When I say “joy-stealers”, I am sure an image of a person pops into you head. I know several people that as soon as they walk into a room, they seem to suck the joy right out of the place (if this were Hogwarts – they would be dementors).
As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Abide in my love. If you keep my commandments, you will abide in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commandments and abide in his love. These things I have spoken to you, that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be full. ~John 15:9-11 (ESV)
I bring this up and share this verse with you for several reasons. First, I want you to be aware that we cannot choose our situation but we can choose how we deal with it. There are going to be moments when everything seems to be crumbling all around us and we can react in anger, anguish, pain, or remember that God is with us and so we can react in joy. I am slowly learning this in my own life (sometimes the hard way).
As I am embarking, with my family, on a new journey in the world of military ministry, I want to enjoy the journey. I want to savor each moment and find God in each moment – even during the stresses. I am reminded by the scripture that as I abide in Jesus’ love, I abide in his joy as well. There is joy in all things – sometimes we just have to look for it.
The second reason I share this is to tell you that you never know when you will be reminded of things. This message began this morning with an email from the senior chaplain assistant for the 3rd MDSC of which my unit is part. He sent out a spiritual fitness booster and it was just the message I needed to hear. God is awesome!
Life is hard and we can approach with anticipation or dread. I am going to enjoy the journey with God knowing that I abide in God’s love.
Life’s a climb but the view is worth it. ~Hannah Montana
Today was a bittersweet day as we officially listed our house for sale. We knew it was coming and it had to be done but there is a certain sense of reality when you pull up and see the sign listing your house as available. There are memories attached to this place but all things must change and if if we are faithful to our calling, we accept that we need to let go from time to time.
As he walked by the Sea of Galilee, he saw two brothers, Simon, who is called Peter, and Andrew his brother, casting a net into the lake—for they were fishermen. And he said to them, ‘Follow me, and I will make you fish for people.’ Immediately they left their nets and followed him. -Matthew 4:18-20 (NRSV)
Peter and Andrew likely had a good job going and it might have been hard to let things go (though scripture does not seem to indicate as much). They had to leave the familiar to follow Jesus. They faced challenges along the way but they never looked back and they never regretted it.
My family and I are at the same point. We are letting go of the familiar and setting off into the unknown as we follow God’s call. We have no idea where this will lead but I bet we do not look back on it with regret. I would rather take this journey and find it leads to the impossible then spend later years of my life wishing I had done something different.
I know there is not a lot of humor today as I am sharing what is on my heart. Just part of the journey.
If you are interested in learning more about the Army Chaplaincy or becoming one, click here.
Here is today’s sermon based on Mark 5:21-34:
Introduction: You know it’s going to be a tough day when….
- You wake up face down on the pavement
- You look to see the birds outside your window and see nothing but buzzards
- Your birthday cake collapses under the weight of the candles
- You wake up to discover that your waterbed broke and then you remember that you don’t own a waterbed
- Your horn goes off accidentally and remains stuck as you follow a motorcycle gang on the freeway
- During your morning cup of coffee, you turn on the news only to see a live view of your house surrounded by the police.
- Mark has grouped together 4 miracles from 4:35-5:43 or rather Jesus’ answer to 4 bad days
- He is giving us a glimpse of the reason behind the frenzy of people pressed around Jesus. It wasn’t a calm scene. No, the people were pressed in around him.
- As soon as Jesus steps foot on shore, people are there. One is a man named Jairus…a synagogue ruler. He falls at Jesus’ feet and pleads for the life of his little girl. There’s not a parent here who doesn’t understand a bit of the desperation of this man.
- As they are on the way a woman reaches out for healing.
- Jesus realizes what has taken place and affirms her faith and her healing.
- Word then comes that the little girl Jesus was going to heal had died. Jairus is encouraged to “let it go”. Have you ever been told that?
- Jesus ignored them and said, “Don’t be afraid; just believe.”
- Only Peter, James and John were allowed to come along with Jesus and Jairus.
- Everyone in this scene is wailing. They were hired mourners. Since Jairus held a position of prominence there were a lot of them.
- From wailing in “sorrow” the scene turns to a mockery of the situation and of Jesus when He proclaims that she is not dead but only sleeping. They laugh. I’m sure the mother didn’t laugh. She would have either had hoped put back in her heart or would have been furious. It seems from the next scene that she had hope.
- Jesus sends everyone away except the 3 disciples and the parents.
- He then takes her by the hand and tells her to get up. Her lifeless body responds immediately and she walks around to everyone’s surprise (everyone except Jesus). He tells them not to speak of the event and to give her something to eat.
What an event! Jesus told Jairus not to be afraid. What could Jairus be afraid of? What could we be afraid of?
- Miracles happen to others but not us
- Jesus healed the woman. Then news comes of the girl’s death.
- Do we sometimes feel that God is too late? Do we think God has paid too much attention to others and ignored our situation? (Come on Jesus, this woman is bleeding but my daughter is dying!)
