Tuesday, December 3, 2019

At Just the Right Time



We have come to rely on the predictability of time. Hours become days and multiplied days swiftly turn into weeks. We count on the changing of seasons - each one flowing into another  as we tick off another year. We find a measure of comfort in knowing what comes next.

How nice it would be, we think, if we could count on the important issues of our lives resolving themselves with the same predictability. We pray to the God who has promised to hear and answer prayer - trusting Him with the deepest needs of our hearts and lives. We believe all He has said, and we want desperately for Him to come through - now. We need the answer now.

Sometimes it comes right on time - our time. More often than not - we wait. Our deadline comes and goes and still no answer. We pray all the harder and lean into faith, but the heavens are "become like brass."  (Deuteronomy 28:23)

When heaven is silent, discouragement, doubt, fear and even anger try to set up camp in our hearts. We see time slipping away. It's late - too late. It will never work out the way we planned. We wonder if the promises are true.

All the while, in the silent waiting, God moves to the rhythm of His perfect timetable. Paul tells us in Romans 5:6 "When we were utterly helpless, Christ came at just the right time and died for us sinners." 

The Old Testament closes with a promise in the book of Malachi.  One will come to restore the hearts of mankind before “the great and terrible day of the Lord.” Surely welcome news to a backslidden nation.

Then for four hundred years, ten generations, heaven was silent. Not one word.  The people must have wondered if God had forgotten His promise.  

God was not indifferent to man’s distress. Time was ticking down to the moment set apart long before time began - to the coming of the promised One. 

On a dark, lonely night in a stable in Bethlehem, a baby’s cry pierced the silence. All of heaven rejoiced - for from that moment nothing would be the same. The promised One had come.

At just the right time.

Stories of God's perfect timing fill the pages of scripture. What looks to us like "too late," is "just the right time" to Him. If we had the ability to look into the future, we wouldn't hold God to our demanding timetable. We would see what eventually becomes evident - His ways are perfect and just. Even His timing - especially His timing.


Sunday, November 24, 2019

In Everything, Give Thanks



"Rejoice always; pray without ceasing; in everything gives thanks for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.”
I Thessalonians 5:16-18

This portion of scripture, brief and to the point, is familiar to most of us. It may easily roll off the tongue, but anyone who has suffered knows the difficulty of living it out. 

Most of us will pause this week to give thanks. We will gather with family and friends on Thanksgiving day and take a few moments to count our blessings. We have so much to be thankful for. However, it’s doubtful many will mention the times of suffering and trial among their blessings.

How is it God calls us to give thanks despite our circumstances? How can we be expected to be grateful for hard times? The answer may be found in one little word - in. 

We are not told to give thanks “for” everything; we are told to give thanks “in” everything. That one word makes a big difference. We aren’t expected to be thankful FOR the bad things that happen - the deep sorrow and times of suffering. Yet it can feel nearly as impossible to be thankful IN the middle of those times. 

If we can step back for a moment and remember God’s goodness and great love for us, we will understand how it’s possible to be grateful IN everything. Whatever we are going through, we know that God has promised He will never forsake us. He will never leave us alone.  He has also promised to work things together for our good. It may not look the way we had imagined, but when we look back we will know He did indeed keep His promise. 

With a bit of perspective, we can see that the times we grew most in faith and drew closer to the Lord were during those times of trial. God delights to give us the desire of our hearts, but uppermost on His heart is making us more like Jesus. In the long run that is where we find true joy. 


We rejoice. We pray. We give thanks IN everything, and trust the One who loves us unconditionally that all will be well. 

Have a blessed Thanksgiving, dear friends.

Thursday, October 24, 2019

Be Careful What You Ask For



As I thought about a recent sermon on prayer, and the way we sometimes ask God for things He knows will be harmful in the long run, I remembered a story from my childhood. It comes from Greek mythology - the story of a king who wanted it all.

There once lived a kIng who received an amazing gift. King Midas, for that was his name, had found favor in the eyes of one of his gods. This god told King Midas he could have one wish for anything he desired. The king didn’t hesitate for a moment. He told the god he wanted to have the ability to turn anything he touched into gold.

The god, although not THE God, had wisdom enough to advise King Midas to take a minute to think his request through, but the king had no patience for that. He assured him that the golden touch was exactly what he wanted. His wish was granted.

The moment the god left, the king reached out and touched his throne. Immediately the wood became gold. Ecstatic, he began racing around the palace, touching everything in sight and watching in utter delight as one thing after another glittered and shone. He walked outdoors into his garden and plucked a rose from a nearby bush. At his touch the delicate petals became hard and shiny. It gave him a moments’ pause to see the harshness of what had been so delicate, but he shrugged his shoulders and went inside to get something to eat. All that turning things to gold had given him quite an appetite.

King Midas pulled his now golden chair up to his gold table and reached for a bunch of grapes. He popped one in his mouth and nearly broke a tooth on the hard golden globe. 
He threw down the grapes and reached for an apple, but it too became brittle and hard. 

The realization of what he had done brought him to tears. How would he be able to eat or do the simplest of tasks. He began to sob loudly. His daughter came into the room at that moment and upset by her father’s cries she ran to him. The moment she touched him she was transformed into a golden statue. The king was beside himself.

