I Already Prayed About That…

Have you ever been in a season where you felt like you were praying about the same situation over and over with no results? No answers, and no indication that God has even heard? And you feel frustrated and even guilty about praying AGAIN about it?

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We live in an “instant” culture. Instant banking, instant coffee, drive-through fast food, and 24-hour news cycles give us the expectation that we can get whatever we want or need with the push of a button or flip of a switch. Just yesterday, I pulled into the grocery store parking lot, and, seeing how full the parking lot was, I drove two miles away to a different store, because I anticipated long lines at the checkout! I don’t like waiting. I don’t like “wasting” time.

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But God often puts us in a “holding pattern.” He may seem silent or distant, non-responsive or even absent. And in our impatience, we may stop bringing our burden to God, and seek elsewhere for answers or relief. Even when we know that God has promised to hear us, and never leave us alone, we long for instant gratification. And when we don’t get it, we start to wonder and doubt.

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Sometimes, I feel angry in my impatience. I want answers! I want to know the next step forward! Other times, I feel hurt. Does God not hear me? Does He not understand my need? Sometimes, I even feel guilty. I know that God “knows” everything. Why do I keep bothering Him with the same thing? Am I asking for the wrong thing? Am I asking in the wrong way?

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It is okay to have questions. It is normal to wonder. And I don’t have a “quick fix” answer for times like this. I think most of us experience these questions at some point. And the Bible has many examples throughout history of others who waited– some patiently, and others not so much…

Abraham and Sarah waited years for a family. In their impatience, they tried to do it in their own wisdom with heart-breaking results that echo down through thousands of years. Hannah prayed for years while enduring the taunts of her rival, Peninnah, before God gave her a son. A woman who touched Jesus’s robe had prayed and waited years for healing from her constant bleeding and pain. I know of parents who prayed for years that their wayward son or daughter would return home– some kept praying until they died, never seeing an answer.

But one comforting takeaway from all these Biblical and real-life examples– God DOES see and hear us. He left all those stories for us to read, knowing that we, too, would face trying and overwhelming circumstances. God doesn’t always give us an immediate or conclusive answer in our struggles. If He did, we would never develop a real and solid faith. God is less interested in answering our questions than He is in sharing our struggles. He does not want to walk ahead of us and smooth out our every path. Instead, He wants to walk beside us in the hills and the valleys of life.

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So even if “I already prayed about that..” I can keep praying with confidence. God hears. He knows. And He cares enough to slog it out right by my side. And yours.

When Nebuchadnezzar is Your Boss

Have you ever worked with a “difficult” boss or co-worker? Even a job you love can become a source of tension and even torture. Maybe they are lazy. Maybe they are unreasonable and demanding. Maybe they are incompetent. Maybe they are corrupt. Maybe they just “push all your buttons.” Whatever it is, it leaves you frustrated, stressed, and questioning your future.

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I’ve worked for several bosses through the years, and most of them were wonderful. But there were a couple…I can still remember uncomfortable confrontations and unresolved issues even years later. And I know several others workers who suffered under those same managers– many of them left to take other jobs because the situation took so long to resolve. A bad boss can really hurt a company or office. They can destroy morale, decrease efficiency, and make it difficult for anyone to know what the goals and expectations are– this week!

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One of the difficult things about working under a “bad” boss, is that, often, what makes them a “bad” boss also makes them look “successful”– at least in the short term. They manage to turn in impressive “numbers”– it looks like production is up and waste is down; it looks like everything is in order to outsiders. Those who leave are often workers who have been with the company a long time– new hires come in at a much smaller salary, and with “fresh” ideas– at least initially. If there is an overriding goal, they will pursue it with fanatical focus, making them look committed, determined, and competent. If workers can see underlying problems, other people only see what looks like focused efficiency and “sour grapes” from harassed staff members.

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When I worked for “bad” bosses, they seemed to last about five years, before their cruelty, arrogance, or incompetence forced them to leave. They went on to “new” positions, where they followed the same patterns.

