Archive for October, 2013

Most of the children who come trick-or-treating at our doors tonight will be dressed as princesses and super heroes.  According to statistics, these are the most popular costumes.

So even though Halloween is sometimes called Satan’s holiday, that bright red, fork-tailed, pointy-eared devil costume will not be a prevalent sight.

Wouldn’t it be nice, though, if the devil really did wear a bright red suit on his rounds.  We might find it easier to spot him and put up our guard.  In actuality, he’s quite the wily fellow.

For Eve, he took the form of a serpent (Genesis 3:4).  An interesting choice.  Serpents are noxious creatures that creep stealthily, hiss menacingly, and inject poison into their victims.  Need we say more about the similarities between Satan and serpents?

He’s called the evil one in Matthew 13:19.  Look up evil in the dictionary and his character is clearly described:  morally reprehensible, wicked, offensive, causing harm, bringing sorrow, distress and calamity.

Satan is our enemy (1 Peter 5:8).  He seeks to injure, overthrow, and confound us.  He is a harmful and deadly opponent, hostile, and filled with ill will.

In the same verse above, Peter says, “The devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour.”  The Living Application Bible reminds us lions attack sick, young, and straggling animals, and Satan does the same.  When we are suffering, depressed, or being persecuted, that’s when he loves to move in for the kill.  And he often chooses a time when we’re alone and more easily swayed.

The devil is our accuser (Revelation 12:10).  First, he lies to us, trying to convince us that whatever he’s suggesting will make us happy.  Then he turns around and uses our sins to accuse us of disobedience and unfaithfulness before God!  In fact, Satan in Hebrew means accuser.  

You’d think that all these abhorrent traits would repel us from the devil and his cohorts.  But his opposition against us isn’t always obvious.  1)  We cannot see the spiritual forces of evil, and 2) Satan masquerades as an angel of light (2 Corinthians 11:14).

But!  In spite of his power (although limited) and sophisticated trickery, the devil has already been defeated.

I love what author and Bible teacher, Ann White, said years ago:

“The devil may prowl around like a lion, but Christ removed his teeth at Calvary!”

Jesus is much greater than Satan (Hebrews 2:14-15).  And Jesus is within us (1 John 4:4), empowering us to fight against him.

In fact, Jesus showed us how to fight him off.  Remember the strong temptations he withstood in the wilderness (Matthew 4:1-11)?  Jesus used scripture to refute the devil’s lies and twists of truth.

We can do the same, starting with one of Jesus’ responses in the passage above:

“Away from me, Satan!  It is written, ‘Worship the Lord your God, and serve him only.’ ” (v. 10).

And now that we know a bit more about our opponent, such resistance can be even more successful.

We can be ready–red suit or not.

(photo credit:  www.buckshappeningmag.com )

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Boris Nicholayevich Kornfeld, political prisoner of the former Soviet Union.

Incarcerated in the late 1940s at Ekibastuz, a forced labor camp, in Siberia.

A doctor.

Because of his medical training, the camp authorities put him to work in the hospital.

Dr. Kornfeld was Jewish, but a Christian prisoner attracted his attention.  The man evinced a quietness of spirit, in spite of the horrors, deprivation, and hopelessness of their situation.  Often the doctor would hear this fellow prisoner reciting the Lord’s Prayer.

One day, a guard was brought into the surgery.  An artery had been cut during a knifing incident.  As Dr. Kornfeld began to repair the artery, he thought, I could make the sutures in such a way that this horrid man would slowly bleed to death later.  The authorities would ever know.

But no sooner did the idea cross his mind than Dr. Kornfeld’s stomach turned at the cruelty of his own thoughts.  Words from the Lord’s Prayer came to his mind, and he spoke them silently in his heart:  Forgive us our sins as we forgive those who sin against us.

Day by day, Dr. Kornfeld sensed change occurring in his spirit.  He wanted to speak to the Christian prisoner about his experience in the surgery, to discuss what was happening within himself, but the fellow had been transferred to another gulag.  The doctor told no one about his growing faith in Jesus.

As he was being transformed on the inside, Dr. Kornfeld’s character began to change.  He started saying “No” to some of the sordid practices of the prison camp. Once he reported on an orderly who had stolen food from a dying patient.  Such misdeeds were actually quite common.  After all, why waste food on someone who was going to die anyway?

