The Art of Waiting on God

I don’t hold a master’s degree in waiting on God, nor in patience. But I am praying that I’d be slowly molded into an artist of waiting on God. Biblical waiting means confident expectation, trusting that God will do what he has promised. That God knows best both what needs to happen and when it needs to happen. That God will be preparing us while we are waiting. That God works for the good who believe in him.

There are many examples in the Bible about what happens when we don’t trust God but precede God. Just think about Abraham! God promised him a son. But when nothing happened he took the matter into his own hands and got his wife’s maid pregnant (Genesis 16). He did not wait on God’s timing. Neither did Saul.

Saul stayed at Gilgal, and the troops followed him anxiously. He waited seven days, the time appointed by Samuel, but Samuel didn’t come to Gilgal, and his troops began to desert. So Saul ordered, “Bring me the entirely burned offering and the well-being sacrifices.” Then he offered the entirely burned offering. The very moment Saul finished offering up the entirely burned offering, Samuel arrived. Saul went out to meet him and welcome him. But Samuel said, “What have you done?”
“I saw that my troops were deserting,” Saul replied. “You hadn’t arrived by the appointed time, and the Philistines were gathering at Michmash. I thought, The Philistines are about to march against me at Gilgal and I haven’t yet sought the LORD’s favor. So I took control of myself and offered the entirely burned offering.”

“How stupid of you to have broken the commands the LORD your God gave you!” Samuel told Saul. “The LORD would have established your rule over Israel forever, but now your rule won’t last. The LORD will search for a man of his own choosing, and the LORD will commission him as leader over God’s people, because you didn’t keep the LORD’s command.”  (1 Sam. 13:7-14, CEB, emphasis added)

Saul’s seemingly rational and reasonable action demonstrates disobedience to God. Saul reacted out of fear of the Philistines, not out of fear of God. Saul did not wait for God, he took charge. Waiting for God requires strength and spiritual maturity.

We are not to lean on our own understanding. We are not to birth things prematurely. We are to trust God and his timing. He knows best. We are to let God take charge of our lives. We are to trust God to take care of us according to his grace and not according to our fear.

Waiting on God is a way of life.
Waiting on God is knowing God is God and we are not God.
Waiting on God is about surrendering our will to God day by day.
Waiting on God is trusting God for pouring out grace also tomorrow.
Waiting on God is seeking him with our whole hearts.
Waiting on God is being changed into his likeness.
Waiting on God is becoming whom God created us to be.

*Resource: Mari-Anna Stålnacke
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Does your faith produce a verifiable, transformational experience?

jesus_buddha2

This morning, my pray partner forwarded me Richard Rohr’s daily mediation called “Jesus and Buddha.” I like it so much I decided to quote the entire piece here:

The Christian tradition became so concerned with making Jesus into its God and making sure everybody believed that Jesus was God that it often ignored his very practical and clear teachings. (How many of us love our enemies?) Instead, we made the questions theological and metaphysical ones about the nature of God (which asked almost nothing of us!). Most of our church fights have been on that level, and no one ever really “wins,” so it goes on for centuries.

What Buddha made clear is that the questions are first of all psychological and personal and here and now. We created huge theories about how the world was saved by Jesus. I think what Jesus was primarily talking about was the human situation and describing liberation for us right now. Clearly the Kingdom of God is here and now, as Jesus said. However, we turned Jesus’ message into a reward or punishment contest that would come later, instead of a transformational experience that was verifiable here and now by the fruits of the Holy Spirit (Galatians 5:22-23). For Jesus and for the Buddha both rewards and punishments are first of all inherent to the action and in this world. Goodness is its own reward and evil is its own punishment, and then we must leave the future to the mercy and love of God, instead of thinking we are the umpires and judges of who goes where, when, and how.

I think this perspective highlights one of the key issues dividing Christians today: Is Christianity simply an external system of future rewards and punishments, as people like Jerry Newcombe believe? If so, being a Christian is about conforming to that system and teaching other people to do the same–not to mention warning them about what will happen if they don’t. How grace factors into this perspective is a mystery, seeing as this essentially turns Christianity into a works-based religion. But you’ll hear adherents to this view arguing for it all the time.