- We can be afraid that the crowd is right
- The situation is not worth bothering God about
- That Jesus couldn’t possibly do anything about it. (This is the motivation behind them telling Jairus not to bother Jesus anymore…the inability to stay focused on what God can do instead of looking at the circumstances)
- We can be afraid that the crowd is right
- The possibility of the miraculous is laughable
- People will say, “Learn to live with it”, “just deal with it”, “get over it”, and “accept it”. Worse yet is when they may say we deserve it or God is punishing us.
- Satan comes to us and whispers, God doesn’t care. He will try to persuade you to doubt.
- What are the keys to faith?
- Point of view
- Jairus didn’t listen to the crowd. He listened to the one He came to ask for help in the first place.
- Quit listening to the naysayers. Look to Jesus.
- Psalm 121:1-2, “I lift up my eyes to the hills, where does my help come from? My help comes from the Lord, the Maker of heaven and earth.”
- We are very quick to blame God when things don’t go our way. And when things don’t go our way perhaps it’s because of:
- Sin – ours or someone else’s
- Poor choices
- Improper timing (it might be “not yet” instead of “no”)
- While we are quick to blame God, we are slow to give glory and honor (notice I didn’t say credit—we should give God praise…not just an acknowledgment).
- Alex Haley, the author of “Roots,” had an unusual picture hanging on his office wall. It was a picture of a turtle on top of a fence post. When asked, “Why is that there?” Alex Haley answered, “Every time I write something significant, every time I read my words & think that they are wonderful, & begin to feel proud of myself, I look at the turtle on top of the fence post & remember that he didn’t get there on his own. He had help.”
- That is the basis of thankfulness – to remember that we got here with the help of God, & that He is the provider of every blessing we have.
- We must set our affections upon God and the fulfillment of His will.
- Matthew 6:33, “But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness and all these things will be given to you as well.”
- This is not an unlimited debit card account. It is a principle founded in obedience and relationship with Almighty God. As I walk with Him I know that He will give everything I need and what I may ask I can understand that any “No” will be for the best interest of my soul. We get everything out of order.
- C.S. Lewis said, “Put first things first and we get second things thrown in; put second things first and we lose both first and second things.”
- Patience & Perseverance
- These two go together. You will never persevere without patience.
- Joel 1:4, “What the locust swarm has left the great locusts have eaten; what the great locusts have left the young locusts have eaten; what the young locusts have left other locusts have eaten.”
- Oh, the barren times we can go through. It may seem like more than we can bear. It may seem that God does not care. But hold on. Be patient, persevere. God is doing something while the answer waits. He doesn’t forget us in the lean times. He is with us! And He will remember.
- Joel 2:25-27, “I will repay you for the years the locusts have eaten—the great locust and the young locust, the other locusts and the locust swarm—my great army that I sent among you. You will have plenty to eat, until you are full, and you will praise the name of the LORD your God, who has worked wonders for you; never again will my people be shamed. Then you will know that I am in Israel, that I am the LORD your God, and that there is no other; never again will my people be shamed.”
- Hold on today
- Point of view
Maybe you need to quit seeking after things, or the easy way, or a quick fix. It will take effort but you will have God’s help. Perhaps you need to surrender your insistence on your will for an answer to prayer and trust God’s perfect will. Maybe you need to ask, or keep asking. Just remember, Jesus’ words were few and direct. “Don’t be afraid, just believe.” Don’t be afraid today. Look to Jesus, live for Jesus, and wait for Jesus.
Here is today’s worship bulletin.
It has been an interesting few days (you can go back and read some of the previous posts for more information). I have been through waiting (also known as the valley) and now to active duty (also known as the mountaintop). God is guiding us in a new direction and I am starting to get excited. Now that the news of my selection for active duty has begun to take root, I find myself feeling a bit overwhelmed with everything that needs done. It could be time of stress but we are going to take this slow and steady (after all the tortoise did win the race by being slow and steady).
So where do I begin this process of transition from civilian to military chaplain?
- Uncluttering/Packing: that’s right. We have accumulated stuff – again. When we moved to Nashville in 2005, we cleaned house (literally) and managed to get rid of a lot of stuff we didn’t need. We vowed it would not happen again and yet here we are in 2012 with the same issue. I have 87 days left until I report so it is plenty of time to begin to unclutter and pack and donate things. I plan to go through my closet in the coming days and truly decide what clothes I never wear and get rid of them. There is no need to have as much as I do – especially if I am going to wear a uniform every day.
- Running/Exercising: While I find myself in decent physical shape, I need to do more and do better. I want to be able to hold my own when I go to my new unit. I don’t want to embarrass myself. Of course, this has absolutely nothing to do with me. The better I do in PT, the more relevant I become to my Soldiers. If I am one of those broken down chaplains, they are not as likely to relate to me as they would otherwise and so I am going to run more and do more push-ups and do more sit-ups.
- Reading about Religious Groups: I have found that people are surprised that I will be a Chaplain to many different groups. One of my jobs is to ensure the religious freedom of all of my Soldiers and make sure the have the resources to practice their religion. To better help me help them, I am going to be reading about other religious groups and making an effort to visit local representatives in my community to learn more. I hope to be better informed.