He hurriedly ran to the god who had granted him his wish and begged him to take it back. The god took pity on him and told him to go wash his hands in a certain river. King Midas dipped his hands in the river reversing the spell and returning everything to its original state - including his daughter.

A silly story, perhaps, but a good illustration of what can happen when we ask amiss. We are prone to see only our immediate need, but God sees the whole picture. What to us seems needful and good may be the very thing God knows will harm us in the end. Unlike a make-believe story, there are things that simply cannot be undone. At the very least, we may miss the good He had in mind for us by insisting on having our own way.

God is always faithful to answer our prayers. However, He doesn’t always answer in the way we would like Him to. Often the answer is yes. Sometimes it’s no and at other times He wants us to wait. 

When He says no, we need to trust that He knows what is best for us. If we persist, He might just give us what we’re asking for - and we could very well live to regret it. 


When we trust His wisdom and goodness, the day may come when we realize His “no” was truly for our good and that He had something else in mind for us - something born out of His great love and care for us. 

Jeremiah 29:11 "For I know the plans I have for you,” says the Lord. “They are plans for good and not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope."

Thursday, October 10, 2019

Integrity


According to C.S. Lewis, “Integrity is doing the right thing even when no one is watching.’

One might think it an easy thing to do - after all don’t we all want to be known as a person whose character and word can be trusted?  However, as with most simple ideas, its truth is rooted in a far deeper meaning. 

In order for us to be a person who consistently does the right thing, we need to know what the right thing is. A bit obvious, you might think, and that would be true. The difficulty comes in discerning who determines the right thing. It’s the age-old question: “What is truth?”

Some would say, it’s no big deal - you just decide for yourself. If it seems right to you, and you aren’t hurting anyone else, it’s fine. Others come down on the side of feelings. On any given day, your truth can be determined by your emotional state. What is true one day, when all is well with your world, may seem all wrong when you’re feeling sad or discouraged. 

Truth isn’t something that can stand on such shaky ground. It cannot shift and change according to our circumstances or feelings.  We need a plumb line, a resolute moral code, by which to measure our beliefs. We cannot say something is right or wrong if truth hasn’t first been established.

Jesus said of Himself, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life…” (John 14:6). His word is truth. God has given us the “code book.” It will stand for all eternity. His truth never changes. It doesn’t conform to current social norms. It doesn’t change from culture to culture or age to age.It is simply and always the truth.

We need only look at the lives highlighted within the pages of scripture or the lives of the people around us to see what happens when we try to live apart from God’s truth. Time and time again a life lived disconnected from that truth tumbles into despair, while a life lived with integrity is a life lived to the fullest. 

Living a life of integrity is a daily surrendering to God’s will. In our humanity popularity, convenience, fear, materialism, selfishness and the desire for comfort war against our desire to live with integrity. We often fail to make the right choices, but we have a God who forgives, forgets and redeems.

The human soul longs for the stability and freedom that comes from knowing what is true. His word is truth.

“16 All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, 17 that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work.” IITimothy 3: 16,17

“So Jesus said to the Jews who had believed him, “If you abide in my word, you are truly my disciples,
and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.”
John 8:31,32



Friday, October 4, 2019

Something New


Here in Texas we are still awaiting the arrival of the first cold front. We long for the day when the wind blows in from the north, dropping the temperature and sweeping away the heat and dust of summer.  We dream of pulling warm sweaters and cozy quilts out of our closets, pouring a hot cup of tea and snuggling down with that book we've been saving for just such a day and wonder if it's too soon for a fire in the fireplace.

We know better than to look for a magnificent blaze of color throughout our landscape, but here and there we catch glimpses of autumn peeping out of the branches. It's an annual miracle - this changing of the colors - the precursor to a season of deep rest.

The science behind this dramatic turning of leaves from green to gold, red, orange or russet is fascinating - a small peek into the wonder of God's creation. At the same time another change takes place in the tree - one we cannot see. As the leaves fade, a chemical is produced at the base of the stem that slowly separates the tissues that support it and also suspends the growth of the tree. When the winds blow, the leaves give way and fall to the ground leaving a tiny scar to mark the place where they had been. Now the tree settles in for a time of rest. To all appearances it is dead, but it has simply slowed down. Throughout the winter it waits until the time is right for it to begin to burst with new life.

We often find ourselves in a season where it seems the abundant we life we long for and have experienced in the past is dead. It comes to all of us - times of sorrow, illness, unexpected circumstances or just plain weariness - times when what was productive and fruitful is no longer working. We long to see things improve - to put the heaviness and discouragement behind us and find new life.

God allows these times to come to us. Just as with the trees, He knows it will eventually be for our good. When they come, He invites us to rest in Him - to allow Him to sever the old, heal the wounds and prepare us for something new. While we wait He works. Without the sloughing off of the old, there can be no new growth. It will come, in its time. In the meantime, He calls us to come rest our weary hearts and allow Him to draw us ever closer.