On the other hand, we have Christians like Richard Rohr who certainly keep one eye on the future, but who believe that being a Christian is primarily about imitating Christ today. I’m definitely in this camp. As a commenter on my Huffington Post article said yesterday,

I don’t believe that God is the egomaniac that so many people make him out to be. I don’t think he really cares all that much whether we believe in him or not. What matters most is how we act, what we do and how we live our lives in relation to others. So you’re an atheist. Whatever. Do you love your neighbor? Yes? Then that’s great. Keep doing it. So you’re a devout Christian. That’s wonderful. Do you love your neighbor? No? Then you still have work to do. It’s that simple.

I couldn’t agree more. I don’t think God puts too much stock in the names we call ourselves. In fact, when someone tells me they’re an atheist, I tend to imagine God chuckling and saying, “No you’re not.” Especially if that atheist is currently engaging me in a theological debate. The same goes for any of us who take on the name “Christian.” In that case, I see God eying us skeptically saying, “I’ll believe it when I see it.”

Just so we’re clear: This is not another version of the works-based salvation I criticized above. Unless you define salvation–as I do–as deliverance from the cycle of self-destructive violence in which the human race has been trapped since the beginning. In that case, I believe we can literally play a hand in the salvation of the entire world. How? By imitating Christ, by loving our neighbor–even our enemy–as we love ourselves. We don’t do this because we’re afraid that if we don’t, God will consign us to hell. We do this because we recognize that this is the only way to break the cycle. And until we do, hell will continue to reign. And we won’t have to wait until we die to experience it. Best of all, this doesn’t require faith in some sort of convoluted theology. It is what Rohr calls a “transformational experience that is verifiable here and now by the fruits of the Holy Spirit.” In case you don’t know what those fruits are, Galatians 5:22 gives us a list: love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.

Where does grace enter the picture? Simple, it’s all grace. That’s because our actions do not determine is our eternal destiny. That has been secure from the beginning. As Thomas Talbott argues so well in Universal Salvation? The Current Debate, our actions merely determine the means by which our salvation will be achieved.

For the more tenaciously we cling to our illusions and selfish desires–to the flesh, as Paul called it–the more severe will be the means and the more painful the process whereby God shatters our illusions, destroys the flesh, and finally separates us from our sin.

So tell me this: Which brand of Christianity is most likely to produce such fruit? One that runs around warning people that the wrath of God is about to come down unless they jump through the right hoops? Or a faith that announces that salvation is already here, that there’s no longer anything to fear–not even God?

I can only respond with the fruit each brand of Christianity has produced in my own life. And if you ask my wife and children, they’ll definitely go for door number two.

The Christian tradition became so concerned with making Jesus into its God and making sure everybody believed that Jesus was God that it often ignored his very practical and clear teachings. (How many of us love our enemies?) Instead, we made the questions theological and metaphysical ones about the nature of God (which asked almost nothing of us!). Most of our church fights have been on that level, and no one ever really “wins,” so it goes on for centuries.

What Buddha made clear is that the questions are first of all psychological and personal and here and now. We created huge theories about how the world was saved by Jesus. I think what Jesus was primarily talking about was the human situation and describing liberation for us right now. Clearly the Kingdom of God is here and now, as Jesus said. However, we turned Jesus’ message into a reward or punishment contest that would come later, instead of a transformational experience that was verifiable here and now by the fruits of the Holy Spirit (Galatians 5:22-23). For Jesus and for the Buddha both rewards and punishments are first of all inherent to the action and in this world. Goodness is its own reward and evil is its own punishment, and then we must leave the future to the mercy and love of God, instead of thinking we are the umpires and judges of who goes where, when, and how.

I think this perspective highlights one of the key issues dividing Christians today: Is Christianity simply an external system of future rewards and punishments, as people like Jerry Newcombe believe? If so, being a Christian is about conforming to that system and teaching other people to do the same–not to mention warning them about what will happen if they don’t. How grace factors into this perspective is a mystery, seeing as this essentially turns Christianity into a works-based religion. But you’ll hear adherents to this view arguing for it all the tyme.