- Spending Time in God’s Word: While this is obvious for a Chaplain, it may be the one area that is overlooked in the course of the next few months. There is so much to do that I might find my devotional time lacking because I don’t have the time. Spending time in God’s word may be the most important thing I do as I transition from a civilian. This is what is all about and I need to keep my focus on why I am doing this in the first place. I know that reading God’s word should be first on this list but I put it last to emphasize that I need to remember not to let it be last.
I am taking this day by day as my family and I embark on this journey. It is exciting and I look forward to seeing what God has in store for us.
I am confident of this, that the one who began a good work among you will bring it to completion by the day of Jesus Christ. ~Philippians 1:6 (NRSV)
I am excited now and I want to share the news of my selection to Active Duty Army as a Chaplain with every one I can. This crazy idea took hold of me nearly 2 years ago and I have been working towards it ever since. It has not been easy as it involved getting in shape and losing a whole person worth of weight. I have been challenged and had days when I thought I was crazy but through it all, I felt a strong sense of calling to this direction and I have kept on the path no matter what.
Which is why I have been surprised about the reactions of some people that I have valued in my journey through seminary to this point. I am not going to name them but rather just keep them as a group of people. You see each of these people have served as a guide or mentor along the way even a sounding board. My call was affirmed time and time again and I continued on this path and here I am about to embark on an exciting journey and they don’t get it. I find out now that many people thought this was a phase that I was going through. They were humoring me until I came to my senses.
With them indeed is fulfilled the prophecy of Isaiah that says: ‘You will indeed listen, but never understand, and you will indeed look, but never perceive. For this people’s heart has grown dull, and their ears are hard of hearing, and they have shut their eyes; so that they might not look with their eyes, and listen with their ears, and understand with their heart and turn— and I would heal them.’ But blessed are your eyes, for they see, and your ears, for they hear. Truly I tell you, many prophets and righteous people longed to see what you see, but did not see it, and to hear what you hear, but did not hear it. ~Matthew 13:14-17 (NRSV)
I did come to my senses the day I took my oath of office to join the army. I have never regretted this decision because God has shown me clearly this is my path. I was not called to be a pastor of a church and I have known that for some time. My denomination is largely made up of pastors with some serving in other roles. I understand that many people struggle with things they don’t understand but I have a great opportunity to share my faith with countless others and I don’t even have to preach or speak. It is a ministry of presence – boots on the ground. While I am anxious, I have a sense of peace knowing I am going where God wants me to go.
For we are what he has made us, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand to be our way of life. ~Ephesians 2:10 (NRSV)
I know that people will read this and take offense to my words. I am not calling anyone out – I am simply expressing my feelings as to how I see things. There are people who have been supportive of this idea all along (my wife especially who has been my biggest supporter and I would not be on this journey without her love and support). I appreciate those who have expressed their support but I suppose I am human after all. I find myself focusing on those who don’t care or appear to not be supportive. It is a fine line separating me from bitterness. This is my struggle today as we begin this phase of the journey.
O God, I cry to you.
Help me to pray
And to concentrate my thoughts on you:
I cannot do this alone.
In me there is darkness,
But with you there is light;
I am lonely, but you do not leave me;
I am feeble in heart, but with you there is help;
I am restless, but with you there is peace.
In me there is bitterness, but with you there is patience;
I do not understand your ways,
But you know the way for me…
Restore me to liberty,
And enable me to live now
That I may answer before you and before me.
Lord, whatever this journey may bring,
Your name be praised.
In the end, I realize God has already provided guidance and answers. Lisa, Sophia, and I are heading off with the support of each other and God on this journey. This morning, I was reading 1 Samuel and David’s story (journey) to the throne. While I am not battling for a throne, I do understand his feelings of loneliness. But I am not alone, I have my family and I have God and what more do I need. I am excited for the journey. I will just fight bitterness.
It’s a good question to ask. Now that I have the answer I was seeking, my family and I are beginning the process of transitioning to a full time military family. There are jobs to leave and friends to bid farewell. There is packing. There is organizing. There is cleaning. There is a house to sell. There is so much to do that it can quickly become overwhelming.
However, before I become completely wrapped up in all of this, it is important to remember why we are in this process to begin with. God is leading us on this journey to military ministry and that is where our focus needs to be. Yes, there are a lot of things to do but I need to pause during the busyness and pray to God for comfort, for peace, for strength to keep going. After all, it is not about me.
Wait for the Lord; be strong, and let your heart take courage; wait for the Lord! ~Psalm 27:14 (NRSV)
This is going to be the verse that I use to remind myself to stop, take a deep breath, and look to God. Over the next few months, I am going to be sharing my preparation for this new ministry as I prepare myself mentally, physically, and spiritually to serve God in the US Army as a Chaplain. I am excited, overwhelmed, and now it is all sinking in. It is going to be awesome…if I can just get organized and packing.