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In the Bible, there was a young man (just a teen when we first meet him) named Daniel. Daniel had grown up in a noble family in the capital city of Jerusalem. But Jerusalem was besieged and fell into the hands of a tyrannical ruler named Nebuchadnezzar. Daniel was captured, exiled, and taken into Nebuchadnezzar’s service. On the surface, this may have appeared to be a “plum” position; he got to live in the palace, and he served as an advisor. He had food, clothing, advanced education, and many “creature comforts” available to him that were lost to many of the other exiles who were forced into manual labor.

But Daniel’s position was far more precarious than it appeared. Nebuchadnezzar wanted men of intelligence, culture, and breeding– and he wanted them to be clean, healthy, and confident–but he also demanded results, and often, he demanded the impossible! Field hands might have brutal masters who would beat them for minor offenses, but Nebuchadnezzar didn’t inflict punishment– he simply “eliminated” anyone who didn’t produce the desired results!

In the history books, Nebuchadnezzar looks like a successful ruler– his armies had conquered every region they attacked. And by sending the people into exile– bringing the best and brightest to Babylon, and scattering the rest–Nebuchadnezzar kept the conquered regions from rebellion and revolt. He appointed satraps and governors to help manage the empire, and it looked like nothing could stop him from conquering the world! But Daniel wasn’t reading a history book. He was living and working under one of the harshest and cruelest rulers of his time!

The book of Daniel gives us at least three examples of Daniel and his friends being put in life-and-death situations involving some of Nebuchadnezzar’s more impossible demands. And in each case, God gives miraculous rescue to Daniel and his friends as they bravely serve this unwelcome “boss.”

When we study Daniel, we tend to focus on the miracles– the fiery furnace, the writing on the wall, the lion’s den, and the answers to impossible dreams. But God didn’t just send miracles, and He didn’t rescue them from having to serve in Nebuchadnezzar’s court (or in the courts of some of the equally bad rulers who followed!)

God’s purpose in our life may involve serving with or under people who abuse their authority, or who don’t “deserve” to be leaders. But His purpose also involves teaching us to serve, as Daniel and his friends did, with integrity, dignity, and consistency. It wasn’t easy for Daniel– he was the target of jealous plots, megalomaniacal panics, and culture wars. God didn’t rescue Daniel from his situation– Daniel remained in exile, likely for the rest of his life–but God rescued Daniel from being consumed or changed by his situation. And Nebuchadnezzar wasn’t a “mistake” that God made. He was God’s chosen tool to punish Israel for its unfaithfulness, and His chosen tool to show His sovereignty OVER even the great Babylonian Empire!

Daniel was known as a man of prayer– that’s how he ended up in the lion’s den (years later under another ruler)! Praying won’t keep us from experiencing “bad” bosses, or from facing difficult situations. But prayer can help us to persevere, to endure, and to be a shining example of God’s faithfulness.

I would love to say that I behaved like Daniel when I was in a “bad” boss situation. I didn’t. I endured, but I was impatient and vocal in my displeasure. I complained, I worked grudgingly, and I even changed jobs to get away from the situations. I don’t mean to suggest that it is always God’s will that we stay in a bad situation– I was lucky to be able to change jobs, and grateful for the opportunity to continue to do good work elsewhere. But in times when we are being tested and cannot change jobs, or have to endure chaos and upheaval for a long season–we need to be willing to be like Daniel, who was faithful, loyal, patient, and trustworthy. Daniel “kept his head” because he kept his heart turned toward the source of his real success– not the King of Babylon, but the King of Kings!

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I don’t know what situation you may be facing today– what injustices, or upheavals you are enduring. But I pray that God would give you the strength and wisdom to be a Daniel. Look past the Nebuchadnezzar in your world, and serve the King!

The Lion’s Share

Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed,
for His compassions never fail.
They are new every morning;
Great is Your faithfulness.
I say to myself, “The Lord is my portion;
Therefore I will wait for Him.”

Lamentations 3:22-24
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We live in a world of seemingly finite resources. We work hard to save money, save time, protect our joints, take care of our teeth, maintain our house or yard, repair our vehicle, conserve water, protect our air quality, etc.. And we work hard to ensure that we get our “fair share”–vacation time, wages, tax breaks, sale prices, the best return on our investments, the lot with the best view, the window seat on the plane or bus, credit for our hard work, and more.