On the other hand, we have Christians like Richard Rohr who certainly keep one eye on the future, but who believe that being a Christian is primarily about imitating Christ today. I’m definitely in this camp. As a commenter on my Huffington Post article said yesterday,

I don’t believe that God is the egomaniac that so many people make him out to be. I don’t think he really cares all that much whether we believe in him or not. What matters most is how we act, what we do and how we live our lives in relation to others. So you’re an atheist. Whatever! Do you love your neighbor? Yes? Then that’s great. Keep doing it. So you’re a devout Christian. That’s wonderful. Do you love your neighbor? No? Then you still have work to do. It’s that simple.

I couldn’t agree more. I don’t think God puts too much stock in the names we call ourselves. In fact, when someone tells me they’re an atheist, I tend to imagine God chuckling and saying, “No you’re not.” Especially if that atheist is currently engaging me in a theological debate. The same goes for any of us who take on the name “Christian.” In that case, I see God eying us skeptically saying, “I’ll believe it when I see it.”

Just so we’re clear: This is not another version of the works-based salvation I criticized above. Unless you define salvation–as I do–as deliverance from the cycle of self-destructive violence in which the human race has been trapped since the beginning. In that case, I believe we can literally play a hand in the salvation of the entire world. How? By imitating Christ, by loving our neighbor–even our enemy–as we love ourselves. We don’t do this because we’re afraid that if we don’t, God will consign us to hell. We do this because we recognize that this is the only way to break the cycle. And until we do, hell will continue to reign. And we won’t have to wait until we die to experience it. Best of all, this doesn’t require faith in some sort of convoluted theology. It is what Rohr calls a “transformational experience that is verifiable here and now by the fruits of the Holy Spirit.” In case you don’t know what those fruits are, Galatians 5:22 gives us a list: love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.

Where does grace enter the picture? Simple, it’s all grace. That’s because our actions do not determine is our eternal destiny. That has been secure from the beginning. As Thomas Talbott argues so well in Universal Salvation? The Current Debate, our actions merely determine the means by which our salvation will be achieved.

For the more tenaciously we cling to our illusions and selfish desires–to the flesh, as Paul called it–the more severe will be the means and the more painful the process whereby God shatters our illusions, destroys the flesh, and finally separates us from our sin.

So tell me this: Which brand of Christianity is most likely to produce such fruit? One that runs around warning people that the wrath of God is about to come down unless they jump through the right hoops? Or a faith that announces that salvation is already here, that there’s no longer anything to fear–not even God?

I can only respond with the fruit each brand of Christianity has produced in my own life. And if you ask my wife she’ll definitely go for door number two.

* Resource(s) & Photo(s) courtesy of ©iStockphoto.com,Kevin Miller

 

Walk by Faith, Not by Sight

Job 1:1–12 1 In the land of Uz there lived a man whose name was Job. This man was blameless and upright; he feared God and shunned evil. He had seven sons and three daughters, and he owned seven thousand sheep, three thousand camels, five hundred yoke of oxen and five hundred donkeys, and had a large number of servants. He was the greatest man among all the people of the East. His sons used to hold feasts in their homes on their birthdays, and they would invite their three sisters to eat and drink with them. When a period of feasting had run its course, Job would make arrangements for them to be purified. Early in the morning he would sacrifice a burnt offering for each of them, thinking, “Perhaps my children have sinned and cursed God in their hearts.” This was Job’s regular custom. One day the angels[a] came to present themselves before the Lord, and Satan[b] also came with them. The Lord said to Satan, “Where have you come from?” Satan answered the Lord, “From roaming throughout the earth, going back and forth on it.” Then the Lord said to Satan, “Have you considered my servant Job? There is no one on earth like him; he is blameless and upright, a man who fears God and shuns evil.” “Does Job fear God for nothing?” Satan replied. 10 “Have you not put a hedge around him and his household and everything he has? You have blessed the work of his hands, so that his flocks and herds are spread throughout the land. 11 But now stretch out your hand and strike everything he has, and he will surely curse you to your face.” 12 The Lord said to Satan, “Very well, then, everything he has is in your power, but on the man himself do not lay a finger.” Then Satan went out from the presence of the Lord

#4Without Job’s knowing it, a dialogue took place in the invisible world. As the Lord and Satan had their strange encounter, the subject quickly turned to this well-known earthly man. The Lord calls Satan’s attention to Job’s exemplary life, and Satan responds with a sinister sneer. “Of course, who wouldn’t serve You, the way You’ve prospered and protected him. Take away all the perks and watch what happens; the man will turn on You in a flash.” God agrees to let the Adversary unload on Job.