But telling the authorities what was going on put Dr. Kornfeld in danger.  No one was going to appreciate his sense of fairness and kindness.  Every prisoner lived for himself, doing whatever was necessary to survive.

One evening, Dr. Kornfeld examined a patient named Alex, who had undergone surgery for cancer.  He felt compelled to describe to Alex his journey toward faith in Christ.  The words came in a flood.  For at least several hours, Kornfeld spoke to the young cancer patient.

The next morning, Dr. Kornfeld was dead.  Someone had beaten him in the head with a mallet.

Alex thought long and hard about the doctor’s story and his life-changing faith.  He, too, decided to become a Christian.  Miraculously, Alex survived the gulag and wrote about his experiences there.  The book was smuggled to the West and published.

More books followed, all revealing the cruel and disastrous results of the Soviet system under the leadership of Stalin.  (At least sixty-five million Russian citizens were murdered in the gulags.)

That prisoner-become-author was Alexander Solzhenitsyn, who won the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1970.  The Gulag Archipelago and One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich were two of his most famous works.  Many credit his writings as the beginning of the end of the Soviet Union.

Photo of Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn in 1953, right...

Photo of Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn in 1953, right after his release from the special Gulag camp at Ekibastuz (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

But certainly Dr. Boris Kornfeld also deserves credit.  His influence was an important catalyst.  And what about the nameless Christian who introduced Dr. Kornfeld to Jesus?

He also was used by God in a chain of events to achieve great impact upon the world.

But no one knew, including himself.  He very likely died in the gulags.

Oh, but consider his home-going to heaven.  Think of Jesus, wrapping his arm around the shoulders of this saint, saying “Well done, my devoted one.  Have I got a story for you!  Come and let me share what you have been a part of!”

We must not allow fear or anonymity to dissuade or discourage.  God may use any one of us to change the world, but he may very well wait to reveal our impact until he can tell us all about it — face to face!

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Heavenly Father, may I never miss an opportunity to be a part of your grand, over-arching plan.  May the legacy of Dr. Kornfeld, Alexander Solzhenitsyn, and millions of nameless martyrs compel me to be courageous and passionate for you.  I have nothing important to lose and everything worthwhile to gain.

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“Mail’s here early today!” called Lorna, as she entered the kitchen.

Oh, that was good news.  Living far from home in Quito, Ecuador made letters a very precious commodity.

“Terrific!” I responded, and dashed upstairs to get my keys.

Lorna and her husband, Elbert, served as missionaries with HCJB.  I was a short-termer, living with them for the four months of my assignment as a preschool and kindergarten teacher.

English: Radio HCJB Deutsch: Radio HCJB

The compound was only a brief walk from the house.  Once there, it was just a matter of unlocking the gate, heading down the main walkway a short distance, up a few steps, and into the post office alcove where all of our mailboxes were located.

I jogged the whole way there and back, excited to read my mail.  But no sooner did I return home than my head started to pound, nausea engulfed me, and all I wanted to do was lie down.  Never mind those coveted letters!

My problem was not a sudden onset of the flu, but mild hypoxia–oxygen deprivation. Quito is located 10,000 feet above sea level in the Andes Mountains.

My experience proves, as well as those of countless others:  we humans require oxygen—lots of it.

Even folks who live near sea level can suffer from lack of oxygen, because they’ve become accustomed to shallow breathing.  Their bodies never receive enough oxygenated air, causing them to feel short of breath and anxious.

On the other hand, research has proven that deep breathing helps us manage stress and anxiety, lower blood pressure and heart rate, and even spark brain growth.  By not taking slow, deep breaths now and again, we deprive ourselves of these benefits.

M-m-m.  Reminds me of Ecclesiastes 2:10-11, where King Solomon lamented the results of shallow living:  chasing after wealth, accomplishments, and pleasure.  In the end, nothing gave him lasting satisfaction and fulfillment.

Shallow living brings on symptoms in the spirit, similar to oxygen deprivation in the mind and body: heartache, fatigue with life, nausea from repetitive, meaningless activity, and shortness of temper.

In contrast to Solomon’s lament in Ecclesiastes is Paul’s praise to God for the power and strength of deep living:

“Oh, the utter extravagance of his work in us who trust him—endless energy, boundless strength” (Ephesians 1:19, The Message)!

Deep living happens when we breathe in God’s strength with a prayer, his wisdom and encouragement with a scripture, his joy with a song.