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God’s resources are unlimited and bountiful. Through Christ, we are joint heirs to all the riches of God. God is our “portion.” And no one who trusts in Him will be left with less than a cup filled to overflowing (Psalm 23:5). We may not fully comprehend or receive our great good fortune in this life, but we will enjoy it the next for eternity! And there is no need to scramble and scrimp, worry, or wrangle trying to get it– it’s our promised “portion” and our inheritance.

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What a world of worry, stress, desperation, and trouble we might avoid if we carried this promise in our memory and LIVED it out. The prophet Jeremiah wrote these words– Jeremiah, the weeping prophet; Jeremiah, whose life was in constant danger as he watched his homeland being invaded, conquered, and exiled. Jeremiah, in the midst of his anguish, took time to write some of the most hopeful and joyful words of prophecy. Jeremiah knew that, even if the nation of Judah was conquered and destroyed, the LION of Judah would still bring ultimate victory. And to the victor belong the “spoils!” Jesus is our victor and our victory. His are the spoils of war to lavish upon those He chooses.

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Jesus (called the Lion of Judah, an image found in both Genesis and Revelation) has already given us victory over Sin and Death. And the “Lion’s Share” of the spoils– abundant life, restoration, redemption, and the Righteousness of God– are for all those who call on His name and worship Him in Spirit and in Truth! He’s reserved a “Lion’s Share” for each of us.

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“The Lord is my portion; Therefore, I will wait for Him.” ” I will trust and not be afraid.” (Isaiah 12:2) “You too be patient; strengthen your hearts, for the coming of the Lord is near.” (James 5:8) https://bible.knowing-jesus.com/topics/Waiting-On-The-Lord (See also Psalm 37)

Instead of scrambling for a “lion’s share” today, let’s call on the Lion, and allow Him to give us our “daily bread,” knowing that His portion is more than sufficient today and forever!

Looking Back

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Another year is nearing an end, and it is common to look back and take stock of what the year has brought to, taken from, or challenged us with…

It can also be a time of regret– things not done, opportunities not taken, mistakes not corrected, hopes and dreams unrealized.

I keep two journals– a daily planner, filled with goals I hope to accomplish and plans I hope to fulfill; and my prayer journal, filled with requests, praises, answers to prayer, and names of people and places I wish to lift up in prayer. I spent some time the other day remembering and reflecting on this past year.

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As I stop to pray over the next/last few days of 2022, I want to remember two things in particular: God knew everything that would happen this year. And God was “there” for everything that happened; not just aware of what was going on, but as close as our own breath–loving, caring, and providing strength and comfort in every moment. He shared our tears and our laughter, and sent us mercies in the form of friends, neighbors, and even strangers– “angels unaware.”

God knew that on January fifth, my mother would fall and break her leg, starting her on a sixth month odyssey of hospitalization, rehabilitation, assisted living, and finally, moving into a new living arrangement near my sister’s house. He knew that my mother-in-law would fall the very next day, breaking her leg and requiring a similar journey through hospitalization, and two nursing homes, before finally being able to return to her home before Christmas.

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God knew that I would be diagnosed with diabetes, and that David would face a challenging wound in his leg this year. Our lives and routines have been altered in ways we could never have predicted.

God knew that our extended family would face divorce, death, illness, job changes, and more. He knew that members of our church family would face cancer, heart disease, and death; just as many others would experience healing, weddings, and new birth.God knew what would happen worldwide– the death of a Queen, the changing of world leaders, war, famine, earthquakes and blizzards and hurricanes.

And God was there for every moment, joyous or terrifying; heart-breaking and uplifting moments, personal triumphs and worldwide tragedies. Miracles and losses, devastating news from the doctor, and joyous answers to prayer.

Looking back can be painful. Dwelling in the past–even on good memories, can be unproductive. But looking back to see how God has provided in our need, given us strength for life’s challenges, and brought unexpected opportunities gives us cause to sing praises and cause to hope for the coming year.