And so, in today’s terms, the Lord bet Satan that Job would never turn on Him. Philip Yancey refers to that agreement as the “divine wager.” Satan instigates a sudden and hostile removal of all the man’s possessions, leaving him bankrupt. Within a matter of minutes, everything he owned was gone.

This brings us to the first lesson worth remembering: we never know ahead of tyme the plans God has for us. Job had no prior knowledge or warning. That morning dawned like every other morning. The night had passed like any other night. There was no great angelic manifestation—not even a tap on his window or a note left on the kitchen table.

In one calamity after another, all the buildings on his land are gone, and nothing but lumber and bodies litter the landscape. It occurred so fast, Job’s mind swirled in disbelief. Everything hit broadside . . . his world instantly changed.

You and I must learn from this! We never know what a day will bring, whether good or ill. Our heavenly Father‘s plan unfolds apart from our awareness. Ours is a walk of faith, not sight. Trust, not touch. Leaning long and hard, not running away. No one knows ahead of tyme what the Father’s plan includes. It’s best that way. It may be a treasured blessing; it could be a test that drops us to our knees. He knows ahead of tyme, but He is not obligated to warn us about it or to remind us it’s on the horizon. We can be certain of this: our God knows what is best.

* Resource(s) & Photo(s) courtesy of ©iStockphoto.com, Charles R. Swindoll

The Day I Died

tombstoneHave you noticed that no matter how well you feel that you handled life yesterday, today always brings new and greater struggles? Here’s the bad news: that struggle which is renewed every morning will continue until you die or the Lord comes back for you. Here’s the good news: God means the struggle for your growth and therefore each new day’s struggle is an opportunity to become more like Christ, to fulfill our ultimate purpose.

Every day you have the choice whether to live for Christ or live for self. Paul chose to die to self – daily – and to put on the whole armor of God. Like baptism – the old man dies and is resurrected in the light and likeness of Christ. We each must die daily keeping the flesh under control and in submission to Christ.

*God takes sin seriously. Sin is a terrible thing in the Christian’s life. That is why God did not overlook sin, but dealt with it in one complete stroke of judgment by sending Christ to die for us on the cross. Now that we have been saved by grace can we live any way we so please? Can we sin it up now that our fire insurance has been paid in full? The apostle Paul responded to that arrogant attitude saying, “How shall we who died to sin still live in it?” (Romans 6:2). We died to sin. “Died” is in aorist past tense, indicating a once for all death in a judicial sense. We legally died (v. 2, 6, 7, 8, 10, 13, 18). It refers to a single action that has taken place and has been completed in the past.

Paul really liked the dramatic. His writings are full of feelings that he poured out for us. This falls in with “Pray without ceasing.” Literally, it’s hard to grasp. But if you think of how your spirit responds to the world, some days you may feel like you are dying endlessly, and other days you may feel full of prayer. I don’t think there’s a definitive way to explain more fully what Paul means. He was speaking from his heart, and it is up to us to see how we resonate with his words.

The idea of our death to sin is basic in this great chapter, and is essential to the sanctification of all believers. “We died to sin.” When did you die?

The apostle Paul does not say we are going to die to sin, or we are presently dying to sin. He does not say we are continually to die to sin. The apostle has in mind a completed past action. We “have died” to sin is already true of us if we have entered into a vital union with Christ. Charles Hodge notes, “it refers to a specific act in our past history.”

Moreover, Paul tells us that our old life of sin in Adam is over. We died. Just as Christ can never go back and die again, we can never go back to the old life in Adam. That part of our lives died. The result of our vital union with Christ in His death and resurrection is that our old life in Adam is past, over with, and we now have a new life in Christ.

Our life is divided into two parts at the point in which we believed on Christ and were born again. At a specific act in past history we accepted Christ as our Savior and we became new creatures in Christ (2 Cor. 5:17).