Deep living happens when we practice his presence as automatically as we breathe.

And how do we do that, “practice his presence?”

It’s just a matter of  pausing frequently throughout each day, to turn our attention to God.

I might say such things as:

  • Thank You, Lord, for this new day.  Work through me to accomplish your purpose.
  • I  love you, Heavenly Father.  Thank you for filling my heart with peace and joy every time I turn my attention to you.
  • Thank you for your power at work in me as I complete this task.
  • The wonders of your creation–graceful tree branches dancing in the breeze, lyrical songs of the mockingbirds, delicious aromas of pine and orange blossoms–They make my heart sing with praise!
  • Oh, Lord, I shouldn’t have spoken to Mary like that.  Forgive me, I pray.  Help me to think before I speak.  And yes, I will apologize to her.

Refreshing.  Energizing. Purifying.  Like a deep breath of oxygen.

Shallow breathing causes a lesser quality of life.  So does shallow living.

Deep breathing fosters strength of mind and body.  Deep living does that and more.

Deep living radically transforms the spirit.

Let’s breathe/live deep!

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What deep living habits help you practice the presence of God?

(photo credits:  www.wikipedia.com , http://www.picstopin.com , http://www.vineyardcs.org )

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“You are a shield around me, O Lord;

You bestow glory on me and lift up my head.

To the Lord I cry aloud,

And he answers me from his holy hill.


(Psalm 3:3-4, NIV).

Seventy-one times in psalms we find that word, selah.

And no one can say definitively what it means, because the Hebrew root word is uncertain.  One humorist suggested it was a word spoken by David when a string broke on his harp!

Here’s a review of what more serious Bible scholars have proposed.

One possibility:  selah is related to calah which means “to hang” or “to measure or weigh in the balances.”

Or,  selah may come from three Hebrew words, s_lah (to praise) and s_lal, (to lift up), or salah (to pause).

Selah may have been a musical direction, for a pause in the vocal music and an interlude of instruments only.

I personally like how the Amplified version translates Selah: “pause and calmly think about that.”  An instrumental interlude would certainly lend itself to meditation on what was just sung, to weigh in the balance of the intellect the value of the statement, to give praise for its certain truth.

For a bit of practice, I skimmed through the psalms looking for the word, Selah, and quickly discovered places where pausing and calmly thinking about a passage could have heart-changing results:

Feeling alone and powerless against difficulty?  Pause and calmly think about Psalm 24:10.

“Who is he, this King of glory?  The Lord Almighty—he is the King of glory.  Selah.”

I’m reminded that nothing is too hard for our splendorous God.  He is all-powerful and all-wise.

Feeling worried?  Pause and calmly think about Psalm 32:7.

“You are my hiding place; you will protect me from trouble and surround me with songs of deliverance.  Selah.”

The hiding place of God’s presence is in the spiritual realm, where he makes his sweet peace and gentle comfort available.  Troubles may come, but they cannot destroy me.  My soul is secure for eternity because Jesus has delivered me from the consequences of my sin.  And  one day I will live with him forever!

Feeling frightened?  Pause and calmly think about Psalm 46:1-3.

“God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble.  Therefore we will not fear, though the earth give way and the mountains fall into the heart of the sea, though its waters roar and foam and the mountains quake with their surging.  Selah.

Whatever calamity I might have to face, God will supply the necessary strength.  Again, God is my refuge—a personal retreat.  I can go to him for peace and comfort   He is always present, as close as a whispered prayer, not just ready to help, but eager.

Feeling useless?  Pause and calmly think about Psalm 57:2-3.

“I cry out to God Most High, to God, who fulfills his purpose for me.  He sends from heaven and saves me, rebuking those who hotly pursue me; God sends his love and his faithfulness.  Selah.”

God doesn’t waste his time making useless beings.  Every one of us has purpose, and as I cry out to him and make myself available to him, he has promised to fulfill that purpose.  He will also put passion and joy into my heart for his plan.  He “is too gracious to ask [me] to do something [I] hate” (Max Lucado, Just Like Jesus).

And so, a Selah interlude, I find, affirms, uplifts, and strengthens.

It can also be a moment of worship as I turn my thoughts into praise.

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Heavenly Father, thank you for giving us the capacity to think deeply, to meditate and discover.  Truly, Selah interludes provide for the renewal of my mind and the transformation of my state of being.  Help me to remember to pause and calmly think about your Word—often!