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Thank you God! Thank you for bringing us through another year– hopefully wiser and closer to You. Thank you for the opportunities you’ve given, and those you will bring into our lives in the year to come. Prepare us to be patient, hopeful, strong, and kind in the time to come. And help us to share this hope and strength, kindness and endurance to those around us, by pointing them to You. Amen!

Fruitcake?

Poor Fruitcake– the butt of dozens of Christmas jokes. Someone once said that there were 20 Fruitcakes produced in France in 1541– and they are all still in circulation today! I know a few people who like fruitcake, but most people just make fun of it. Technically, it IS a cake, but it is mostly made up of fruit and nuts soaked in rum or brandy or candied for preservation. Fruitcakes can be mailed, shipped, and saved for months without rotting, but the fruits never taste fresh, and much of their flavor is overwhelmed by the sugars used to preserve them. Fruitcake is heavy, and sweet. It is full of things that are “good for you,” but the end result is not very healthful.

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I was reading the other day in Galatians, and a couple of days later in Philippians– two passages that speak of Christians producing fruit. Our lives are to be characterized by virtues and acts of service that bring health and healing, joy and peace to those around us. And these virtues are the products of our Faith in Action– of The Holy Spirit working in and through us.

22 But when the Holy Spirit controls our lives he will produce this kind of fruit in us: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness,  23 gentleness and self-control; and here there is no conflict with Jewish laws.

Galatians 5:22-23 (Living Bible–emphasis added)

 So this is my prayer: that your love will flourish and that you will not only love much but well. Learn to love appropriately. You need to use your head and test your feelings so that your love is sincere and intelligent, not sentimental gush. Live a lover’s life, circumspect and exemplary, a life Jesus will be proud of: bountiful in fruits from the soul, making Jesus Christ attractive to all, getting everyone involved in the glory and praise of God.

Phillipians 1:9-11 (The Message–emphasis added)
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“Fruit of the Spirit” is not something we can manufacture ourselves. Only God’s Spirit at work IN us can produce such fruit. And, while it is Fruit that will last, it doesn’t need to be dried or candied or soaked for preservation. Unlike the fruit in Fruitcake, the Fruit of the Spirit is eternally fresh and bursting with life and flavor. There is nothing wrong or evil about Holiday Fruitcake. But it cannot compare with fresh fruit for wholesomeness and healthfulness.

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Sometimes, we try to manufacture our own “Fruit of the Spirit.” And this can be far worse than a harmless but calorie-laden Holiday Fruitcake. Even those who are opposed to Christ can manufacture a certain amount of Joy, or Patience, or Self-Control. Anyone can appear Gentle or Kind when they choose. But, separated from the source of life and growth, we cannot produce fresh fruit. Our Joy may be soaked in Rum. Our Patience may dry up. Our Kindness may be candy-sweet, but hiding malicious or selfish motives. Or we may surround our fruit with worldly “wisdom,” disguising and transforming it with cake and nuts.

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This holiday season, let’s not become dried out or artificially sweetened in our acts of service and Love. Let’s be producers of Godly Fruit– Love that reaches out to the Lost, the lonely, and the “unlovable” with true love and not just sentimentality; Joy that bubbles up from a thankful heart and a transformed mind; Peace that transcends our current trials and circumstances; Patience that endures hardship without losing hope; Kindness that wraps itself around the unworthy and never tires; Goodness that knows no conceit and seeks no credit; Faithfulness that inspires and produces hope in a faithless world; Gentleness that smooths over troubled waters without being overcome; and a rock-solid Self-Control and steadiness that produces trust– not in our own power or wisdom, but in the One who produces it in our lives. We should be humble and grateful, teachable, and ready to forgive, encourage, and pray for others.

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Don’t be a Fruitcake this Christmas– be a Fruit Basket instead!

