Wait for Him

John 6:16-21

New Living Translation (NLT)

16 That evening Jesus’ disciples went down to the shore to wait for him. 17 But as darkness fell and Jesus still hadn’t come back, they got into the boat and headed across the lake toward Capernaum. 18 Soon a gale swept down upon them, and the sea grew very rough. 19 They had rowed three or four miles[a] when suddenly they saw Jesus walking on the water toward the boat. They were terrified, 20 but he called out to them, “Don’t be afraid. I am here![b]” 21 Then they were eager to let him in the boat, and immediately they arrived at their destination!

Patience is often missing from my fruit bowl. I prefer things in life to be done quickly. I don’t like to invest a lot of time in completing a task. I don’t like waiting around for people. I don’t like taking long road trips at night. I like to reach my destination immediately.

The disciples had just witnessed a miracle: Jesus fed 5,000 men! Afterwards, the Lord “slipped away …by himself” (verse 15) because He knew the people wanted Him to rule and reign based on their expectations of a king. So the 12 sat along the shore of the Sea of Galilee to wait for Him.

But it started to get dark.

So they decided to leave, without Him.

IMG_6986They hopped into the boat and began their journey across the sea. Rowing against gusting winds and surging waves, they endured a violent storm that suddenly emerged. After several miles of striving to reach their destination alone they looked out and saw Jesus- walking on the water! The men were terrified. Jesus spoke. Their fear ceased. The Lord climbed into the boat and they arrived at their destination immediately.

Apparently, patience was missing from the disciples’ fruit bowl too. They were probably tired from a long workday. After all, they had been busy serving people fish and bread and cleaning up all the leftovers. They had a long commute to get to their next place of ministry. It was getting dark. They didn’t have lights on their boat. They didn’t have GPS. They had to row for several miles to get to their hotel. They wanted to order room service. They needed to check ESPN/Facebook/email before going to bed.

So they came to a logical conclusion: let’s just go….without Jesus.

We do the same thing.

We watch the crowd receive a miraculous abundance of fish and bread. We serve others as Jesus teaches about the Kingdom of God. Afterwards, we sit at the seashore and wait for the Savior to arrive. We’re tired. We’re ready to get to our destination, NOW. We just want to relax and rest. But it gets dark. So we decide to get in the boat by ourselves. We row, and row, and row. Suddenly, we are overcome by hurricane force winds and waves. We are terrified. Perhaps we should just keep our head down and think about how to go around the storm? Perhaps we should just muster up more strength to row against the harsh conditions? Perhaps we should just throw the rest of our boat mates overboard to lighten the load? Or, perhaps we should just stop… ….and look up.

What’s that? It’s Jesus! Walking on the water. He’s coming towards us! He’s getting in the boat. He commands fear to leave. He is with us.

 

 

My fellow disciple,

Wait for Him.

Don’t get in the boat unless He is with you.

Don’t be afraid…you’ll reach your destination.

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Like a lion

1 Peter 5:5-8 New International Version (NIV)

In the same way, you who are younger, submit yourselves to your elders. All of you, clothe yourselves with humility toward one another, because,

“God opposes the proud
    but shows favor to the humble.”[a]

Humble yourselves, therefore, under God’s mighty hand, that he may lift you up in due time. Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you.

Be alert and of sober mind. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour.

IMG_0334Recently, while watching a BBC documentary with our son, I cringed as a scene between predator and prey unfolded before us. A wolf lunged at a herd of caribou, which immediately fled the impending danger. Amidst the chaos of the chase, a young caribou was separated from his mother and became isolated from the herd. For more than a mile, he outran the enemy. Cheering the juvenile on, our son yelled “VICTORY!” as the youngling gained some distance from the hungry wolf. A moment later, however, he tripped over a stone and stumbled to the ground. The fall proved fatal. “Stupid wolf!” our son cried, as he was overtaken by emotion.

Like that young caribou, we all like sheep have run astray (Isaiah 53:6). We leave the protection of our Shepherd and the safety of the sheepfold. By relying on our own strength, we attempt to flee from danger. We become exhausted. We stumble. We fall. We are overcome. We cry, “stupid wolf!” – blaming the enemy for our suffering. But the truth is, sometimes our instinct (sin nature), compels us to run away from God instead of to Him. Pride prevents us from clothing ourselves with humility. We rebel against God, and He opposes us.