(Photo credits:  www.flickr.com , http://www.marthaspong.com , http://www.ministrylift.ca )

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On Monday I introduced you to six bloggers I follow—out of the 200-plus million blogs on the internet.  Today I’d like you to meet the other seven of my baker’s dozen.  (This post grew a bit long; you may wish to break it up and read it over several days.)

My PhotoThree Way Light (www.threewaylight.blogspot.com) is hosted by Jody Collins, a teacher of the Seattle, WA area.  She often accompanies her rich text with equally rich images of her own photography.

On Monday, Jody wrote:  “I am weak and broken and needy and healed and failing and falling and healed and over and over it goes. Jesus continues to peel off the layers of my shell of protection so He can get to the parts of me that need His touch.”

Did that last line speak to you as it did me?  Jody never fails to give me food for thought and sustenance for my spirit.

A Devoted Life (www.boyslumber.wordpress.com) offers “Practical Daily Devotions for the Real World” from JD Blom—Familyhusband, father, pastor, and athlete.

Recently JD used mountain-climbing as a visual image of the Christian life.  We’re created to climb, he said, to take on the challenge for the glory of God.  Jesus makes ascension possible.  However, Jesus did not come to…

…remove the difficulty of the route.
…eliminate the hurdles.
…chisel an escalator into impenetrable holiness.
…lower the glory of God down to the realm of man.
…diminish the elevation of righteousness for the unrighteous.

“Jesus came to create supernatural climbers.  We are new creatures in Christ.  IN Christ, we are supernatural climbing freaks.”

I like that image of supernatural climbing freaks–passionate, persevering, focused freaks.  YEAH!

Redemption’s Beauty (www.redemptionsbeauty.com) has blossomed from a child of divorce and alcoholism.  God redeemed Shelly Miller, and she is now a clergy wife raising two teens.

Two of Shelly’s outstanding attributes are honesty and humility, strongly apparent on October 11th, when she wrote:

”I’ve turned joyfulness into legalism, allowing it only in instances of the extraordinary and the accolades of good fortune. I don’t fit into the rules I create for it. I’m not extraordinary enough to be the object of attention, someone’s artistic gift.

Which I know in my head, isn’t the truth.”

A bit later she quoted Brene Brown, from The Gifts of Imperfection:

“Joy isn’t an unreachable standard, a goal attached to a list of rules to follow. Jesus chose us, not because of our extraordinariness, but because His extraordinary life lives in us.”

See?  From the pedestal of her vulnerability, Shelly shares heart-touching wisdom.  It happens often.

Strength Renewed  (www.strenthrenewed.wordpress.com) is not only the title of Tresa Walker’s blog, but states the objective as well:  that her thoughts might renew our strength for the circumstances we face.

One afternoon, this teacher/writer, and mother of two grown children, suddenly remembered she needed cupcakes for a gathering—in two hours.  No quick trip to the store would solve the problem–the local grocery was closed.  And no cake mixes sat perched on the pantry shelves either.  If Tresa was going to keep her promise, the cupcakes would have to be made from scratch.

She began searching for the ingredients.  Shortening?  The can held precisely the ½ cup required.  Baking powder?  Just enough.  Eggs?  The exact number needed.

Tresa recognized a life-lesson in her experience.  God sometimes provides exactly what we need rather than what we want.

She says, “Maybe when it seems our needs aren’t being met, it’s because God is giving us the opportunity to trust Him to provide the things that we truly need.”

She has me thinking.

DSCF4687Wings of the Dawn (www.heidiviars.wordpress.com) includes poetry and prose by Heidi Viars.  She is gifted at both, as well as photography.

Recently she included breath-taking shots of sunbeams casting ethereal ribbons among tall trees.  She wrote about turning around during a walk recently and discovering sunbeams had been lighting up the road behind her.

Heidi’s insight:  “Even when we can’t see Him work, we can trust Him to do His work in and through us. Sometimes it’s not until later, when we get a chance to turn around, that He reveals to us that He has been the Light on our path all along.”

My heart responds, “Oh, yes, Heidi.  And surely such moments are glimpses of His ethereal glory– just like those sunbeams!

Horizons of the Possible (www.horizonsofthepossible.wordpress.com) is hosted by Russell Smith, pastor of the church where our older son and daughter-in-law attend.