Sometimes, It’s the Little Things…

The other day started out frustrating. I went to the pharmacy to drop off a medicine container for a refill. There was a line. The man in front of me had a dozen questions, and demanded to speak to a specific staff member. By the time I reached the front of the line, I felt as though I was already running late for the rest of the day. I said I would pick up the refill later in the day as I didn’t have time to wait. Then, I went to buy a birthday card for my nephew. When I went to check out, there was no one at the regular counter– I had to use the self-check machine. It asked if I had a “rewards member” number. I entered it, but the machine didn’t register the number. A staff member (who could have checked me out at the regular counter!) helped me re-enter the number. Instead of discounting the price of the card, the machine ADDED to the amount, “rounding up” for a particular charity. I asked the staff member why this happened, and she said that I must have agreed to round up my total. I said, “No,” I hadn’t done so, but she said I must have done so some time in the past, and the machine automatically rounds up every time I make a purchase.

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It’s not that I want to be parsimonious–I like to think I am a generous person. But if I hadn’t typed in my “reward member” number, I would have saved a little money. To be more exact, I would have saved three cents! Now I know that sounds really petty, but sometimes, it’s the little things that really sting. After waiting (not all that patiently) at the pharmacy, this hidden consequence of a past act of generosity, coupled with the inconvenience of using the self-check, really made me angry.

I am reminded of a story in the book of 2 Kings 5 about a man called Naaman. Naaman was the commander of the Syrian army under the powerful king Ben-Hadad. But Naaman had a big problem. He had contracted leprosy. Not only would leprosy destroy his skin and extremities, but it would make him an outcast and a pariah, and ruin his legacy. When he heard that there was a prophet from Israel who could heal him, he pulled out all the stops and went to see him. But Elisha did not come to the door. Instead, he sent Naaman instructions through his servant, and told him to wash seven times in the Jordan River.

Naaman felt insulted and infuriated. Why? It was such a simple solution– no drastic diet, no expensive and painful treatments–just take a bath in the river! But the Jordan River was considered dirty. That’s where the poor and destitute bathed, and where animals drank. Naaman almost lost his opportunity to be cured through pride over such a little thing. Thankfully, he was talked into doing what Elisha had asked, and he was completely healed. He was so grateful, that he asked for some dirt (!) so he could build an altar to the God of Israel who had provided his healing!

So often, God uses the little things to point out what really matters. After my less-than-gracious reaction to a couple of minor inconveniences, I had to step back and take a look at my morning from God’s perspective. The line of people at the pharmacy all had needs, and, like the man ahead of me with questions, each one had a right to service. It wasn’t their fault I was impatient or feeling “late”– and, it turned out, I wasn’t really behind schedule after all. I just didn’t like waiting! And my anger over the self-check machine was out of proportion. I still found a birthday card for my nephew, and I had the ability to go to the store, pick out the card, pay for the card, and I got to spend time with my nephew later that day. And some worthy charity got a whopping three cents!

Sometimes we fail to see the importance of the “little” things in life. And we allow “little” problems to grow all out of proportion. We allow petty injustices to fester; we withhold forgiveness; we get angry over perceived slights, and hand on to pride or envy. We forget to lift up “little” burdens and requests; we are blind to the “ordinary” blessings that fill our lives; we lose opportunities to do the simple things that can help others–a smile, a word of encouragement, a helping hand–we miss out on the miracles that hide among the “little” inconveniences of our day.

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My prayer today is that God will open our eyes to the “little” things in our lives– opportunities, mercies, blessings in disguise– and that we, like Naaman, will find healing and joy where we least expect it!

For more on Naaman, you can check out these links: https://www.logos.com/grow/important-detail-forget-story-naaman/ https://www.biblestudytools.com/bible-study/topical-studies/tackling-the-sickness-of-pride-like-naaman.html

The Greatest of These…

5-9 So don’t lose a minute in building on what you’ve been given, complementing your basic faith with good character, spiritual understanding, alert discipline, passionate patience, reverent wonder, warm friendliness, and generous love, each dimension fitting into and developing the others. With these qualities active and growing in your lives, no grass will grow under your feet, no day will pass without its reward as you mature in your experience of our Master Jesus. Without these qualities you can’t see what’s right before you, oblivious that your old sinful life has been wiped off the books.

2 Peter 1:5-9 (The Message)
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Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres…
13 And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.