Stupid God?

Uh. NO.

Stubborn sheep.

But I have good news!!! Stupid sheep can know the truth, and be set free from stubbornness. As a recovering stubborn sheep, allow me to share a few things that I’ve learned in the sheepfold:

  • God cares for His sheep (Isaiah 40:11).
  • When we are young sheep, we must submit to older sheep – for we have much to learn from their example in the faith. (1 Peter 1:5)
  • We are safer in the sheepfold than when we isolate ourselves. Isolated sheep are easy prey. (Ezekial 34:5)
  • When we are afraid, yet choose to run into the mighty hands of God, we can cast all our anxiety on Him. (1 Peter 5:6-7)
  • We have an enemy, who walks about like a lion, seeking to devour us. But we don’t need to be afraid because our God IS A LION (see Revelation 5:5)
  • We must be alert and watch out for the wolf in sheep’s clothing (Matthew 7:15)
  • When we seek God for rescue no evil will conquer us, we won’t trip on a stone, and we will crush fierce lions under our feet! (Psalm 91).

A Special Rest

Hebrews 4:6-13 New Living Translation (NLT)

So God’s rest is there for people to enter, but those who first heard this good news failed to enter because they disobeyed God. So God set another time for entering his rest, and that time is today. God announced this through David much later in the words already quoted:

“Today when you hear his voice,
    don’t harden your hearts.”[a]

Now if Joshua had succeeded in giving them this rest, God would not have spoken about another day of rest still to come. So there is a special rest[b] still waiting for the people of God. 10 For all who have entered into God’s rest have rested from their labors, just as God did after creating the world. 11 So let us do our best to enter that rest. But if we disobey God, as the people of Israel did, we will fall.

12 For the word of God is alive and powerful. It is sharper than the sharpest two-edged sword, cutting between soul and spirit, between joint and marrow. It exposes our innermost thoughts and desires. 13 Nothing in all creation is hidden from God. Everything is naked and exposed before his eyes, and he is the one to whom we are accountable.

Rest.

It’s almost become a cuss word in the American culture.

“Take a day off? Are you kidding me? ! I have WAY too much to do! There’s so much work and so little time!”

From the beginning of creation, God made a way for His people to rest from their labor. As a good Father does, He led by example. God didn’t need to rest on the 7th day, (He’s all sufficient in Himself!) but He knew that we would need rest for our body and soul.

Earthly rest.

Before the foundations of the earth God also made another type of rest. Scripture refers to it as a “special rest.” When our earthly bodies cease to exist and we move into our heavenly home, we will enter eternal rest as we worship God all day and all night, forever and ever.

Eternal rest.

But what about today? Why does this earthly rest elude us? The writers of Hebrews give us the clue, which unlocks the mystery: the word of God exposes our innermost thoughts and desires. Failure to rest on the 7th day exposes our disobedience. Our actions speak what our heart believes:

“I’m more than able than you, the Creator of the universe, to work 7 days straight.”

“I don’t trust that you will provide all my needs (and my wants), so I have to get my hours in to pay the bills.”

“I don’t love you with all my heart. I love others more, so I refuse to say “no” to what what they ask or expect of me.”

If you are feeling overwhelmed, stressed out, exhausted, or over worked, I encourage you to be still. Know God. Ask the Lord to cut between your soul & spirit to expose your innermost thoughts and desires. Then confess, repent, be forgiven and enter in to His perfect rest. IMG_2397 copy

Matthew 11:28-30 New Living Translation (NLT)

28 Then Jesus said, “Come to me, all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. 29 Take my yoke upon you. Let me teach you, because I am humble and gentle at heart, and you will find rest for your souls.

 

 

 

Something New

Isaiah 43:19 

For I am about to do something new.

See, I have already begun! Do you not see it?

I will make a pathway through the wilderness.

I will create rivers in the dry wasteland.

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It’s a new year.