I am waiting for word and news and still on the edge of my seat waiting. I don’t wait well but as I mentioned yesterday, God assured me that I am not waiting in vain. Today a friend told me to watch John Waller’s While I Am Waiting video. It was further assurance and peace to met that I am exactly where God wants me to be. Watch the video below:
The refain says: “While I’m waiting I will serve You; While I’m waiting I will worship; While I’m waiting I will not faint; I’ll be running the race even while I wait.” I can’t always say that. I can’t always say that I am doing anything but waiting and focusing on me. Instead, the song reminds me I need to be doing God’s work while I am waiting. It is not a vacation or a chance to rest but rather a further reason to keep doing what I am doing. God has me just where I need to be. This is all preparation for whatever is next in life and I am not just going to sit around and wait…I am going to keep doing what I need to do.
Two scripture verses I have prayed over today and used to focus my thoughts as I am waiting. The first comes from Hebrews 12:1-2 (NRSV):
Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight and the sin that clings so closely, and let us run with perseverance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus the pioneer and perfecter of our faith, who for the sake of the joy that was set before him endured the cross, disregarding its shame, and has taken his seat at the right hand of the throne of God.
There are so many others who have come before me who have been in this position and they didn’t stop running the race God set them on. They kept going until God showed them a new direction or a new path. I am reminded that I need to do the same thing.
The other scripture verse comes from my favorite book of the Bible – Revelation. Revelation 3:11 (NRSV) says:
I am coming soon; hold fast to what you have, so that no one may seize your crown.
Again, I am reminded that I can be caught unaware if I focus too much on my waiting (or on me). If I am not careful, things will pass me by and I may not even realize. So I am going to keep doing what I am doing in the full hope and assurance that God is in control and what God wills is what is going to be.
So while I’m waiting, I plan to serve, to worship, and to praise God!
I wilSo I am spending this weekend waiting on word about the Active Duty board and an appointment as an Active Duty Chaplain. For those that read my blog regularly, you know I do not wait well nor do I handle worry very well. It is likely, I will end up as a basket case by Monday morning. I did a Google search on some scripture verses this morning and as I was reading them, I began to hear God’s voice speaking to me.
Do not remember the former things, or consider the things of old. I am about to do a new thing; now it springs forth, do you not perceive it? I will make a way in the wilderness and rivers in the desert. ~Isaiah 43:18-19a (NRSV)
As it says in Ecclesiastes 3:1, “to everything there is a season, a time for every purpose under heaven.”
“The hour is the God-given moment of destiny not to be shrunk from but seized with decisiveness, the floodtide of opportunity and demand in which the unseen waters of the future surge down to the present.” (Os Guinness, Character Counts **) Nothing is more critical than to recognize and respond to such a moment. A moment is all the time it takes for God to change things.
When God presents you with an exciting opportunity do you eagerly step out of your comfort zone and proceed with enthusiasm? Or like many people do you cower in fear and say to God, “Not me Lord, send someone else!” ? How can God do a new thing today, if we are still hanging on to yesterday’s hurt, pain and disappointment? We must declare as David did, “This is the day that the Lord has made, I will rejoice and be glad in it!”
But I trust in you, O Lord; I say, ‘You are my God.’ My times are in your hand; deliver me from the hand of my enemies and persecutors. ~Psalm 31:14-15a (NRSV)
The title of this post is from a quote by the immortal British Prime Minister, Winston Churchill. I chose this quote as the title because I have been pondering waiting over the past week as I await word from the US Army regarding Active Duty. Of course, for those who know my mind, you know I cannot stay on one topic for very long. So what is on my mind?
We all face failure in our lives at times; whether they are recurring fears, lost opportunities, possibly even moral failures. One of mine is that I get nervous when speaking to groups when I feel like I’m being evaluated. Then my breath gets short and my voice starts cracking. I’m just not myself when that happens and I feel terrible afterwards. It’s not like it happens all the time either. In those situations I feel like Peter, when he walked on water and then began to sink when he got his eyes off Jesus. I can hear Jesus saying…”Oh you of little faith”.
At those times…some of us start believing the enemy (satan). He tells us that we’re worthless failures or that God does not care about us or even love us. We tend to feel defeated and ready to give up and let the enemy win. Though giving up and giving in to the lies of the enemy seems like the easy thing to do sometimes, is that what God wants us to do?
It’s hard to get up…especially when we try to do it on our own strength. The good news is that we don’t have to do it on our own strength…we have a helper and that is Jesus and the Holy Spirit. God does not want us to do anything on our might. He does want us to take the initial step of faith, repent and then get up, however, He does not want us to do it on our own strength. He wants us to give him our failures, fears and burdens and move forward. Also, He does not want us to live in the past. Many of us relive our failure a thousand times over and over in our thoughts. We need to stop that. The Bible says that we should take every thought captive into the obedience of Jesus Christ. That means that He wants us to consciously cast away thoughts that do not come from Him. We can’t prevent every thought from entering our minds, however, we have to make a decision on what to do with those thoughts. Do we meditate on that bad thought or do we take that thought captive…do we bind it to a scripture and dismiss it? Which route we chose is up to us. Let’s choose right.
