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Archive for the ‘God’s Will’ Category

(This is the last new post until July 3.  As most of you know, Steve is retiring from the pastorate, after serving forty years in Florida.  Mid-June we move to the Midwest, to be close to our sons.  And if our daughter and her family would just move east from Washington State, life would be near-perfect!

Packing and unpacking are time-consuming tasks, as you know, so I’ll put the blog on hold for a few weeks.

But please continue to visit!  I’ll re-blog some previous posts, and hopefully you’ll find them meaningful again, or perhaps for the first time.)

 

TODAY’S POST

 

True or False:

 God will do the right thing at the right time.

–Max Lucado

 

We believe that’s true, right?  We can even find scripture to back up that statement:

“I choose the appointed time; it is I who judge uprightly” (Psalm 75:2).

Never in a million years would we say, “This statement is false. God can’t be trusted to do the right thing!”

But we do sometimes wonder why our ideas of the right thing don’t seem to match his idea.

And we do unabashedly wonder about his idea of right timing.

We also wonder why there’s not even a hint of progress toward that right thing we desire. We wonder why God is silent.

 

Wondering

 

But God’s silence is not like that of people.   He doesn’t give us the silent treatment in some petty game of payback. And it’s not a case of forgetfulness either.

More than likely God is working on other matters rather than that one we’re focused on– other matters such as perseverance, faith, and spiritual maturity. These character traits and others don’t grow so well if we’re always getting what we want when we want it.

We can rest assured there is purpose in the pause.

And just knowing that can ease our impatience.

Something else that’s important to know, too:

There’s really no such thing as silence with God, because we always have his Word, chock full of glorious promises and encouragement.  And it’s always available.  (I’m assuming you have an iPhone or computer–you’re reading this post; therefore you have access to a Bible–even if it’s online!)

One of my favorite promises is Isaiah 65:24.

 

Unknown

 

(“Before they call I will answer; while they are still speaking, I will hear.”)

And one more, also from Isaiah:

“I will accomplish all my purpose” (46:10b).

God is not only working in our behalf now, he foresaw our need and began working toward its fulfillment before we uttered the first prayer. He started arranging events and bringing together people and resources so that at just the right time the right thing will happen.

Notice the “I will” in each of those verses above. Isaiah did not record God’s good intentions. These are promises of the Almighty God of the universe, our always-truthful, always trustworthy Heavenly Father.

WHY DO I WONDER?!

 

*     *     *     *     *     *     *     *     *     *

 

I praise you, Heavenly Father, for being reliable and trustworthy. I can’t imagine life without you as my foundation. Thank you for every promise in your Word that gives me support. Once again, I avail myself to your plan, so you can do the right thing at the right time—without the interference of my impatience or doubt!

 

(Art and photo credits:  www.kemingshen.com , http://www.brendaboen.blogspot.com.)

 

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let_the_glory_out_tshirts-rf982b89d7b1846dbb186d467bd317390_8naah_324

Defeat may serve as well as victory

To shake the soul and let the glory out.

When the great oak is straining in the wind

The boughs drink in new beauty and the trunk

Sends down a deeper root on the windward side.

Only the soul that knows the mighty grief

Can know the mighty rapture.  Sorrows come

To stretch out spaces in the heart of joy.

–Edwin Markham (1852-1940)

Mr. Markham–educator, author, and poet– gives us much to contemplate in just eight lines, beginning with the first seven words:

“Defeat may serve as well as victory.”

No, thank you, my spirit says.  Defeat is humiliating, uncomfortable, and depressing.

Mr. Markham inspires a different perspective and a note-to-self:  God may very well bring defeats into my life “to shake my soul and let the glory out.”

Reminds me of Jonah, the reluctant prophet who tried to run from God.  The Lord told him to go east to Nineveh, an important city of Assyria.  Instead he headed west, boarding a ship for Tarshish.

But a fierce storm churned the seas into a boil.  In desperation to appease the gods, the sailors hurled Jonah overboard.  Surely in those tense moments of near-drowning and then being swallowed by a great fish, Jonah felt crushing defeat.  His life was over; it was just a matter of seconds.

Yet he didn’t die.  Hour after hour in the utter blackness of the fish’s belly, he remained alive.

No doubt he felt shaken in his soul, and in his distress, he called to the Lord (2:1ff).

God heard his prayer and commanded the fish to vomit Jonah onto dry land.

Jonah_shore

 Then the Lord repeated Jonah’s marching orders: “Go to the great city of Nineveh and proclaim to it the message I give you” (3:1).

This time Jonah obeyed, and the glory came forth.   Jonah preached and the people repented. God had compassion upon the citizens of Nineveh, and did not bring destruction upon them.