1 Corinthians 13:4-8;13 (NIV)
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In 2 Peter, the Apostle gives us a list of character traits that we should develop as believers in and followers of Christ. The last two seem similar, but there is a reason both are there, and both at the end. As we follow in Christ’s footsteps, we should develop traits that mark growth in our relationship with God– faith, patience, hope, etc. But we should also show growth in our relationships with other people. We should interact with others as God interacts with us– we should show compassion, forgiveness, concern, generosity, and selfless Love for others. “Brotherly kindness” is what we should be ready to show to everyone– neighbors, strangers, and even enemies, included. “Generous Love” is not just a feeling of deep affection or even good will. The Love we should develop is selfless and giving beyond what we can offer in our own hearts. It is the culmination of all the other characteristics we are developing as we seek to become more Christlike.

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“We love Him, because He first Loved us.” 1 John 4:19– It is Christ’s example of Love, coming from Himself (Father, Son, and Spirit) that teaches us what Love really is, and causes us to be able to love in truth and fullness. Christ came to serve–He did not live for His own whims and gratifications. He gave audaciously, loved lavishly, forgave freely, and lived humbly. The Apostle Paul underlines what Peter says in his letter to the Corinthians, chapter 13. We should learn to have faith and hope, but in the end, Love is the greatest characteristic we can develop.

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My one-time choir director once asked us to do this exercise: Write out 1 Corinthians 13: 4-8. Now substitute the word “Jesus” for each instance of the word, “Love.” Because God is Love (1 John 4:8) this is a valid substitution. “Jesus is patient. Jesus is kind. He does not envy,” etc… Think about how Jesus demonstrated what Love is as He interacted with His disciples– including Peter’s denial and Judas’s betrayal– and with those in the crowds. This is our model, and our assignment– this is how we should Love. Now comes the real test…substitute Your name to see how closely your life and actions resemble those of Our Savior. Can you say that your are patient and kind? That you don’t hold grudges or become easily angered? That you always hope? Always persevere? Of course, there will be instances when we don’t live up to Christ’s example– but are we becoming more Christlike? Are we growing in Love? Type this passage out three times– in its original text, with Jesus’s name, and with your name. Print it out and hang it somewhere where you will be reminded, convicted, and encouraged to live out Christ’s Love. If someone else reads it, they should be challenged, as well.

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Bringing this Bible Study back around to prayer– are we praying through these characteristics? Do we come with faith, obedience, understanding and discipline, patience, wonder, compassion and love? Do we expect God to do OUR will, or are we eager to see His will be done? Do we believe that God rewards those who earnestly seek Him (Hebrews 11:6)? Do we rejoice in the truth, and always hope, even in the moments of pain and injustice? Our prayer life will follow our growth in all these areas. I pray that we are all growing more like Christ each day. Let today be the next step in that growth– turn from yesterday, let God take care of tomorrow, and grow in this moment.

Passionate Patience

5-9 So don’t lose a minute in building on what you’ve been given, complementing your basic faith with good character, spiritual understanding, alert discipline, passionate patience, reverent wonder, warm friendliness, and generous love, each dimension fitting into and developing the others. With these qualities active and growing in your lives, no grass will grow under your feet, no day will pass without its reward as you mature in your experience of our Master Jesus. Without these qualities you can’t see what’s right before you, oblivious that your old sinful life has been wiped off the books.

2 Peter 1:5-9 (The Message– emphasis added)
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I’ve seen lots of posts recently about the “-ber” months–September, October, November, December–and the excitement for some as this season comes ’round. September in Michigan is filled with ripening fruits and changing colors. October brings pumpkins, apple cider, and frosty mornings. November is often spent thinking of and planning for Thanksgiving– bountiful feasts and time with family. And December brings the Christmas season– snow, caroling, giving and receiving gifts, and families gathered around trees and fireplaces, sharing old memories and making new ones.

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Part of this season of summer morphing into autumn and “falling” into winter is anticipation. The first apple harvest; the first frost; the first snowfall; those eager moments of wondering what will be under the Christmas Tree…we know they will come, but when, and how?