God wants us to get up when we experience failure or defeat. Never ever is God saying to give in to defeat. He is our biggest advocate who encourages us to get up because He is an overcomer and has already overcome this world.
The Bible (NRSV) says…
- Since, then, we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus, the Son of God, let us hold fast to our confession. For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who in every respect has been tested as we are, yet without sin. Let us therefore approach the throne of grace with boldness, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need. ~Hebrews 4:4-16
- Cast your burden on the Lord, and he will sustain you; he will never permit the righteous to be moved. ~Psalm 55:22
- ‘Do not fear, for I am with you; do not anxiously look about you, for I am your God. I will strengthen you, surely I will help you, surely I will uphold you with My righteous right hand. ~Isaiah 41:10
God wants us to get up. The key to success is not the act of falling down but that act of getting back up.
“But as for you, be strong and do not give up, for your work will be rewarded.” ~2 Chronicles 15:7
I wish that I could overcome some of my struggles in an instant, however, it’s more of a slow process most of the time. Nevertheless, God wants us to be overcomers and He gave us all the tools to do that. You might think that you will never overcome this illness, addition, fear, etc. in this life, but that is not what God says. The Grace that saved us from sins consequences also provides us with the power to be overcomers and to live holy, righteous, successful lives. It’s the lack of faith that is truly holding us back. Jesus talked to his disciples many times about their lack of faith. If we had the faith of just a mustard seed we could move mountains. We could pray for the sick and they would be healed.
How do we get more faith? We get it by spending more time in the word, in prayer and in thought with Jesus. We get it by trusting Him when these situations come up and by surrendering our fears, our doubts, our past, our failure continually to him and giving him thanks for the victories. We get it by little victories along the way when we step out in faith and trust God. We get it by getting up one more time. Let’s write down all that God blessed us with and read those blessings once a day for the next 30 days. We need to train our minds toward God and rebuke the enemy who want us to live defeated lives. Let’s start living a victorious life starting NOW!
Don’t give up on God because He has not given up on you. THIS IS IMPORTANT!!! You might feel that your sin is too big for God ever be able to forgive you. That is a lie of the enemy. God is not proud of our sins, however, He is always ready to receive us back if we repent and ask Him into our hearts. You might say…I have sinned 500 times…I have done really bad things. Repent, ask God to forgive you, and ask Jesus into your life…He is waiting.
Today is the day I have for which I have been waiting a long time. I have been on a journey and today (or maybe tomorrow) I will know where that journey will lead.
For those who are confused, I have been part of the Army Chaplain Candidate program for the past 18 months and heading in this direction for nearly 3 years. I have put forth my packet to be considered for active duty and I will know whether that is happening later this week. If I am not selected for active duty, it is not the end of my military ministry – it will just change directions and focus. I will still be part of the Army and I will still have a chance to do ministry with Soldiers.
There would have been a time in my life when I would have worried about what was going to happen but not anymore. I have a friend who likes to remind everyone that it isn’t about me, it isn’t about you, it’s about God. It is a true statement (I even preached about that idea this past Sunday). None of this has anything to do with me ultimately – it is all for God’s glory and all part of God’s greater plan. I am privileged to be a participant but it isn’t about me at all. While active duty may be appealing (and I really, really want to go active duty), it may not be God’s will for me. I may be disappointed but I will keep going where God leads me.
Cast your burden on the Lord, and he will sustain you; he will never permit the righteous to be moved. -Psalm 55:22 (NRSV)
So what lessons would I share with you today based on my above ramblings? Good question and here are my answers.
- It is not about you; It is about God. It is that simple. Every single thing about this life is about God. We have a purpose on this earth and true joy and delight come from fulfilling that purpose. Happy are those who find their purpose and live their life according to God’s will!
- It will be okay. I remind myself of this all the time and I am reminded of this all the time. We may not be able to see what is coming down the road or see to the other side of our troubles or our waiting but God is already there and that is enough for me. As my supervisory chaplain reminded us in a sermon: “God is already in tomorrow.”
- Don’t worry; be happy! I am not naïve enough to know that being happy all the time is nearly impossible. However, when we worry less and trust more, happiness follows. This comes from a worrier at heart who struggles with doubt and worry on a regular basis. Believe me, I am worrying less and I am happier for it. Life still isn’t easier but it is better when I stop worrying and trust that God is in control.
So as I go through the next few days, I am waiting but I am not worrying. I may be on the edge of my sit waiting for answers (who among really does like to wait?) but I am not worried about the outcome because it will be exactly what God wants for me. I would appreciate a prayer or two but no worries here. It is all good.
We know that all things work together for good for those who love God, who are called according to his purpose. For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn within a large family. -Romans 8:28-29 (NRSV)
Today, we are traveling back home to Tennessee after a few days in Pennsylvania. Here is a prayer for not only our travels but for anyone who is traveling and/or on a journey.
