Wait

I believe that I shall see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living. Wait for the Lord;  be strong, and let your heart take courage; wait for the Lord! – Psalm 27:13-14 (NRSV)

I do believe that God answers prayer. I know and acknowledge most of the reasons we recount when trying to explain why it seems like a prayer isn’t being answered.  In the end of those reasons we are left with empty hands trying to make sense of one reality.

I’m praying. And waiting.

I really hate to wait. On anything. I don’t think impatience is one of the characteristics of my enneagram number (which has me wondering if I’m another number, but I doubt it. What is the enneagram?).  But that doesn’t stop me from a growing sense of irritation when I have to wait. Apparently, this does not impress God.

In our church (and maybe yours) we are in the habit of going over our prayer list weekly. Parts of our list are pretty fluid… names come and go as situations are resolved. But some names are there and apparently carved into stone. We have prayed and prayed and prayed for these dear ones. 

Does it bother you when items on your prayer list never budge? Some may think the answer is just to quit praying. Not me. It’s not easy to wait, but I believe that is our calling.

Wait for the Lord.

We are waiting for God to answer – as He has always done. The children of Israel were in Egypt for 400 years. The generation that was delivered from the hands of Pharaoh were great grandchildren of the ones who first began to pray for a deliverer. It’s not that God was too busy to answer that request. He answered in a bold and miraculous way. When it was time. Some of our prayers may not be answered in our lifetime. 

Be strong.

It takes a lot of strength to grow in our prayer life while waiting. Strength implies that we are not going to give up. Strength requires muscles to be exercised in order to remain strong. We exercise our prayer muscles on our knees in the prayer closet continuing to develop a relationship with our listening Father. We’ll never be strong if we are weak in our prayers.

Let your heart take courage.

Courage does not give in to the fear that maybe God isn’t listening …. or just doesn’t care… or is too weak to do anything about it. No, courage continues on the spiritual paths of prayer discovery. Courage is unafraid of being confident in God’s eternal faithfulness and presence. I want to remind you to be ‘en-couraged’ because our confidence is not in our beautiful prayers or even consistent practices … but in an all-powerful all-present Abba who cares.

Wait for the Lord.

In spite of your strength and courage, you’ll still have to wait. You will be joining generations of praying Christians who have learned to wait. And while waiting they have developed the awareness of God’s nearness. 

I have a feeling that if we could see the world the way God does, we wouldn’t be tapping our foot in impatient waiting right now. We would be amazed at the intricate ways that Father has set in motion a thousand ripples across the Kingdom when a child whispers a prayer. Waiting humbles us. So don’t turn away from prayer when you’ve been waiting so long. Even more important than the answer you seek, is a growing relationship with the Father who loves.

But don’t give up on an answer. The Psalm says, “I believe that I shall see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living.” I think you should believe that too.

Questions for Contemplation

*In praying for certain situations and outcomes, have you considered that YOU might be the answer to your own prayer? What can you do to help or bless someone who is fighting a battle for their health?

*We are often impatient for a positive answer from God. Is it possible that you’ve received the negative answer? A ‘no’ is as much of an answer as a ‘yes’. How would you know?

*Who is the most prayerful person you know? Could you spend some time learning how to pray from them? Having a prayer mentor might be a way to move you from an anxious waiting to an accepting waiting.

*Are you aware of the positive answers you have received from prayers? Perhaps a prayer journal would be a good idea so that you could, in times of discouragement, look back to see the many answers you’ve received but forgot about.

*How can you move from seeing prayer as a heavenly prayer list to a developing and growing relationship with a God who draws near when we draw near?

Thanks for reading, JD.

 

Grieved By Trials

If you are a Christian and you’ve suffered significantly, then you know what it’s like to ruminate on that question. Yes, the one that hangs on a permanent nail near the door to your heart. 

God, why did you let that happen? 

Or maybe it is more like…

God, are you even there? And if you are, could you take a look at what’s happening to me right now?

When I was reading through some of 1 Peter a few days a word jumped out at me that I had not noticed before. 

In this you rejoice, though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been grieved by various trials…

Grieved. It’s in the English Standard Version. Other translations use words like suffer and distressed and struggle. But the ESV uses the term that has found such a place in my life. Grieved. Grief is a term of sorrow, loss, even bereavement. We can experience grief at the loss of a loved one, but also by the loss of important things, pets, relationships, or even our health. There are various things that can cause us grief.