On October 8th, he wrote on the topic “People Are Not Projects.”

“We see the powerful, the accomplished, the athletic, and the beautiful and we easily see glory about them,” Russell says.  “What about all the rest – the misfits, the oddballs and the awkward?  What about the weak and the needy and the not-quite-right?  Unfortunately, we tend to think of them as projects to be worked upon.  Or we see them as objects of charity who need our help, but have little to give us.”

Then Russell reminds us of Psalm 8:5.  “You made [human beings] a little lower than the heavenly beings and crowned him with glory and honor.”

Every person has great worth, because he/she bears the stamp of Creator God.  He values each one; we can do no less.

(in)courage (www.incourage.me) is a team effort, sponsored by Dayspring.  Twenty-eight women contribute one post per month.  Lisa Leonard recently wrote “Showing Myself a Little Kindness.”

Her car was dead, probably because she had left the lights on the night before.  After all, she had been exhausted.  But instead of treating herself with kindness and understanding (as she would if the situation had happened to a friend), Lisa berated herself and even called herself names!

While waiting for AAA, however, Lisa was treated to a glorious sunrise.  And she noted:

“…how imperfect life is, and how there is still beauty to be found. I am flawed and yet, I can show myself kindness. I make mistakes, but there is forgiveness.”

Lisa is right.  My spirit breathes in deep her statement:  “I can be kind and forgiving of myself.”  And with that realization comes peace.

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Thank you, Father, for inspiring these writers.  I delight in their giftedness and insights!  Thank you that day after day they minister life lessons and encouragement to me and many others.  Bless them, I pray, with your favor and protection, and with your joy and peace.  In the name of Jesus, Amen.    

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Last fall I read there were more than 150 million blogs on the internet, with approximately 175,000 new ones being launched daily.  At that rate, cyberspace now includes over 213 million blogs!

After much shopping, I have found twelve devotional blogs which I follow regularly.  I’ll introduce six today and six on Thursday–in no particular order.  After reading these sample bits, you might want to visit these blogs yourself, and discover fresh insight from…

IMG_1727…Jennifer Dukes Lee (www.jenniferdukeslee.com), wife of an Iowa farmer, mother of two daughters, professor of journalism, and author of a new book being released in early 2014.  Recently she wrote about “How to Talk Back to Fear:”

“I believe that bravery looks a lot like…believing.  And I believe that there’s really no such thing as failure, because there’s nothing unredeem-able in the hands of Christ.”

Smart woman, that Jennifer.

…Holley Gerth (www.holleygerth.com), life coach and author, tackled the topic, “When You’re Worried What People Think.”

First, Holley quoted 1 Corinthians 4:3 (MSG):  “It matters very little to me what you think of me, even less where I rank in popular opinion…Comparisons in these matters are pointless.”

Holley says.  “When I care very little what other people think of me then I’ve suddenly got room to care a lot about other people.”

Quite insightful, don’t you agree?

Unshakable Hope…Unshakable Hope (www.unshakablehope.wordpress.com), written by Bill, married more than twenty-five years, father of two daughters, diagnosed in 1996 with ALS, or Lou Gehrig’s Disease.  Bill has very little mobility, yet his spirit is more vibrant than ever.

On February 21, 2013, Bill wrote about Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego (Daniel 3).  They were about to be thrown into King Nebucadnezzar’s furnace and boldly proclaimed, “The God we serve is able to save us…, and he will rescue us from your hand, O king.  But even if he does not…we will not serve your gods or worship the image of gold you have set up (vs. 17-18).

Bill says, “For me, this is more than a great example of strong faith.  I believe this is a pattern of faith that all Christians should emulate regardless of challenges we might be facing.  We can proclaim that, ‘Our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from [insert your trial here].  BUT EVEN IF HE DOES NOT…we are not going to serve…doubt, fear, worry, hopelessness or anything else that destroys faith, hope, joy and peace.’

Strong words from a man of deep strength.

…Morning Story & Dilbert (http://www.morningstoryanddilbert.wordpress.com).  Kenny gleans thought-provoking posts from many sources and serves them up with a Dilbert cartoon — something for the mind and heart; something for the funny bone!

Recently Kenny included an anecdote about Abraham Lincoln, highlighting the president’s humility.  Although Lincoln was wise, responsible, and persevering, surely humility was one of the supreme qualities that contributed to his strong leadership.

