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Impatiently Waiting

There must not be many other words in human language that can evoke as much negative response as the word “wait.”  For what?  How long?  Why? No one likes to wait it seems.  We don’t want to wait in line, wait for the doctor, wait for the test results, wait for the phone call and so much more.  We’ve created online shopping so we don’t have to wait to go searching around town for what we need.  We have fast food so we don’t have to wait to cook a homemade meal.  And although modern conveniences can help us to accomplish other, more important tasks, there are plenty of things worth waiting for.  The birth of child, a harvest, the right spouse, freshly baked bread are but a few!

There are, however, clear times that, if we want to blossom as Christians, we need to not only wait but wait patiently, not allowing our fleshly desires to supersede God’s omniscience.  To marry or not, to have children, take that job, move to another home, how to deal with difficult people or situations, medical decisions – all these potentially life-altering choices should be sought patiently in wisdom with the Lord.  I have heard from too many Christians about failed marriages because they were too impatient to wait for the right person.

“Do not run ahead of God!  The delays may be very challenging for you, but they are growing your faith in Him.  Look to Him, strengthen yourself in His Word and love, remain confident that He is working on your behalf.”  

Charles Stanley, 30 Life Principles

So ok, we get it.  We need to wait on God’s wisdom.  But the waiting isn’t the fruit.  The waiting is the fertilizer, the opportunity for the fruit, which is patience in that waiting.

My friends and family know I have not typically been a patient person.  I’m a doer.  I make decisions and get things done.  I hate waiting around for other people.  Until one day it hit me.  What does my impatientness (another word I made up) look like to the world?  If I were to ask you the characteristics of an impatient person, you’d probably say someone who looks angry, frustrated, annoyed, maybe even beligerent.  To the world it looks like someone lacking in the other fruits  — love, joy and peace.  

My getting frustrated in waiting was fruit killing.  The killer spray I was using on my fruit was my pride.  I knew better how to make things happen faster, more efficient, more productive.  I knew better than almost anyone I encountered, especially God.  And the world says, “Why should I be a Christian if I still look like that?”

They claim to know God, but by their actions they deny him. They are detestable, disobedient and unfit for doing anything good.  Titus 1:16

Yikes!  Talk about a conviction.  True patience isn’t really just a lack of doing something.  It’s also about what’s going on inside our hearts and heads.  Are we thinking loving, joyful thoughts during a “waiting” moment?  Do we have peace from God knowing He has a plan for us in this time?  Because I’ll tell you my friend, if we stand in line tapping our foot and being annoyed we might just miss the opportunity to help an elderly person who is struggling with her groceries.  

The line, the wait, is just as long for Christians and non-Christians.  Are we to be the same in how we deal with it?   Or are we to remember “the eye of life’s tornados is the calm hope of our final destination”  as Christian author Dane Ortlund observes?   At all times. 

These short term opportunities for patiently waiting help build up our long-term waiting muscles.  When the pregnancy hasn’t happened, yet.  When the right job hasn’t come along, yet.  When the pain hasn’t gone away, yet.  When our sons and daughters haven’t accepted the Lord, yet.  These aren’t times to get impatient.  They are times to show the world what we believe is true.

Each of those “yets” is a hope we place in God’s faithful, loving hands.  He’s asking us to trust Him, just like He asked Abraham, the Israelites, and the apostles.  He’s saying, “Wait.”  More importantly He’s saying, “Wait patiently without fretting, without worry, without fear.  Trust me.”

Is there something you are hoping for today?  Ask Him in prayer.  Then wait patiently.  It may not be answered today or tomorrow or even in 10 years.  But during that time of patience He will do great things in and through you.

Coming up: From Endurance to Hope 

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The State of Peacefulness

Throughout the last three years with my Bible study girls (BSGs) I noticed what we all struggle with the most — control.  Or on the flipside, lack of trust.  The results of that need to control typically lead to lack of peace.  We humans like to manage situations and people without first consulting the “man upstairs.” The inevitable results create frustration, hurt feelings, anger and more.  