The first readers of Peter’s letter were in extreme circumstances, having lost homes and jobs, forced into a dispersion throughout the known world due to persecution. They did what they were supposed to do – what we still try to encourage people to do today. They gave their life to Christ! Does anyone doubt that in the quietest part of the night someone didn’t contemplate…

God, why did you let that happen? God, are you even there? And if you are, could you take a look at what’s happening to me right now?

When we lost our son many people said to us, “I don’t know what to say.” I could relate. I didn’t know what to say either. I’m sure if I knew the depth of your grief and sorrow, disappointment and heartache, abuse and recovery, I wouldn’t know what to say. But Peter does have something to say. An encouragement for us to think about what we are becoming through the crucible of our troubles.

…So that the tested genuineness of your faith—more precious than gold that perishes though it is tested by fire—may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ.

I wouldn’t go around quoting this to hurting people. But if you will hang on to Jesus, when you are a sufficient distance from your loss you will be able to look back and see the extreme value of your faith. In your sorrow you found out that it wasn’t just words or nice ideas. Faith became for you more precious than gold. By not letting go of God when the trials were at their hottest … causing enormous grief … you find out your faith is genuine.

Oh, it gets ragged. Sometimes you might not even think it’s there. You’re not alone in your dark night of the soul. If it were all up to you it wouldn’t be. But it’s not all up to you.  God is near and He’s not letting a single tear go to waste.

God, why did you let that happen? God, are you even there? And if you are, could you take a look at what’s happening to me right now?

So, it’s no secret. The Apostle Peter wrote it down to believers who were scattered by persecution throughout the known world. Having lost everything that resembled security and hope he acknowledged the grief that they were experiencing due to losses. Then he encouraged them that their trials were giving wealth and value to their faith.

I doubt they could see it any clearer than we can. But faith keeps our eyes to a coming day when Jesus will be revealed. At that time I believe we will know fully how God took the worst thing that ever happened to us and made it the most powerful thing that ever happened to us. So don’t give up when various kinds of trials grieve your heart.

Questions for Contemplation

*If you’ve blamed God for your various trials, have you ever considered that there is an Enemy who can bring trials as well?

*When Jesus said that faith as small as a mustard seed was acceptable to Him, do you think he had in mind times when our faith would be barely there?

*If I have a friend who is going through various trials that have brought grief, how can I best be a blessing to them … without words?

*How do I feel about having questions for God about my trials and at the same time having faith that He alone can answer them?

*It’s hard for us to have perspective in the midst of our trials. Have I sought out the perspective of some person of faith who has been through the same thing some time ago? 

*Remember that you are not alone in your grief and struggles. What persons in the Bible can we find who went through the same kind of pain and how did they respond? What did they write about it? Maybe those stories and words are preserved for us so we would know we were not alone.

Thanks for reading. JD

 

 

 

Book Review: A Second Look at the Savior

A Second Look at the Savior: Hearing His VoiceA Second Look at the Savior: Hearing His Voice by Byron Smith
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I purchased and read A SECOND LOOK AT THE SAVIOR: HEARING HIS VOICE because I have known and loved the author for many years. I have worked with him when I was Chairman of the Board of Directors of Gulf Coast Bible Camp. During that time Byron became our first full time Director and Fund Raiser for the camp, a work he still engages. I have enjoyed long conversations with him under those tall pines and appreciate all that he does for the Lord and his beautiful family. Byron Smith is in my estimation a devoted disciple of Jesus Christ and I wanted to read what he has written.

Especially so, since he was writing about taking a second look at our Savior … which we all need to do every day. I appreciated the emphasis on escaping the habit of approaching Scripture with the same presuppositions we always have, and seeking to open our eyes (and ears) to the Lord. We will never fully exhaust everything the Bible has to say about Jesus. Often we presume to know everything Jesus says and we fall into traps.

Often we become captain and navigators of our own destinies and then blame God for every raging storm we encounter.

The author faces very directly the truth that many things happen in life that confound us in our relationship with God. Whatever struggles you have with God, or even believing in God, I think you’ll find some things to think about in Second Look.

Questions should not be used as excuses to walk away from Jesus and Christianity. Instead they need to be asked, answered, and then allowed to change our lives.

Smith uses many episodes in the Bible to illustrate the principles he wants to communicate. These help us to see the humanity of biblical men and women rather than view them as simply stories. I think the major emphasis on the book is seeking God in the most difficult moments of your life, and not giving up. I especially enjoyed chapters of the book where Byron details his own personal struggles and faith experiences. I liked the section where he talked about going to Faulkner University (a private Christian college in Alabama) without knowing how on earth was going to pay for it. You’ll have to read the book to know how that was amazingly resolved.