As the world makes resolutions to change old habits, I’ve been waiting in the wasteland for God to do something new. I don’t quite see “it” yet, but my spirit knows that He’s making a pathway through the wilderness. As I continue to seek His will for my life, my corrective lenses are beginning to focus on His Kingdom, instead of my own. Perhaps that’s just “it.” Perhaps the key element in seeing what He’s already begun is just a slight shift of focus away from the old things. Perhaps simply looking up changes my sight.

Psalm 121:1-2

I look up to the mountains—

does my help come from there? 

My help comes from the Lord,

who made heaven and earth!

I didn’t deny or neglect the wasteland, however. Instead, I chose to trust God and go THROUGH it with Him. It was barren. It was hot. I felt isolated. I felt abandoned. I longed for refreshing. I lacked patience. I was angry. I expressed grief. Some judged me. Others accused me. But I discovered a powerful truth that has become a rock on which I stand:

Jesus was with me.

And He is with me still.

When I was thirsty, He gave me a drink.

When I was afraid, He protected me.

When I felt alone, He comforted me.
Without the wilderness, I wouldn’t have known Him in a deeper way.

Without the wasteland, I wouldn’t have known the need for the river.

Without going back to the old things, I wouldn’t be looking forward to something new!

This week, after following the advice of a friend, I decided to change our internet provider. Somewhat begrudgingly I chose to go with something new, which meant I was also going to have to get rid of the old. New email addresses had to be created. Passwords had to be updated. Promotions had to be surveyed. Phone calls had to be made. Appointments had to be scheduled. A technician had to make a house call. Cable jacks had to be installed. Chords had to be unplugged and re-routed. Furniture had to be moved. New Wi-Fi passwords had to be entered. Old passwords had to be deleted. Services had to be installed. Services had to be cancelled. And of course, bills had to be paid.

Out with the old, in with the new.

Was it worth it?

Absolutely.

It wasn’t open-heart surgery. None of it was hard to do. But it did take time, talent and treasure to get it done.

By embracing the new, rivers were created in the wasteland: no more buffering, no more loading, no more re-setting the router, no more lost signals!!!!

Newer. Faster. Cheaper.

Of course it was all worth it.

And so it is in the Kingdom of God. He exchanges death for life. Bondage for freedom. Beauty for ashes. Strength for fear. Gladness for mourning. Peace for despair.

Old for new.

Are you in a wilderness, my friend? Ask the Lord to show you where He is. And chose to stay with Him for as long as it takes to see Him create rivers in the dry wasteland.

It’ll be worth it.

Philippians 1:6

And I am certain that God, who began the good work within you, will continue his work until it is finally finished on the day when Christ Jesus returns.

IF your gift is…

Romans 12:3-9

Because of the privilege and authority God has given me, I give each of you this warning: Don’t think you are better than you really are. Be honest in your evaluation of yourselves, measuring yourselves by the faith God has given us.[b] Just as our bodies have many parts and each part has a special function, so it is with Christ’s body. We are many parts of one body, and we all belong to each other.

In his grace, God has given us different gifts for doing certain things well. So if God has given you the ability to prophesy, speak out with as much faith as God has given you. If your gift is serving others, serve them well. If you are a teacher, teach well. If your gift is to encourage others, be encouraging. If it is giving, give generously. If God has given you leadership ability, take the responsibility seriously. And if you have a gift for showing kindness to others, do it gladly.

Don’t just pretend to love others. Really love them. Hate what is wrong. Hold tightly to what is good.

A dozen years ago, I was fired from serving— at church. Technically, I was told to take a mandatory sabbatical from my volunteer position in children’s ministry, but it felt like I was fired.

In the weeks and months that followed I became an offended, angry and bitter woman who acted more like a child than a leader of children. I began gossiping about the staff members who dismissed me. I pointed out every weakness in them in order to convince myself (& others) of my superiority and subsequent righteousness over them. And when I prayed (ranted) to God, I believed that the blame rested entirely on their shoulders- and that they should be punished.

But, as the months turned into a year, my heart began to soften and I was finally able to listen to God.

I forgave.

I repented.

And I realized that I needed to be fired.

The truth is, my motivation for serving was completely wrong. Sure, I was doing what church leaders told me to do:

“Don’t be a consumer Christian- SERVE”

“Find a ministry that has a need and fill it!”