God who watches over us,
Watch over this journey.
Keep us free from affliction and strife,
Safe from danger and wrong doing,
Protected in Your loving sight.
May we know strength and good fortune on the way,
Rest and peace upon our return.
May this travel be blessed with the shelter of Your gentle arms,
The guidance of Your mighty hand,
The gift of Your countless blessings.
Bless our moments apart,
Bless our moments together.
Grace upon departure,
Joy upon return.
Remembering to praise and bless
Your Holy Name
Wherever You lead us,
While I may hold a masters of divinity, I don’t hold a master’s degree in waiting on God, nor in patience – as those who know me best will attest. . But I am praying that I’d be slowly molded into an expert on the art 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.
…and some Hebrews crossed the fords of the Jordan to the land of Gad and Gilead. Saul was still at Gilgal, and all the people followed him trembling. He waited seven days, the time appointed by Samuel. But Samuel did not come to Gilgal, and the people were scattering from him. So Saul said, “Bring the burnt offering here to me, and the peace offerings.” And he offered the burnt offering. As soon as he had finished offering the burnt offering, behold, Samuel came. And Saul went out to meet him and greet him. Samuel said, “What have you done?” And Saul said, “When I saw that the people were scattering from me, and that you did not come within the days appointed, and that the Philistines had mustered at Michmash, I said, ‘Now the Philistines will come down against me at Gilgal, and I have not sought the favor of the Lord.’ So I forced myself, and offered the burnt offering.” And Samuel said to Saul, “You have done foolishly.You have not kept the command of the Lord your God, with which he commanded you. For then theLord would have established your kingdom over Israel forever. But now your kingdom shall not continue. The Lord has sought out a man after his own heart, and the Lord has commanded him to be prince over his people, because you have not kept what the Lord commanded you.” ~1 Samuel 13:7-14 (ESV)
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.
There’s a problem with the unknown. Not everything is wrong with the unknown because sometimes knowing all the answers is one of the biggest traps of pride. But there’s still a problem. The problem with the unknown is that we try to fill in the blank.
I have heard people talk about the “fill in the blank” syndrome and how we tend to fill in the blank with the worst possible scenario. It’s the same thinking that makes our heart race 100 mph when anything goes “bump” in the night. It’s probably just a coat falling down in the closet… or maybe it’s a burglar!
I bring this up today because I am one of those people who fill in the worst possible case scenario. I don’t get an email right away and I assume something is wrong. I fall between the cracks and I assume they don’t want me anymore. I assume and try to fill in the blank.
There is one thing I can assume correctly – God loves me and as long as I trust in God, it’s going to be okay. As I ponder this idea, Psalm 91 has popped into my head. It is commonly called the Soldier’s Psalm and I think it fits right here with the idea of a fill in the blank syndrome.
Living in the Most High’s shelter, camping in the Almighty’s shade, I say to the Lord, “You are my refuge, my stronghold! You are my God—the one I trust!” God will save you from the hunter’s trap and from deadly sickness. God will protect you with his pinions; you’ll find refuge under his wings. His faithfulness is a protective shield. Don’t be afraid of terrors at night, arrows that fly in daylight, or sickness that prowls in the dark, destruction that ravages at noontime. -Psalm 91:1-6 (CEB)
You and I have a choice to make when it comes to filling in the blank: is it the worst possible scenario or a reasonable explanation? Is it an answer filled with fear or with faith? Is it under our control or God’s? Filling in the blank should be about being confident in what you and I do know and trusting God for what you and I don’t know.
When I run, I find my mind wandering between the few running cadences I know:
The Army Colors:
The Army colors,
The colors are blue,
To show the world
That we are true.
The Army colors,
The colors are green,
To show the world
We’re a fighting machine.
The Army colors,
The colors are red,
To show the world
The blood we’ve shed.
The Army colors,
The colors are black,
To show the world
That we’re on the attack.
The Army colors,
The colors are white,
To show the world
That we can fight.
When my granny was ninety-one,
She did PT just for fun.
When my granny was ninety-two,
She did PT better than you.
When my granny was ninety-five,
She did PT to stay alive.
When my granny was ninety-six,
She did PT just for kicks.
When my granny was ninety-seven,
She up and died and went to heaven.
She met St. Peter at the Pearly Gates,
She said, “Gee, St. Peter, I hope I’m not late.”
St. Peter said with a big ol’ grin,
“Get down Granny and knock out ten.”
Granny replied with a big old smile,
“Hell, no, St. Peter, I got a profile.”
However, I don’t spend the entire time I am running just doing the cadences. I also find myself praying and reflecting on scripture and even reciting scripture in my head. In either case, whether prayer and scripture or cadences, the end result is the same. I am focused on something other than me or something other than how far I have to run or something other than what is troubling me. I am able to focus on other things.