My favorite chapters were the two written about Psalm 49:10, “Be still and know that I am God.” I think that some of the thoughts expressed here are nothing less than profound.

This passage has so much depth to it. I’ve learned that I need to revisit it often when my heart has given out. … Even the strongest people will eventually ‘wear out.’

I appreciate that attitude because I’ve read too many authors who thought they had everything figured out and were ready to just tell the rest of us dummies how to live life. Byron gives all credit to God.

You can’t be still in the storm and find some addiction to distract you. You can’t be still and waste time feeling sorry for yourself and accuse God of abandoning you. … watch what strength is given when we wait upon the Lord.

Each chapter ends with a prayer that can be prayed, reflecting the thoughts of the chapter. The last two chapters tie in the contents of the book with the life of Jesus and an expression of how to seek and find salvation through faith in Christ.

There’s a lot of good in this book and I’m glad I read it. I want to be up front, though, so I won’t be accused of giving a cushy review and ignoring some issues. I haven’t asked Byron (and I won’t) if he hired a cold-hearted and thorough editor, but if he is moved to reprint the book that would be a good idea. This is the greatest danger (in my opinion) of self-publishing. It’s hard to read our own writing and find errors and cloudy areas. And it’s hard for people who love us to be unrelentingly specific with the red pen. I only mention this because I think any of my friends who read this book will take notice of the same things I did – and I’m no professional editor. I feel certain there are errors in this review! So that’s the reason a ‘cold-hearted’ editor is a writer’s best friend.

Even so, please don’t let that keep you from giving this book a chance. I think it would be a good book for a Sunday School class or Small Group to work through. There is a ‘Study Guide’ in the back of the book, although it functions more as a ‘Teacher’s Guide’. The ideas and suggestions in the ‘Study Guide’ give helps to those who are teaching both young and old, with a good variety of activities and questions.

Byron Smith (I have thus far avoided using his nickname, the only name I knew him by for a long time. You can thank me later, Byron.) suggests that this is the first in a trilogy of ‘Second Look’ books. I hope he keeps writing and I look forward to reading what he composes. I don’t know this but I’m sure he writes with the beauty of Gulf Coast Bible Camp in view … perhaps the lake in the center of the camp. I imagine that it is quiet except for the symphony of crickets and birds and other creatures of the forest that surrounds that place that is very special to my heart. I pray that when he writes his books he hears the voice of the Lord in the breeze that flows over what I have always considered to be Holy Ground.

To purchase, please visit the website HERE.

JD

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Grave Opening Power

The following is from my files, dated July 29, 1993 by popular speaker and writer John Gipson.  Hope you enjoy it. JD


GRAVE OPENING POWER

Last week I stood in the midst of the National Cemetery in Little Rock, and gazed at the massive field of white crosses. There were many … so very many … and now a new one was to be added. For every cross there was a grave, and for every grave a body. 

At one time these bodies lived and breathed. But no longer. Each of them kept anappointment. “It is appointed for men to die once.”

To the natural eye it seems so final. The body dies and is buried. No physician, however skilled, can resurrect the dead. We mourn, but that is all we can do. We are powerless before the grave, the house appointed for all living.

For a moment we are almost tempted to believe Shiller’s line from Funeral Fantasy, “Never the grave gives back what it has won!” But it is not true…not true at all!

Once there was a man who cried, “Lazarus, come out.”

“The dead man came out, his hands and feet bound with bandages, and his face wrapped with a cloth.”

The man who called forth the dead died himself on a Roman cross. But when he died “the tombs also were opened, and many bodies of the saints who had fallen asleep were raised, and coming out of the tombs after his resurrection they went into the holy city and appeared to many.”

Jesus is the resurrection and the life. He said it and he proved it.

William Temple called the Christian faith the most materialistic of all the world’s religions because it made matter sacramental. Matter matters. God made it in creation, took it on in incarnation, and raises it again in resurrection. 

Graves are not as permanent as they seem, “for the hour is coming when all who are in the tombs will hear his voice and come forth, those who have done good to the resurrection of life, and those who have done evil, to the resurrection of judgment” (John 5:29). 

There is One who has grave opening power.

Many have examined the evidence and have declared, “I believe in the resurrection of the body and the life everlasting.” Do you?

John Gipson  Little Rock, Arkansas   July 29, 1993