Here’s the story Kenny shared:

“After the Battle of Gettysburg, General Robert E. Lee and his Confederate forces were withdrawing to Virginia, and Lincoln felt that they were vulnerable. Eager to get the agony of the war over with, President Lincoln sent word to General Meade to attack.

“With his message, Lincoln also sent a personal note. ‘The order I enclose is not on record,’ said the note. ‘If you succeed, you need not publish it. Then, if you succeed, you will have all the credit of the movement. If not, I’ll take the responsibility.’”

Taking responsibility for failure, but giving others the credit for success.  Now that’s humility.

…Jean Wise of “Healthy Spirituality” (www.healthyspirituality.org), is a former nurse, but now focuses her time on writing My Photoand speaking.

On September 24, 2013, she shared the story of second-string quarterback, Kenny Guiton, of the Ohio State Buckeyes.  Opportunities to get in the game have been few for this senior, but Kenny is always prepared.  Then, on a recent Saturday, he not only had a chance to play, Kenny scored a record six touchdowns!

In contemplating Kenny’s story, Jean said, “My job is to be faithful. To enter each day relying on God’s love and guidance.  To show up every morning with an open mind and heart.  To say to our heavenly coach, ‘Here I am, Lord.  What position do you need me to play today?’  To be ready when He calls me off the bench.  To wait and let God form me as He wills till His time is right.’”

Jean’s prayer resonates with my heart, too.

Diana Trautwein…Diana Trautwein‘s musings at “Just Wondering” (www.dianatrautwein,com).  She’s the mother of three, grandmother of 8, and a graduate of seminary in mid-life.  Currently Diana serves as a spiritual director.  Her post on October 11, 2013 was titled, “Giving Permission to Say No.”  Her words of wisdom include:

“Saying ‘yes’ is central to a full, rich challenging life.  We need to say yes to lots of different things over the course of our [life] journey.”

But!  “Try as we might, we cannot do everything.  (Because God already has.)  We cannot save the world.  (There is only one Savior.)  And we must not work ourselves to death.  (We are meant to enjoy God, and glorify God, not assume responsibilities we were never designed to bear.)”

See what I mean?  Wise woman.

Please return on Thursday to meet six more outstanding bloggers!

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“It is good to wait quietly,” Jeremiah said (Lamentations 3:26a).

At the risk of sounding impudent, “What’s good about it?”

Waiting can make us feel anxious and stressed.  If we’re waiting for a prayer to be answered or a scriptural promise to be fulfilled, we can become doubtful, discouraged, and despondent.  Not good.

Yet the act of waiting seems important to God.  Numerous times in the Bible we see people of faith who had to endure Wait Time:

  • Abraham and Sarah waited 25 years for the birth of Isaac.
  • Jacob waited 14 years to take Rachel as his bride.
  • Joseph waited 13 years, first as a slave, then as a prisoner, before being rescued and elevated by God to second-in-command over Egypt.
  • The Israelites waited through 400 years of slavery in Egypt before God’s miraculous intervention.

  • Caleb waited 45 years to inherit his portion of the Promised Land.
  • David waited at least 15 years to become king of Israel, after his anointing by Samuel.
  • Simeon, Anna, and many other Jews waited for their Messiah.

God’s delays must serve a purpose.  And a diligent search through scripture gives us answers to:  What good can come from waiting?

  • Times of waiting strengthen our trust in God and our resolve (Psalm 27:14).  If every day was problem-free and blissful, surely our faith would remain shallow.
  • We grow in our relationship with God while resting in his sovereignty and reliability (Psalm 62:5-8).  The Almighty of the universe becomes our closest confidant.  Intimacy with him deepens as we turn to him for comfort, encouragement, strength, and more.

  • Spiritual maturity develops (James 1:2-4).  Waiting is a challenge all by itself, but can also be accompanied by worry, pain, and sacrifice.  The test of waiting, however, develops our patience and perseverance and gives us opportunity to grow in character.  None of these benefits would blossom within us if God provided for every whim, and rescued from every trial.
  • We learn to take joy in the blessings we already have.  Paul wrote, “Be joyful always” (1 Thessalonians 5:16) to a church experiencing persecution.  They were undoubtedly praying and waiting for relief.  But Paul knew that focusing on what Christ had already done for the believers, and the benefits they already enjoyed, would help offset their anxiety and frustration.  The same is true for us.
  • Others see our patience and trust while we wait (Psalm 40:1-4).  Then, when God answers our cries, others take note of his provision, and their faith is encouraged.