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My birthday is at the end of November, and as a child, I always loved Thanksgiving. It meant that family would gather, and at some point, they would sing “Happy Birthday” and there would be a cake among all the wonderful Thanksgiving desserts with my name on it! Four weeks later, Christmas would come, and the same excitement filled the house. It was difficult to be patient, but I learned that everything special was worth waiting for. In fact, sometimes, the anticipation is part of what makes such times more wonderful. There is no fun in rushing through precious moments or “ruining” the surprise of what is to come; nor is there any virtue in losing passion for what is possible, just because we can’t see the outcome, yet.

The Apostle Peter gave early Christians a list of attributes and spiritual traits that they should be developing in increasing measure. One of these attributes is “passionate patience.” In other translations, it is also called “perseverance,” “endurance,” “patience,” and “strength to keep going.” I like this wording, “passionate patience,” because it reminds us that patience isn’t just passive and meek. Especially as we work on building our spiritual understanding and alert discipline, patience becomes a powerful trait– one that distinguishes Christians from those around them. Some people are marked by impatience, anger, and dissatisfaction. Others are marked with complacency and resignation. Christians are asked to be passionately patient! Our faith and hope should radiate, even as we endure trials and anticipate God’s movement in the world around us.

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Jesus modeled “passionate patience” in His ministry on earth. Peter was witness to Jesus’ endurance in the face of rejection, unbelief, misunderstanding, and injustice– both to those around Him, and personal injustices. Jesus remained faithful, passionate for the truth, and compassionate toward others. He did not give in to despair, or waste His energy in anger or revenge. He did not make excuses for inaction, but He did not “burn out” in useless activities, either. He confidently did what the Father told Him to do– no more and no less.

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How do I reflect “passionate patience?” When I look around me and see injustice, do I explode in anger? Do I shrug my shoulders in resignation? Do I lose faith and passion? Or do I remain positive and faithful in doing what I know to be right and speaking up for the truth? Do I spread compassion or consternation? Antipathy, anger, or aspiration? When my life circumstances are filled with pain or hardship, do I endure? Do I persevere? Do I thrive? Or do I complain? Do I remain passionately hopeful, or give in to anxiety or despair? Do I wait for God’s strength and wisdom, or do I try to “fix” things in my own power? Do I accept help and guidance when I need it, or resent others’ efforts? Do I spread hope and healing? Or do I spread doubt and gloom? Do I grow bitter or better? I’d love to say that I respond with the kind of endurance, patience, and fortitude that Peter spoke of. And sometimes, with God’s help, I have. But I have much to learn, and room to grow!

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I pray that God’s spirit will help me grow in “passionate patience,” as I actively seek to follow Christ and reflect His love today.

“Wait For It…”

Movies and television shows are breeding grounds for popular phrases that enter the culture and resonate with millions of people.  Just utter the phrase, and nearly everyone in the group “gets” the reference.  A recent American sitcom has made the phrase “Wait for it..” an iconic reference to comedic timing.  It’s often the anticipation of a punchline, a pratfall, an ironic twist, that makes it memorable or noteworthy, and a clever person will use the timing to maximize the humor in a joke or prank.

We have an innate desire to see “what happens” next in life– “Where will I be in five years?”  “Will I get the job?”  “When will the baby come?” “Will she say ‘Yes’?” “Will the tests come back negative?”  The last thing we want at such times is a clever, smug comedian sitting back and using our anticipation for his own entertainment.

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Often, the wait is exciting, short-lived, and rewarded with relief in the form of a pleasant outcome–She does say, “Yes!”; or the medical test comes back with good news. Sometimes, the anticipation of the “punch line” produces shared laughter. But sometimes, it seems that the “joke” is on us– the wait never seems to end, or the punch line comes with a gut-wrenching punch–we didn’t get the job; the baby comes too early; the plans and the hard work end in disaster and shame.