Can you point to a tyme in your life and see the change before and after Christ separated by the new birth? When we put our faith in Christ as our Savior and were born again the old self died through union with Christ and was buried. The penalty of our sins was paid in full by Christ’s atoning death. At the same tyme the believer rose again from death, a new person, to live a new life in Christ. We were crucified with Christ and rose with Him to new life.

We died to the life of sin. God counts the utterly perfect righteousness of the risen Christ as ours. He sees us risen in Him. We live a new life in Christ. The old one died, and it was buried.

Does your life have a dividing line marked Christ?

*Resource:  Wil Pounds with the author’s written consent.

Puzzle pieces

14767850-3d-people--human-character-sits-over-on-a-pile-of-puzzle-pieces-3d-render-illustrationWe are ALL just a piece of the puzzle. Some pieces are big, some are small, some have beautiful markings and others seem to be plain. No matter what shape or color you are, just be who God has called you to be. Don’t try to be someone else puzzle piece because you won’t fit. Have you ever tried to put together a large puzzle and try to find out where all the pieces fit/go? They all have a specific place and if one of them is out of place then the puzzle is incomplete. Sometymes you try to force a piece into a space, but that doesn’t mean it’s the right space, even if it looks like it may fit.

Initially it may look right, but eventually you realize it is the wrong space. We are the same way, it may seem like a good fit at first but in the end we realize that we are wrong. We need to ask God to give us a clarity and direction, to show us His will and plan for our lives. Don’t ever forget that God chose you and called you to Him. God chose you to do what you are supposed to do according to His plan and will, not yours. Even if you don’t feel that your puzzle piece is very significant or important to the space you are in. You need to remember that if you abandon your spot/place then something will be missing and the puzzle will be incomplete.

 There is nothing more annoying to me then doing a puzzle and getting towards the end of it just to discover that you are missing a piece. You are a part of God’s canvas, His BIG puzzle picture!

*Photo(s)/Resource(s): Danielle Grehn

SALT and LIGHT

#3The Bible says that we called to be SALT and LIGHT to the lost.  Matthew 5:13 says “You are the salt of the earth. But if the salt loses its saltiness, how can it be made salty again? It is no longer good for anything, except to be thrown out and trampled underfoot.” If you tell people that you are a Christian and then live your life as if you were not, then what kind of influence are you having on people? SALT is added to give flavor and influence the taste of the food.

Likewise, God has called you to influence those around you in such a way that your life should point others towards CHRIST, not away from HIM. If you are not living your life in such away that is pleasing to God and leading others towards HIM, then you are no longer good for anything ‘except to be thrown out and trampled underfoot’. Today is a new day, repent and turn your life around. Decide today that you are no longer going to live for yourself, but for GOD! It is tyme for you to stand up and start LIVING OUT LOUD (LOL). Become the person that God has called you to be, fulfill your purpose. Live your life in such a way that you are leading others towards Christ, using words if necessary. Let your LIGHT shine brightly and your SALT influence many.

*Photo(s)/Resource(s): Danielle Grehn

You are never really ready!

#3God has brought you to the place where you are at right now to give you training and instructions. You are never really ready for anything. Sometymes we live our lives in fear to step out and accomplish great things because we don’t feel that we are ready. God just wants you to obey HIM and follow HIM, He doesn’t want you to feel ready.  If God wants you to do something HE has already equipped you with everything you need to accomplish what HE is calling you to do. You just need to trust God, have faith and step out.

Read Jeremiah 1 where the Lord chooses Jeremiah. Sometymes we may feel like Jeremiah and think that we are not ready to do what God is calling us to do, but notice God’s response back to Jeremiah. God says in v. 8 “Do not be afraid of the people I send to you. I am with you. I will save you.” God will give you the boldness to speak and the anointing you will need to carry out His will. There is no need to fear because HE is with you. Stop waiting for the details, just go! God will reveal things to you in His perfect timing. If you keep waiting for yourself to get ready then you will never accomplish anything. Stop wasting your life on waiting to be ready. Maybe you are waiting to get married, to have kids, to go to school, whatever the excuse you have just STOP making excuses and just step out in faith and trust God to help with the rest.

*Photo(s)/Resource(s): Danielle Grehn