It seems we’re always waiting for something; it’s only the intensity of emotion attached to the waiting that tends to vary.  When that intensity begins to grow, perhaps it would help to say, “I’m waiting with great anticipation!

There can be sweet delight in anticipation.  For example, as the Christmas holidays approach, I anticipate the glorious homecoming of family members.  I relish the imaginings of long conversations at the candle-lit dinner table, the hugs and laughter, and the gathering around the Christmas tree for family worship and gift-giving.

I need to apply that joy of anticipation to waiting on God.  I can relish the fact that his plan – including the Wait Time — always includes positive aspects.  I can reaffirm that God is always on time – never late, never early.  I can generate excitement in my spirit by musing on God’s promises and looking forward to the creative, miraculous ways he will fulfill those promises.  With an attitude of anticipation, waiting shouldn’t be nearly so uncomfortable.

(You have my permission to remind me of that, should impatience or frustration start to manifest themselves!)

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Heavenly Father, I don’t think I’ve ever thanked you for the Wait Times in my life.  Thank you for holding me back, so trust, intimacy, gratitude, patience, and spiritual maturity have a chance to grow.  Help me to embrace the Wait Times as opportunities to discover more of who you are, more of the priceless treasures hidden in your Word, and more of who I can be when I am rooted and built up in you (Colossians 2:7)—especially through times of waiting.

(Art & photo credits:  www.bible-stories-library.com , http://www.moseseditor.blogspot.com . http://www.photosbyravi.com , http://www.pinterest.com.

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“Take up one idea.  Make that one idea your life — think of it, dream of it, live on that idea.  Let the brain, muscles, nerves, every part of your body, be full of that idea, and just leave every other idea alone.  This is the way to success” — Swami Vivekananda (1863-1902).

Ever have a boss who seemed guided by this philosophy? He may not be familiar with the person who wrote these words (Swami was a Hindu monk.), but the same principles influence his decisions.


This kind of boss expects employees to work long hours to achieve his personal goals.  Ideas from others are not well accepted, because he is, after all, the expert.  He’s read all the books on management theory, marketing strategies, and profit maximization.  Suggestions are superfluous.

But, there is a new form of executive leadership garnering attention.  September’s issue of Sky Magazine ran an article, “The Enlightened Leader,” that highlights this innovative leadership model.   Workshops, webinars, even courses are available for training.

Included in the curriculum are these four topics:  1) Character , 2) Purpose, 3) Integrity, and 4) Values.

How ironic that business experts are returning to such ancient principles–Biblical principles.  For example:

1) A person of character is trustworthy, respectful, responsible, fair, and caring.  Someone with character pursues righteousness and love; then he finds life, prosperity, and honor (Proverbs 21:21).

2) A person of worthwhile purpose is not focused on the bottom line of the financial spreadsheet.  He/she takes to heart Paul’s advice:  “Don’t push your way to the front; don’t sweet-talk your way to the top.  Put yourself aside, and help others get ahead.  Don’t be obsessed with getting your own advantage.  Forget yourselves long enough to lend a helping hand” (Philippians 2:3-4, The Message).

3) A person of integrity walks securely (Proverbs 10:9).  He’s not wishy-washy, making decisions based on what’s expedient for the moment.  “The integrity of the upright guides them” (Proverbs 11:3) to be wise and caring.

4) A person with moral values lives by an ethical code of behavior, summed up by Jesus in the Golden Rule.  “In everything, do to others what you would have them do to you” (Matthew 7:12).

It’s tempting to respond with a smug comment like, “It’s about time the experts came around to God’s way of handling business!”  Except…

…I still have character traits that need refinement.

…I do not live up to God’s purpose for me each day.

…Integrity still needs further development in my life.

…My choices do not always reflect my values.

It doesn’t matter if I am a leader of a large organization or a leader in my home.    I am called to have a positive effect within my circle of influence (Matthew 6:13-16).  And that circle is surprisingly wide when I include extended family, friends, neighbors, business associates, church acquaintances, etc.  In fact…

“…Sociologists say that even introverted people will influence an average of 10,000 people in their lifetime” (The Maxwell Leadership Bible by Dr. John C. Maxwell, p. x).

So what’s the first step toward success?