Instead, we turn to the desires of the flesh listed just above the fruits of the Spirit in Galatians 5: sexual immorality, impurity, debauchery, idolatry, witchcraft, hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions, and envy.  

We must picture hell as a state where everyone is perpetually concerned about his own dignity and advancement, where everyone has a grievance, and where everyone lives with the deadly serious passions of envy, self-importance, and resentment.

C.S. Lewis, The Screwtape Letters

You may look around your own Bible study groups, church friends or even just the “good” people you know and think, “Nah, we never do any of that horrible stuff!”  You might recall, however, at the beginning of this study on love that Jesus considers gossiping or defaming someone “murder.”  Yikes!

We take our newly signed peace treaty with God and consider it a license to do what our flesh desires.  Maybe thinking He won’t notice.  We turn from the peace table, walk out the door and get angry at the first person who doesn’t do what we think they should.  We fantasize of a spouse who would love us so much better, we drink away our anxieties, hold onto our bank accounts for fear of the poorhouse, speak of “Karma” when hurt by others, become jealous of our non-Christian neighbors with the fancy new car, or just turn away from others who need a bit of kindness.

Friend, God has implanted in each and every one of us the knowledge of His existence.  Somehow, we all know what His desires are for our behavior, for our hearts.  

"Therefore, get rid of all moral filth and the evil that is so prevalent and humbly accept the word planted in you, which can save you." James 1:21

We know, through the Holy Spirit what is right and wrong in God’s view.  When we actively or even passively work against this you know what the inevitable result is?  Lack of peacefulness.  That niggling in your heart and mind is God’s way of reminding you of the path toward peace.  And yet we so often ignore it. We’ve been rejecting the Prince of Peace and His path since He walked on this Earth.

“On the next Sabbath almost the whole city gathered to hear the word of the Lord. When the Jews saw the crowds, they (the Pharisees) were filled with jealousy. They began to contradict what Paul was saying and heaped abuse on him. Then Paul and Barnabas answered them boldly: “We had to speak the word of God to you first. Since you reject it and do not consider yourselves worthy of eternal life, we now turn to the Gentiles.” Luke 13: 44-46 

How incredibly sad is this point in scripture?  The Pharisees and Sadducees were spoon-fed by Jesus, Himself, the truth.  The glory of the heavens was opened to them.  The bountiful, beautiful life was placed on a platter before them and they rejected it out of jealousy.  Out of fleshly desires.  Do we want to be listed among them?  I pray your answer is no.  

I heard a podcast recently by John Ortberg on taking a hold of the beautiful life God wants for us.  He spoke of not just cutting out actions and thoughts from our lives but more importantly replacing them with a positive action and thought.  The Bible speaks of cleaning house but not leaving it empty for the thief to come and take up residence.  Therefore, if we want not just the glorious peace with God but God’s gift of peacefulness, we need to replace our desires of the flesh with His goodness.  With the blossoms of love and joy.  With trust that our God does in fact know what He is doing.  He is greater than us in every aspect and will provide.  

Through prayer, obedience and knowledge of His Word we can, with the Holy Spirit’s guidance, rest in His peace.  Ask Him today to shine a light on the areas that are creating deadly weeds in our hearts.  The Great Gardner will create a beautiful peacefulness in you that you never could’ve imagined!

Coming Up: Resting In Peace

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A Gardener of Love

She turned to drugs and alcohol to dull her childhood pain.  The pain inflicted by an abusive, angry father.  Her body was being ravaged by anger, hatred and shame.  The feelings of worthlessness.  And Jesus met her one night in an incredible vision.  Upon waking she instantly accepted Him as her new, eternal, loving Father and set aside drugs and alcohol.  It was her offering, her gift back to the Lord, however, that most likely had Him dancing in heaven.  It wasn’t a payment because the Lord saves us without cost from us, without our need to do anything but say, “yes.”  No, it was the only thing she really had to offer – love.  Not just for the Lord but for her earthly father.

I met Julie* in a home Bible study.  During the next few years, I watched as this daughter of God set aside her anger and any need for retribution while she travelled out of state to help care for her ailing father.  Not once did I hear her speak ill of him again.  She didn’t seek platitudes for her service to this man who had emotionally and physically abused her.  She didn’t see it as an annoyance.  No, she tended to her father as Jesus’ bond-servant.  Sent in His name.  