This morning, I realized that prayer and scripture serve the same purpose in our every day lives as well. We have struggles, challenges, and even hills to face as we go through our daily lives and prayer and scripture serve as cadences to help us keep going. It is great to have a Bible but it is even better to know scripture by heart so you can refer to it whenever you need it. I have some favorite verses that I depend on in times of trouble and need.
Just a though from this morning’s run.
Life is not easy. The life of faith not easy at all.
In my Sunday School days I grew up fascinated by stories of young David killing Goliath, Daniel unharmed in the den of lions and the dreamer Joseph becoming Prime Minister in Egypt.
As I grew up I also dreamed of becoming such a giant of faith. But then the reality slowly made itself clear. Such greatness is not destined for every one of us. Those were God’s specially chosen children.
But that doesn’t prevent anyone from becoming strong in faith. So I still dared to dream to become Somebody for God making a difference in the world. I started reading great faith-building books. I listened to emotionally charged sermons talking about prosperity. Honestly, I believed it all to be true. And I tried to make my faith-muscles as strong as possible.
Slowly my world started falling apart. Instead of a smooth sail what I got was winds and storms. When I looked for light I found darkness. I turned to the Church to find some meaning in my struggles. They seemed to ignore the reality of such a struggle. For them keeping traditions is what mattered most. That burdened me more.
Even when my struggles did not make meaning I tried to believe. Through repeatedly falling into sin, through failures, through discouragement I battled on with a firm resolve to become a giant of faith.
But then I had started asking questions: Does God really like me? Why is there no immediate change in me? When I want to become a saint why does not God make me victorious in the twinkling of an eye? Why am I not experiencing peace at all times?
The funny part of it all is that God did not answer these questions!
So the struggles continued. During brief moments there were flashes of heavenly light giving me a little hope. But then the returning darkness after that killed all those fleeting glimpses of joy.
Now I have grown up. Still many questions remain unanswered. Not that I do not expect answers. But the reality is that God may not bother to answer them at all.
Yet the quest for answers taught me some lessons about the reality. The most important one is that there is a process involved in becoming a man or woman of faith. Joseph had his waterless pit and prison, David had his years of fleeing from Saul, and Daniel his years of training in the king’s court; before they were ready for God’s best.
The Christian world today generally teaches about the possibility of instant imitations of such giants of faith. But the reality is that such faith cannot be imitated without passing through the process of tests of faith; where doubts, confusion, failures, disappointment all mix together to shake faith itself. Peace amidst such a process cannot be defined as the absence of such trouble. But I learned the hard way that peace is the Presence of Christ with us in the midst of such trouble.
Along with it came the realization that Jesus was the greatest Realist of all times. He talked realistically about heaven and the life to come. And He talked about the glory that we would have in heaven. But He also said that in this world we will have trouble. He asked us to cheer up because He has overcome the world.
Paul is an example of one who believed in this realism. He had all kind of struggles, heartaches, sadness, physical troubles and the added burden of being let down by people. Yet in spite of all this he rejoiced, terming these as “light and momentary troubles.” All this was possible because He enjoyed the presence of God. Sometimes he seemed to miss that even. Yet he ran his race of faith and finished it.
This is reality. We are called to run with faith. That does not prevent us from going through struggles. It may not bring us a hundred percent return on the money that we gave to God—in popular terms, “the seed that we sowed into God’s kingdom.” The race of faith does not take place in a modern Olympic stadium even. It takes us through byways and rough terrains, across seas and over mountains and through shadowy valleys. We may be practically unknown, battling alone; trying hard to finish the race; perhaps to collapse once the finishing tape is touched.
Sometimes God never gives us company. It almost seems He has forsaken us. In spite of His promise of never leaving us or forsaking us we feel as if God has indeed forsaken us. He may also choose not to answer our prayers as we expect.
But all this does not deny the reality of God. And His great love towards us in and through His Son Jesus Christ. Neither does it stop Him dwelling within us through the Holy Spirit.
The reality therefore is that God is still with us. His words are still true. But many mistaken interpretations of His Word is what misleads us: False hopes are bombarded onto our minds to suit our materialistic and selfish attitudes. They drive us away from the reality found in His Word.
Another confusion is regarding the supernatural. Definitely, signs and wonders and miracles are all the normal part of the Christian life. But they are not greater than the reality of God. And they should never be permitted to obscure the face of God.
Let us also remember that we have a giving God. He spend His Son on us; fully.
Shall we at least consider to give something of our lives for Him? That would truly imitate the reality of Jesus on the cross. He died not to give us prosperity. But He died to purchase our forgiveness. And to give us life eternal.
Yes, God did not spare His own Son. He did that for us.
That is the Reality!
I thought about my ranting yesterday and realized I needed a follow-up.
Happy are people who show mercy, because they will receive mercy. -Matthew 5:7 (CEB)
For those who follow my blog, you know that I have been on a journey for some time. I have been moving towards an appointment as an Army Chaplain – whether Active Duty or Reserves – over the past few years. Lately, I have been working to complete necessary forms and other things to make my packet complete to go before the board. Today that part is over. After spending the past 6 months hands on, my packet is on its way to the Board and there is nothing I can do. It is out of my control. Of course, it has never been in my control all along but there is nothing more I can do except wait. And that may be the hardest thing yet.