Perhaps commitment—commitment to God as a willing student in his course of leadership.  Commitment to prayer throughout the day, as choices present themselves.  And commitment to persevere toward wisdom, because:

“Blessed is the man who listens to me [wisdom], watching daily at my doors…For whoever find me finds life and receives favor from the Lord” (Proverbs 8:34-35).

*     *     *     *     *     *     *     *     *     *

Thank You, Father, for the absolute truth of your word.  New ideas come and go, but your wisdom that leads us to success never fails.  Forgive me for the times I have ignored your word.  I want to be a woman of godly character, fulfilling your purpose with integrity, and reflecting your values.  That’s the kind of success that will provide lasting satisfaction and fulfillment in my soul.  Thank you for continuing to work on me.  Amen. 

(photo & art credits:  www.signsforyourlife.com, http://www.averyemployment.com, macondesigns.wordpress.com, http://www.signsforyourlife.com, calcuttaherald.wordpress.com.)

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(No, the title is not a typo!  Please read on!)

One time only the verb wrestle is used in scripture.  You probably remember the story of Jacob wrestling with a man through the dark hours of one night. Chances are, Jacob would have been sleepless anyway.  The next day he was to reunite with his estranged brother, Esau (Genesis 32:22-32).  Echoing in Jacob’s mind was his brother’s vow to kill him (27:41).

At the end of the wrestling match, when the man left Jacob, he realized his opponent had been God (32:30)!  (Some say God took the form of an angel.  Some say this was an appearance of Jesus, a pre-incarnate visitation, before he was born as a baby in Bethlehem.)  

Jacob’s heart must have been pounding madly at that moment, but not just from the exertion.  Imagine his shock to realize he had engaged with the all-powerful King of the universe in hand-to-hand combat!

The chronicler to record this event (and all the other events in Genesis) is generally accepted to be Moses.  As he wrote this particular story, Moses must have smiled to himself at the word play that flowed from his pen (Did they use pens of some sort in those days?)

First of all,  Jacob’s name in ancient Hebrew is ya’ aqob.  The word, wrestled, is ye’ abeq.  Even the location of the event is included in the word play.  Verse 22 indicates Jacob was camped along the stream called Jabbok, or yabbok in Hebrew.  Perhaps it was named later, as a memoriam to Jacob’s once-in-history experience.  By Moses’ time, the name would have been well-established.

But that’s just an interesting aside.   Showcasing his sense of humor was not God’s main objective for including this story in scripture.  What might he want us to learn from Jacob’s experience?

Perhaps it is a lesson in humility, as it certainly was for Jacob.  At the end of that wrestling match, God wrenched Jacob’s hip.  He limped for the rest of his life–a constant reminder that God was his Shepherd-caretaker, responsible for Jacob’s successes.  God was also his Angel-deliverer.  Jacob could not guarantee his own escape from Esau’s harm. or any other danger (Genesis 48:15-16).

God proved himself as Jacob’s Mighty One (49:24) the next day.  Shortly after the man left Jacob, Jacob looked up and saw Esau coming toward him–with four hundred men.  Quickly Jacob took precautions to protect his family.  But it was unnecessary.  Esau ran to meet Jacob and embraced him.  The two brothers, who had been alienated from one another for years, now wept in each others’ arms (33:1-4).

At the end of his life, Jacob reaffirmed that it was God Almighty who had provided all the blessings he’d enjoyed (Genesis 49:25).  The patriarch was as powerless to bless himself as he was to overpower God in a wrestling match.  And he prayed that the Strong God would give his blessings–tumbling out of the skies, bursting up from the Earth–to rest on the head of Joseph (vs. 25-26, The Message).

Jacob did not pray that Joseph, too, might  wrestle with God, but that God’s blessing would rest upon him.

Yes, wrestling with God has its place.  At times we may spar with God using words, much as David openly and honestly expressed his disappointments, depression, and even anger to God.  (See Psalms 22, 55, and 77 for examples.)  God is big enough to handle it.

But then comes the morning when we can affirm that his compassions, his blessings, never fail.  Great is the faithfulness of our God (Lamentations 3:22-23)!

So an additional bit of word play brings the two concepts together, thanks to my preacher-son, Jeremy:  wrestling + resting = wresting.

Wrestling allows load-shifting; resting results in peace.  Together they make us strong, steadfast, and firm in our faith.

(art credit:  http://www.bishopmarcelopires.org )


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