Some people imagine God sitting in Heaven, smug and distant, pointing at us and laughing, “Wait for it..”  Every time they face disappointment, frustration, oppression, they raise their fists to Heaven and blame their creator for everything they haven’t gotten, every missed opportunity, every setback, every heartache.  “If God really loved me, he would not let me be hurt/sad/poor…”

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But, when God says “Wait for it…”, he’s not talking about a punchline or an ironic twist of fate.  He knows that bad things will happen, but he’s not asking us to wait for those things.  And he certainly isn’t sitting back laughing at our pain and disappointment.  He’s asking us to wait for something better.  Something we cannot even begin to imagine.  A restoration of all things– the dead brought back to life, the sick completely healed, the love we long for lavishly poured out in its fullness.

Anticipation is not part of a joke; hope is not corny or naive– it is built into the very soul of each person.  We long for what we have never experienced, but what we know is “out there”.  In this world, we will be left anticipating, because NOTHING can measure up to what God has in store.  Even the best of relationships, the best of comforts, the best of experiences, will leave us wanting something more.  And this is a gift, even though it can leave us disappointed, restless, and even hurt.  In light of what’s coming, there is no loss or setback so great as to cancel out the hope and the promise that stirs within.

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It’s because of this that we can pray with confidence in the midst of our struggles, and with abandon in times of frustration and pain.  We live in the finished work of the cross, but the unfinished and ongoing work of renewal and restoration.

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Wait for it..

Blessings Come Down

When I was a small girl, we learned a song in Sunday School. It was primarily about the parable of the “house built on a rock.” (See Matthew 7:24-27) The first verse spoke of the wise man, who built his house on the rock. The second verse spoke of the foolish man who built his house on the sand. But the third verse challenged listeners to “build your life on the Lord Jesus Christ.” The first two choruses spoke of the rains coming down and the floods coming up; the third chorus said that “the blessings come down as the prayers go up.”

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Sometimes, memories forged in childhood come back to tease our thoughts as adults. We had a much-needed but powerful rain storm the other night. While it didn’t lead to floods, it did dump a lot of water on fields that were in great need of moisture. And it reminded me that many farmers and gardeners had been praying for rain. Rather selfishly, my husband and I had been praying for sleep– some of our neighbors had been setting off fireworks for several nights in a row, well into the late hours of the evening, keeping us awake, and terrorizing some of the Veterans in the neighborhood. The rain cut their activities short last night (even as it kept us awake with thunder, lightning, and raindrops on the roof!)

But I was also reminded that prayer works much like the water cycle. Prayers go up, much like dew getting absorbed every morning, or water droplets evaporating in the sun. We don’t see any change. There is nothing dramatic about evaporation or silent prayers in the night. Prayers go up from many different people in any different places with many different needs. And they seem to end up evaporating.

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Sometimes, we look up and see empty skies, and wonder– Did God hear my prayer? Will He answer? The skies seem empty and silent for weeks. And then we see clouds–sometimes dark and threatening– and we wonder again. What is God doing? Where is the rain? Will it bring floods and winds and disaster? What went wrong?

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Sometimes, our prayers seem to bring, not showers of blessing, but trouble and heartache. And yet.. God’s answers may not fit our thoughts or desires. I certainly didn’t want thunder and lightning instead of fireworks– both are noisy and aren’t conducive to restful sleep. But the rain brought much-needed nourishment to flowers and crops. It brought down the super hot temperatures, and lowered the humidity (a little). It even cleaned the dust from my vehicle, saving me from making a trip to the car wash! Of course, these are small effects of a single storm. And the noise of the rain, while loud, finally lulled me to sleep, so in a sense, my prayer was answered. It wasn’t what I had imagined, But the principle is the same. Even in our storms, disasters and tragedies, there are blessings– if we have the heart to look for them. God’s presence can bring us comfort and encouragement even in the darkest night, and in the floods of life.

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Just as the parable and the song remind us– building a life on the Rock of Jesus Christ, including a lifestyle of prayer, will keep us strong and resilient in the storms of life– whether we’re facing raging floods or a simple downpour, we can find hope in the faithfulness of God’s provision. God WILL provide– in His time and in His way– everything we truly need. The sand, dust, and even some of our earthly treasures may be washed away, but, as long as we are built up on the Rock, we will be blessed– sometimes in the most unexpected ways.

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Let’s keep sending the prayers up!

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