Hopefully Devoted: While You Wait

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Waiting is inevitable.

What we do with it is a choice.

Already this morning, I found myself waiting before I could go have “before-surgery-prayer” with someone at the hospital. Then on the way home, I had to stop for a school bus loading a dozen children.

Waiting is not only inevitable, it is inconvenient—we always seem to be waiting when we’d rather be doing something else.

So what can we do while we wait?

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We can read. We can pray. We can sing. We can pace (getting steps is always a good thing). We can talk to the others who are waiting around us.

These are the productive things we can do.

But we can also stew, grouse, complain, belly-ache, whine, and generally make everyone around us as miserable with the inconvenience as we are.

I know these things are options, because I’ve gone there way too many times myself.

Tucked away in Paul’s letter to the Ephesians, he makes reference to “redeeming the time” (5:16). This echos the Old Testament prayer of the Psalmist: “Teach us to use wisely all the time we have (Psalm 90:12).”

So how will you use your time, especially your waiting time, today?

May we all come to productive and wise usage…we’ll be happier for it…and God will be pleased.

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Sermon Seeds: Persistence in Prayer

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When I was in high school and experiencing all the typical teenage angst of relationship break-ups, peer pressure, and raging hormones, I had one encounter that forever shaped the way I move toward the future.

I felt a closeness to the the mother of one my friends…her whole family actually. This woman of faith died from breast cancer the fall of my senior year in high school—but not before imparting to me the words that became my mantra for life.

One evening, when my angst and stress was overwhelming, I went to her home. I poured out my heart, and at some point spewed my need to just give up.

She got right in my face, and quietly, but firmly told me to never, ever give up.

Here was this woman, my spiritual mentor at the time, dying from the ravages of cancer, on oxygen, barely able to move off the couch, telling me to never give up. Nothing in life comes easy, but it’s always, always, worth fighting for.

I can’t tell you how many times those words have come back to me, sustained me, pushed me, enabled me.

I apply them to work, to child-rearing, to writing, to facing the seemingly impossible.

And I apply them to prayer and my relationship with God.

The words of Jesus about prayer, “ask…seek…knock” are actually: keep on asking, keep on seeking…keep on knocking.”

Are you in a situation that seems overwhelming? Do you need a miracle? Never give up in prayer. God’s answer, his way, his truth, are worth fighting for.

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Wednesday’s Word: Trust

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I read a meme recently that said: “Whether it’s friendship or relationship all bonds are built on trust. Without it you have nothing.”

But in a day when no one seems trust-worthy—how do we do it?

Lincoln Chaffe said, “Trust is built with consistency.”

I believe it is also developed through discerning. Discerning who can be trusted, when, and why.

We trust individuals, corporations, friends, physicians all at different levels and for different reasons.

But we need first to learn to trust ourselves—our intuition, gut, intellect, resources. We need to learn to trust the process.

We need to learn to trust that the truth will rise to the surface, and that is often the process…and it often takes time to rise.

And we need to learn we can trust God.  Several times in both the Old and New Testaments there is invitation to test and trust God. Work through his promises and see if he doesn’t come through.

Trust is like a muscle. You have the potential…you just need to exercise it.

 

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Selah: Still in the Darkness

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In darkness we often find fear. Not seeing…not knowing. Where should we go? What lurks beyond our sight? Panic!

What if God is leading us to a new place of trust…in him?

What if instead of panic and fear that pushes us to run—a foolish choice at best since we cannot see where we are going—God wants us to sit still?

This morning I had a conversation with another believer who was describing how God pushed aside her daily To Do list and offerered her his instead.

And there was only one thing on it.

What if God is inviting us to set aside our busyness and multi-tasking ways and do his one thing?

What if we got still in the darkness—the unknown—believe God’s word and promise, and just wait until he showed us the next step to take?

May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit (Romans 15:13)

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Sermon Seeds: Praying Submissively

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Submitting. Not a popular word or concept. It draws pictures in the mind of quitting and weakness, failure and loss. To modern sensibilities, submission is archaic and dangerous. Many couples have responded so strongly against the concept, they remove it from their marriage vows.

Not only did Jesus include the concept in his paradigm of prayer (Lead us not into temptation), but when he looked out with compassion on the oppressed crowd, he invited them to take on his yoke and learn from him. His call to the disciples was an invitation to follow him. And then he told them that to follow him meant being willing to take up their cross daily and walk his way.

Submitting to a higher authority, following as he leads, learning his way, is woven into everything it means to carry his name, to be his.

So it should not be surprising to us that submission is linked inheritantly to submission. After all, we are asking someone else for something. In that action we are admitting we don’t have all the answers, direction, resources needed and are dependent upon another.

God has lead his people from the beginning: in the garden he walked with Adam and Eve; in the wilderness he led the nation to the Promise Land—using a cloud and a pillar of fire; and Jesus was always pointing his followers to a new way of living and believing.

The old hymn puts it well: Lord, I would place my hand in Thine, nor ever murmur nor repine; content, whatever lot I see, since ‘tis my God that leadeth me (Joseph Gilmore, “He Leadeth Me).

Hopefully Devoted: Jesus Loves Me

The story is told that when the theologian, Karl Barth, was asked to sum up his voluminous theological writings, he responded with, “Jesus loves me this I know for the Bible tells me so.”

I have a younger colleague who’s historical and theological knowledge blows me away. He is quite capable of using all the big words and complicated concepts…but he can also explain it to me—and I’m about as simple as they come.

There are those who are impressed and feed on the complicated: like a riddle needing to be solved, but there are those who long for the simple truth, the bottom line. Perhaps that is one of the reasons Jesus reached for a child and held them up as the paragon for faith.

When it’s all been said and done…and Jesus did just that…the truth that matters most is we are loved by the God of heaven who wants a relationship with us, wants to bless us, wants to bring us joy. He knows our name and our frame.

Why do we have to make it any more complicated than that?

Message Meme: Follow Me

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One of the first instructions Jesus gave to those who would become his disciples: Follow me.

Follow. Follow my lead. Follow directions. Follow the leader.

We don’t always want to follow. Especially when the person we’re supposed to be following goes in a direction we’re not comfortable with, or a way that requires changing what we have planned.

Whether we’re dancing, working, learning, or trying to navigate a relationship, following  requires setting aside my way, my assumptions, and my leading. Following involves submission. The recognition that the one leading knows the way—or at least is in the position to tell me where to go or what to do.

Perhaps that’s why when the Disciples asked Jesus to teach them to pray, he included this important principle in his teaching. Tucked there in the midst of words about forgiveness, provision, and honoring God, we are reminded to ask our Father to lead us.

And he will give us grace to follow.