or has God opened wide a door for victory, and if so, can you look back and see the training He guided you through? Tell us about it! Join us Saturday at Living by Grace as we talk about following after God with diligence, focus, and persevarance.

Perseverance

This month flew by and our summer right along with it. 🙂

Last month, God taught me to walk with an eyes-wide-open approach, ever-alert to the open doors He provided. This month He’s been teaching me perseverance. I’m a doer by nature, and I like to see results, but walking by faith means obeying even if we never see the why or what. It means giving, expecting nothing in return, loving even when our love is spurned, and committing to a life of prayer even if it feels our prayers amount to naught.

It means clinging tight to God’s promise that tells us our work in the Lord will be rewarded. The ultimate reward, I believe, will be seeing men and women gathered at the throne of God, having crossed over from spiritual death to life. But as we continue to share God’s love with others, we need to remember, each person reaches that bridge at a different bend. Only God knows when. All we can do is obey with full, faith-filled, love-saturated surrender, leaving the rest to Him.

Virginia Hamlin’s story, Transformed by Love, touched me deeply. Watching the same homeless men and women come in and out of Taking it to Streets every Wednesday and Friday, I can easily become discouraged. (You may remember the post I wrote about this very thing the previous Saturday. You can read it here.) But Virginia reminded me to keep moving forward, to keep loving, to keep serving, because we never know when our Melodie will arrive.

“My husband and I were involved in our church’s compassion ministry for over five years from 2002-2007.

We helped prepare 100 meals each Sunday to feed the homeless in a local park. (We enlisted the help of other s to serve and sometimes play worship.) My husband would give a message and then we would break bread with the homeless. Yes, we would sit down at the picnic tables and get to know people. It was during one of those times that I was inexplicably drawn to a woman, Melodie, who was seated alone. We only talked briefly, but I knew God had ordained the meeting. I invited her to our home Bible study and ….” (Read the rest here.)

In Are You in Over Your Head, Katie Ganshert’s post reminded me it isn’t about me–my abilities, talents, or resources. Instead, it’s about the awesome, all-powerful God standing behind me. Watch her vlog here.

Tanya Eavenson reminded me to love without an agenda–unconditionally, with no strings attached. This is a hard one. We all want to receive this kind of love from others, but oh, it’s so hard to give out! Unconditional love–the kind God shows us–says, “I love you even if you never love me in return.” It’s a love exemplified in Christ who, while we were yet sinners, while we spurned Him, rebelled against Him, turned our back to Him, He died for us.

“The Bible clearly states in James, “If a brother or sister is poorly clothed and lacking in daily food, and one of you says to them,  ‘Go in peace, be warmed and filled,’ without giving them the things needed for the body, what good is that?” But what happens when the poor aren’t responsive to your help?

I’ve recently been faced with situations like this. How do you share the love of Christ with a man who’d rather live in the woods and give his every last cent to his addiction? Or the woman who would rather sell herself to prostitution instead of receiving help to start over?

Do I give up?” (Read the rest here.)

I’d love to hear from you. What reach out story impacted you most and why? What lessons has God been showing you this month? Is there a loved one you’ve been praying for, reaching out to, for decades? In what ways has God encouraged you to keep pressing on? Tell us about it!

I also want to give a final shout out to my July Reach Out donors:

Elaine Marie Cooper with the Road to Deer Runand the Promise of Deer RunSandra Robbins with Shattered IdentityKatie Ganshert with Wildflowers From WinterJoAnn Durgin with Awakeningand Ann Lee Miller with Kicking Eternity

Do you have a Reach Out story to share? Send it to me at jenniferaslattery(at)gmail(dot)com.

Authors, agents, and publishers, if you or one of your authors/clients would like to donate a book to one of the Reach Out gift baskets, shoot me an email at the above address.