A funny thing, though. It is a year to the day since I was ordained to Word and Sacrament. One of the gifts I received was a book of Oswald Chambers’ quotes. I have glanced through it from time to time when I needed something for a sermon but I just pulled it off the shelf and looked up “waiting” and came across the perfect thought:
The majority of us know nothing about waiting; we don’t wait, we endure. Waiting means we go on in perfect certainty of God’s goodness – no dumps or fear. The attitude of the human heart toward God who promises should be to give Him credit for being as honest as he ought to be, then go on in the actual life as if no promise had been made. That is faithful waiting.
I am a person who endures rather than waits. I find it difficult to think that I have to endure for over a month until I have answers but then I read quotes like that above and I am reminded that God is faithful to me. God has lead me this far on this journey and I have to wait just a bit longer to see where it leads.
But me! I will keep watch for the Lord; I will wait for the God of my salvation; my God will hear me. -Micah 7:7 (CEB)
I will wait faithfully and in certainty that God is already there. God is in my tomorrow and God is in my next month and beyond. I do ask that you pray with me as I wait for answers. I ask that you pray that I will keep going and not give in to doubts and worry. I can wait – it’s just not easy.
So now, Lord, what should I be waiting for? My hope is set on you. -Psalm 39:7 (CEB)
Pondering a sermon and here are a few thoughts from a familiar scripture.
“I am the true vine, and my Father is the vineyard keeper. He removes any of my branches that don’t produce fruit, and he trims any branch that produces fruit so that it will produce even more fruit.You are already trimmed because of the word I have spoken to you. Remain in me, and I will remain in you. A branch can’t produce fruit by itself, but must remain in the vine. Likewise, you can’t produce fruit unless you remain in me. I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, then you will produce much fruit. Without me, you can’t do anything. If you don’t remain in me, you will be like a branch that is thrown out and dries up. Those branches are gathered up, thrown into a fire, and burned. If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask for whatever you want and it will be done for you. My Father is glorified when you produce much fruit and in this way prove that you are my disciples. -John 15:1-8 (CEB)
Jesus starts out a new profound teaching (John 15:1-8) about experiencing real life and fruitfulness by making the bold claim that He is the “true” vine. This is one of those exclusivistic statements of Jesus, that rubs people the wrong way. He is in a sense saying that, “I know there are a lot of other options out there of people offering life and purpose and fruitfulness, but I am the only true vine for you branches (v. 5), to tap into. You can try to tap into other things like fame, fortune, career, vacations, luxury, other philosophies, religions or self. You can chase your dreams and follow your heart hoping to find real vitality in life, but you will not find it, except if you tap into me, the true vine. All other ‘sources’ are pretenders and frauds trying to trick you into wasting your life. I am the true vine.”
Lord forgiving me for trying to find meaning, life, fulfillment, purpose and productivity from anywhere else other than you, the true vine. You are our only hope of living that life that is fruitful, full and satisfying.
After embracing the risen and living Christ, the apostles began to get a better idea of their purpose in light of the resurrection. It also helped that Jesus was rather specific in his final instructions to them.
Jesus said to them, “These are my words that I spoke to you while I was still with you—that everything written about me in the Law from Moses, the Prophets, and the Psalms must be fulfilled.” Then he opened their minds to understand the scriptures. He said to them, “This is what is written: the Christ will suffer and rise from the dead on the third day, and a change of heart and life for the forgiveness of sins must be preached in his name to all nations, beginning from Jerusalem. You are witnesses of these things. -Luke 24:44-47 (CEB)
We know the rest of the story. They went out from there and spread the good news/gospel to the ends of the known earth and the Church was born. They lived out their purpose in light of the resurrection but what about the rest of us? It is not so simple.
If you listen to some sermons (and read them), it seems we should be out on the streets preaching to people and making sure they know Jesus. I am not mocking this idea but I don’t think everyone is called to this purpose. Instead, I think we are called to live our lives in light of our own purpose. When we live in the hope of our own resurrection, when we live in harmony with others, when we live in harmony with creation, when we deal with pain and suffering with assurance of God’s peace and comfort, we are preaching the good news.
But something even more amazing happens when we live out our life in light of the resurrection. We share in the defeat of death.
Death is the last enemy to be brought to an end, -1 Corinthians 15:26 (CEB)
When we choose to live despite death, despite pain, and despite suffering, we are sharing in the destruction of death that was started by Christ. We are saying to death – you may be able to take my life but I am going to refuse to give it to you. I am not going to fear you or let you destroy this life that I have. It those moments when we live fully and completely in Christ’s resurrection that we are sharing the good news. There is no death when we live in Jesus Christ. This is our hope. This is our assurance. This is our purpose.
He will swallow up death forever. The Lord God will wipe tears from every face; he will remove his people’s disgrace from off the whole earth, for the Lord has spoken. -Isaiah 25:8 (CEB)