“Remember not the former things,
    nor consider the things of old.
19 Behold, I am doing 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: 18,19



Friday, September 27, 2019

Talking To My Father



For good or ill, none of us can minimize the importance of the role of a father in the lives of his children. Whether or not we have known the blessing of a good earthly father, we can all have the Father our hearts long for. 
This Father has millions upon millions of children yet He knows you as though you were His only child. In fact, He knew you before you ever drew your first breath. He wrote your story with a good, purposeful plan in mind. He made you with gifts and talents and a unique personality. He knows you by name and has written it on the palm of His hand.  
He not only knows your name, He knows your heart. Nothing is hidden from Him. He has promised that He will never abandon you, no matter what, and He has never broken a single promise. He rejoices with you in your joy, and in your pain He holds you so close you can sometimes feel His breath against your cheek. 
When you come to Him with your failures and sin, He not only forgives – He forgets. Time after time He picks you up and sets you back on the right path. 
To be loved in such a way is almost beyond our understanding. Equally miraculous – this beloved Father, the One who created the heavens and the earth, longs to have conversation with you. He wants to hear your voice. He wants to know what troubles you. He wants to hear you say thank you for the blessings He pours into your life and to hear your praise so your heart will be reminded of who He is. 
We call it prayer – this talking with our Father. We have often misunderstood it – especially when our side of the conversation seems to fall on deaf ears. When an answer doesn’t come immediately or the answer is no, we feel He has somehow failed us. In reality, He is answering every prayer with wisdom, love and purpose. 
We have a Father who loves us unconditionally and longs to draw us close. His heart is blessed when His children call His name.
“I love the Lord, because He hears my voice and my supplications. Because He has inclined His ear to me, Therefore I shall call upon Him as long as I live.” Psalm 116: 1,2
“Your eyes have seen my unformed substance;
And in Your book were all written
The days that were ordained for me,
When as yet there was not one of them.”   Psalm 139:16
Blessings,
Linda

Tuesday, September 10, 2019

Fasting



Matthew 6: 17-18  “But when you fast, comb your hair and wash your face. Then no one will notice that you are fasting, except your Father, who knows what you do in private. And your Father, who sees everything, will reward you.”

Eugene Eagle had a terrible problem. He couldn’t fly. For the first few months of his life he had done well enough with this flying business, but lately he simply couldn’t get off the ground.

One day, while taking a stroll along the seashore, he chanced to meet the Wise Eagle. Eugene had never spoken to him before, although he certainly knew about him. He ranked in importance only a little lower than the Eagle King. Eugene mumbled a polite greeting and stopped in astonishment as the great eagle spoke his name.

“Eugene, I have seen you walking here on the beach many times.  Why do you not fly like your brothers and sisters?”

“Oh -oh,” stammered Eugene. “I certainly would like to , but I can’t seem to manage it. I flap my wings ever so hard and nothing happens. I seem to be stuck to the ground.  I long to soar above the clouds like the others. I want it more than anything.”

“I couldn’t help but notice the gold chains you’re wearing on your legs, Eugene. How did you happen to come by them?”

Eugene perked up, for this happened to be his favorite subject. “I found them on the beach hidden beneath a rock  the very first day I flew from the nest. Aren’t they beautiful? I love them ever so much. I polished them and worked on them until they fit my legs perfectly.”

“Aren’t they a bit heavy.”

“Oh, a little I suppose. But they don’t bother me a bit.”

“Back to this flying business, Eugene. You say you want to do it more than anything. Have you spoken to the Eagle King about it?”

“I have. I speak to him every day. I love him, you know. I do everything he has commanded us to do.”

“Has he said anything to you about your chains?”

“Well, yes. He suggested (well perhaps it was a bit stronger),  I take them off.” 

The Wise Eagle looked pointedly at Eugene’s glittery legs.

“I know he said that, but I don’t think he really means I have to - you know - actually get rid of them. After all, they are very dear to me. He understands. I told him I would do anything else he asked- but he hasn’t answered me.” 

The Wise Eagle shook his head. “I think, my friend, flying must not really be that important to you. I am sorry for you.”

He spread his beautiful wings and effortlessly lifted off into the sky. As Eugene watched him go he felt a weight settle on his heart.  

In the days that followed he couldn’t sleep, and nothing tasted very good. Even more disturbing, he could find no joy in anything. Even his precious chains seemed to have lost their luster.

After tossing and turning through another sleepless night, Eugene stepped out of his little house on the beach and stood looking across the vast ocean. As he watched, the sun began to peek over the horizon tinting the clouds with a rosy hue. Something in Eugene’s heart shifted. He bent down and loosened the chains from his legs. 

At first nothing changed. He walked slowly toward the water’s edge and sensed a lifting of the heaviness in his heart. Gingerly he stretched out his mighty wings and fluttered them against the wind.  

As the sun rose over the sea, Eugene felt his body lift and then he soared into the heavens. 

Our good, good Father, as Pastor Todd said, loves helping you do the things you cannot do without Him. There will be times when, in the process, He calls us to do more than pray; to go deeper with Him; to be so desperate for Him and for breakthrough we are willing to give up something vital to us; to fast. His ways are far above our ways. We cannot understand every mystery, but we can know He will keep His word.