When God Says Wait

A while back we talked about times when God says no and trusting in His love even then. This trust rests in our knowledge of His character:

God is good

Good is love

God is faithful, powerful, and sovereign

God is always with us

It’s largely about a change of focus. Will we focus on the closed door or on God and His unchanging nature?

But what about when God says wait? Sometimes I think that is harder than a thousand closed doors! It goes against our “do” nature and pricks at our insecurities. What if we surrender our all, keep walking, and God doesn’t pull through?

Lately, I’ve felt like I’ve wandered into the perpetual waiting room, and it’s easy to assume the not-yets mean no. It’s much harder to keep walking when the road continues to climb, the finish line shrouded from view.

Our faith is tested most, I believe, during times of waiting. The longer the wait, the more faith we’ll need.

For those of you waiting … for a job, an opportunity, a loved one to come to Christ, whatever, stop and meditate on the following passage. Take time to recall the history of each life mentioned and how long they waited.

Psalm 105 (I’ve pulled out the verses that impacted me most, but you can read the entire passage here.):

Give praise to the Lord, proclaim his name;
make known among the nations what he has done.
Sing to him, sing praise to him;
tell of all his wonderful acts. 
Glory in his holy name;
let the hearts of those who seek the Lord rejoice.
Look to the Lord and his strength;
    seek his face always.

When you can’t see the future, spend time recalling the past. Remember God’s goodness, His faithfulness. Most importantly, draw near, focusing on His strength working in you.

He is the Lord our God;
his judgments are in all the earth.

He remembers his covenant forever,
the promise he made, for a thousand generations,
the covenant he made with Abraham,
the oath he swore to Isaac.
10 He confirmed it to Jacob as a decree,
to Israel as an everlasting covenant:
11 “To you I will give the land of Canaan
as the portion you will inherit.”

12 When they were but few in number, 
    few indeed, and strangers in it, 

(You can read the full account of each event mentioned by clicking on the following sentences.) God’s promise to Abraham came when he and his wife were old and barren. God’s promise came to Jacob when he was fleeing the wrath of his brother, Esau. Joseph received his divine promise when he was a young man, hated by his brothers. Shortly after he was thrown into a cistern, sold into slavery, and falsely imprisoned. And then there was Moses, a man trained and educated as a prince, later hiding out in Midian ….
13 they wandered from nation to nation,
from one kingdom to another.
14 He allowed no one to oppress them;
for their sake he rebuked kings:
15 “Do not touch my anointed ones;
do my prophets no harm.”

16 He called down famine on the land
and destroyed all their supplies of food;
17 and he sent a man before them—
    Joseph, sold as a slave.

To the observer, this would have seen like a step backward. How could these men be chosen people? A great nation? Was this how God treated His own? Why would He allow this famine and Joseph to be sold into slavery? We’re blessed to have the entire account, so we know the answer to all the whys … but Joseph and his father Jacob didn’t. They had to trust and cling tight to what they knew to be true.
18 They bruised his feet with shackles,
his neck was put in irons,
19 till what he foretold came to pass,
till the word of the Lord proved him true.
20 The king sent and released him,
the ruler of peoples set him free.
21 He made him master of his household,
ruler over all he possessed,
23 Then Israel entered Egypt;

Jacob resided as a foreigner in the land of Ham.

While in Egypt, the Israelites were oppressed and enslaved. What happened to God’s promise? I wonder how many gave up hope, how many turned away …. 
26 He sent Moses his servant,
and Aaron, whom he had chosen.

Israel’s redemption didn’t come quickly nor easily. It took centuries for God’s promise to be fulfilled. Centuries of trusting or fretting, surrendering or rebelling, focusing on God and His promises or the obstacles marring their way.
37 He brought out Israel, laden with silver and gold,
and from among their tribes no one faltered.

Let’s talk about this!

Are you waiting on God for something? Does it feel like you’ve been waiting for ever? Perhaps so long that you’ve begun to wonder if you’re heading in the wrong direction? Join us at Living by Grace as we talk about perseverance and how we can do that during “the waiting period.”