You, my brothers and sisters, were called to be free. But do not use your freedom to indulge the flesh; rather, serve one another humbly in love. 14 For the entire law is fulfilled in keeping this one command: “Love your neighbor as yourself. 15 If you bite and devour each other, watch out or you will be destroyed by each other. Galatians 5:13-15

And what are the desires of the flesh? “Sexual immorality, impurity and debauchery;  idolatry and witchcraft; hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions and envy; drunkenness, orgies, and the like.” (Gal 5:19-21).  Placed right there in the middle could probably be seen as the root of the rest of those desires – selfishness.  Our need to receive retribution from those who have hurt us.  We want so much to cry out, “but, but, but!” and list our excuses as to why we can’t show someone love.

Pride leads to every other vice: it is the complete anti-God state of mind…… it is Pride which has been the chief cause of misery in every nation and every family since the world began.  

C.S. Lewis

When we place ourselves as “better than” the root of hatred is sown.  “I would never do such a thing” when in fact we may do a version of such action daily.  It is a well-honed habit that is encouraged by the world.  While I may not ever murder a person as the Law warns I certainly have held murderous thoughts, which Jesus calls equal to the actual act.  

How does one reach the point of loving and maybe even helping those who we just want eliminated from our lives?  How do we till a blooming, beautiful garden in our hearts, not one filled with weeds?   Julie sought to worship God through her actions.  She knew that harboring ill feelings toward her father only hurt one person – herself.  When called by her stepmother for help she stepped forward in faith.  Faith that the Lord wanted her to show mercy and grace. 

As for me?  It’s taken me many years but I finally sought wisdom from the God who provides it generously (James 1:5).  The Holy Spirit has shown me it’s better to love than to feel hate and anger.  I call that hate the “Black Swirly Ball” that wants to spin around in my chest from time to time.  I’m listening to the Spirit when it allows me to feel out of balance.  I get quiet, turn off the tv, the music, the phone and say, “Reveal to me what’s going on, Lord.  Show me where my pride or my need to be in the right is shoving out love.  Help me to pray for that person, not about them.”  You see I want that Black Swirly Ball to unravel and loosen my chest.  Then I can breathe the fresh air of God’s beauty.  I give it up to God and I ask the Holy Spirit to help me not grab it back – ever.  I bring my raw emotions to the Lord and He clears my mind.  Often, He asks me to serve those I find difficult to serve.  When I do, I demonstrate to the people around me the work Christ has done in my heart.

My friends, if all we ever are able to do in the name of love is pray for the revealing light of God to enter into our “enemy” we’ve tilled the soil for something good to happen in us.  We’ve said to Jesus, “yes, I will love as you have loved me, a sinner for sure.”  We just need to be prepared for Him to ask us to take a step further and say, “Yes.”  In our real and true faith, we must believe without doubting that He will work it for our good and His glory.

“You have flaws, failures, and quirks that annoy and anger others.  In fact, you may be more like those whom you dislike than you’d care to admit.  But Jesus still loves you and died for you – just as He did for them.  What Christ did for you on the cross, He did for your worst enemy.  It’s when you humbly accept this fact that you can begin to love others as Jesus does.”  

Charles F. Stanley

Do you believe God?  Not just believe in God but have real faith in His words and promises.  If you do then you know He wants the best not just for you and your friends and family but for all people.  That person at work who is causing you so many troubles?  Show her love by seeing her as someone who has the weight of sin on her and needs your loving prayers.  The family member who speaks ill of you to the rest of the family?  He needs you to love him enough to ask God to intervene in his life.  The abortionist, false teacher, dictator, murderer, thief, liar all need you.  These people in one way or another are separated from God and I can’t think of a more terrible fate for which we should grieve.

Jesus commands us to love.  To love others as we are loved by Him, sinners one and all.  This week I encourage you to demonstrate your real faith and experience the greatest fruit ever to blossom from us – love. 

*Julie is not her real name