“Its not about you, its about doing for others.”

I was using the talents God gave me to lead children’s worship. I was faithful to show up for meetings and practices. I trained other volunteers. I served almost every weekend…. during all 4 services. I enthusiastically sang and danced right up to my 40th week of pregnancy- and I only took a few weeks off after giving birth!

But I wasn’t worshipping God.

I was worshipping service.

IMG_4321I was offering “sacrifices” on the altar of ministry, but I didn’t love the One who sacrificed everything for me.

I read the bible occasionally.

I prayed even less.

I was neglecting areas of my relationships with my husband and our children.

I wasn’t submitted to other parts of the body of Christ.

So God allowed me to be fired to re-order my life:

  • Love God.
  • Love others (as I love myself).
  • Make disciples.

My fellow disciple, let this be a warning to you: don’t think you are better than you really are. Be honest in your evaluation of yourself.

Are you loving God?

(If not, take a mandatory sabbatical and begin worshipping Him alone)

Are you really loving others?

Then use the gifts He has graciously given you:

(out of your fear of God– not man)

IF your gift is serving others- do it!

IF it’s prophesying, deliver it!

IF it’s teaching – preach it!

IF it’s encouraging, speak it!

IF it’s finances – give it!

IF it’s leading – do it!

IF it’s kindness – release it!

“Don’t be Afraid, Mary”

Luke 1:30-31, 34-35

30 “Don’t be afraid, Mary,” the angel told her, “for you have found favor with God! 31 You will conceive and give birth to a son, and you will name him Jesus.

34 Mary asked the angel, “But how can this happen? I am a virgin.”

35 The angel replied, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. So the baby to be born will be holy, and he will be called the Son of God. 

Matthew 1:18-21

18 This is how Jesus the Messiah was born. His mother, Mary, was engaged to be married to Joseph. But before the marriage took place, while she was still a virgin, she became pregnant through the power of the Holy Spirit. 19 Joseph, her fiancé, was a good man and did not want to disgrace her publicly, so he decided to break the engagement quietly.

20 As he considered this, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream. “Joseph, son of David,” the angel said, “do not be afraid to take Mary as your wife. For the child within her was conceived by the Holy Spirit. 21 And she will have a son, and you are to name him Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.”

An angel did not appear to me while I was engaged, but I have heard the Holy Spirit speak a few promises about our lives together since our marriage took place. Unfortunately, I haven’t always exercised patience and self-control in waiting for that information to be communicated to my husband!

I wonder if Mary had a conversation with Joseph after she heard God’s promise from Gabriel:IMG_1067.JPG

“Joseph, I’m pregnant!”

(silence)

“The Holy Spirit did it.”

“What the what?!?”

“I’m going to give birth to the Son of God.”

“Um…what?!?”

“Joseph- its true! An angel told me…don’t you believe me?”

“Mary, that’s impossible.”

I wonder if Mary felt abandoned and afraid for her future. I wonder if Joseph felt angry and afraid of the scandal. Regardless, being a good man, Joseph broke the engagement quickly and went home. Then, an angel appeared to him in a dream and confirmed the same promise Mary heard – with a few more details. He was to take her as his wife, and name the child she carried, Jesus.

  • Mary heard from God.
  • Joseph heard from God.
  • They obeyed.
  • God fulfilled His promise.

Why don’t I realize that God will do the same for me?

I am afraid.

I don’t trust God, I trust in my current circumstances.

I don’t believe God, I believe the lie of the enemy that says; “it’s impossible.”

I don’t fear God, I fear my husband not hearing and obeying (how self-righteous am I?)

But….. I don’t have to be afraid!

  • I can choose to surrender my soul (mind, will & emotions) to my Father in Heaven.
  • I can choose to trust Him.
  • I can choose to fear Him alone.
  • I can choose to believe in Him.
  • I can choose to declare; “I am the Lord’s servant. May everything you have said about me come true.”

And that obedience will give birth to the miraculous:

  • I will know that HE loves me.
  • I will know that HE is trustworthy.
  • I will know that HE is faithful.
  • I will know that HE will cause all things to work together for good.
  • I will know that HE will fulfill His promises for our marriage.