What appeared to be a mortal defeat for Jonah turned into a glorious revival for a wicked city.

Read Mr. Markham’s poem again and you’ll discover more benefits of defeat, as outcomes of:

  • Straining in the wind.  Pressing on during adversity results in perseverance and strength of character.
  • Drinking in new beauty.  During times of distress we’re more aware of God’s glorious attributes at work in our spirits–attributes such as empowerment, faithfulness, peace, and grace.
  • Sending down deep roots.  Defeat often brings us to new depths of surrender and submission.  It also brings us to new depths of God’s love (Ephesians 3:17).
  • Experiencing grief.  Only those that know a mighty grief can know the mighty rapture.  Like diamonds against dark velvet, joy needs a backdrop of sadness in order to be appreciated fully.
  • Experiencing sorrow.  Sorrows create space for joy.  Joy is never so sweet and overwhelming as after sorrow.

God knows what he’s doing, and he doesn’t waste time or effort.  False starts and fruitless endeavors just don’t happen with our perfect Heavenly Father.

Therefore, when defeat comes into my life or yours, we can rest assured he is accomplishing his good purpose for us.

There will be victory in defeat.

Guaranteed.

 

(photo and art credits:  www.zazzle.co.nz.com; http://www.searchforbibletruths.blogspot.com.)

 

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Once again I found myself dashing out the door after…my quiet time of Bible study and prayer, making the bed, writing two get-well cards (couldn’t put that off another day), printing some documents to read and prepare with comments, breakfast, showering, drying my hair, putting on make-up, getting dressed, etc., etc.

I hurried to get in the car, and checked my watch.  In twenty minutes I was due to meet Steve at church , about fifteen minutes away.  I had just enough time to stop for gas.  After the fill-up, and back in the car, I checked the time again.  The pit stop had taken four minutes.  If the traffic lights worked with me instead of against me, I’d arrive at my destination with a couple of minutes to spare.  Whew.

In the peaceful quiet of the car, I prayed as I often do:  “Lord, help me be a blessing to those I meet today.  May I be an attentive listener, speak words of encouragement, and maybe even share a bit of wisdom from you.”

Soon I was pulling into the church parking lot.  According to the dashboard clock, I did indeed have two minutes to spare.  Hallelujah.

With a deep cleansing breath (a holdover habit from Lamaze classes) and a smile, I opened the door…to this news from Steve:

“I’m  so sorry, Honey.  The computers at Northwestern Mutual just went down.  I tried to call you, but you didn’t answer.”  (Must have been while I was pumping gas.)  “They said they’ll have to reschedule our meeting for next week.”

For a split second I wanted to say, “WHAT?!  After all the rushing around I did this morning in order to get here on time?  All that effort for NOTHING?!  I have a long to-do list I could be tackling!  This is so UNFAIR!”

But just who deserved that rant?  Certainly not Steve.  It wasn’t his fault the computers at Northwestern Mutual weren’t working.  So just where could I direct my angst?  Nowhere.  I had to stuff it down.

And while I was stuffing, my prayer spoken in the car came to mind.

Oh, boy.  I had just asked God to help me be a blessing to whomever I might meet.  And when a small monkey wrench gets thrown my way I want to throw it back.  Some blessing.  Will the day ever come when I can react with a  gentle and quiet spirit–even in the first moment of upset?

And speaking of upset, this little setback is nothing compared to the heartache and suffering of others.   Why do I allow an inconsequential matter, like a postponed meeting, to steal my joy–even for a second?

God is still teaching me some important lessons (because I’m a slow learner):

  • What seems to be a waste of time in my shortsightedness may not be, in God’s long view of eternity.
  • The to-do list is not a binding, legal document.  The wise person leaves space on the page and in her spirit for serendipitous possibilities.
  • Changes of plan and interruptions (another bug-a-boo of mine) may be God-engineered events.  Greet them with expectation and sensitivity to the Holy Spirit.
  • Live in the present.  Put aside the frustration that the plan for the day has been reconfigured.  Accept the moment as a surprise gift–to be passed on to someone else who needs a favor, a listening ear, or a bit of encouragement.  Another possibility?  The moment may turn out to be a gift for you.

I did indeed receive a gift that day.  Instead of attending that meeting, I ended up having an impromptu lunch with some of the church staff–a delightful group of people!

Steve has said for years, “Blessed are the flexible.”

I’m starting to catch on.

(Art & photo credits:  www.diggerfortruth.com; http://www.marci-itsalwayssomething.blogspot.com; http://www.stevewright.info. com; http://www.morgansullivan.wordpress.com; http://www.eighthourday.com.)

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Remember those black and white portraits in our history textbooks–those figures posed stiffly with expressionless faces?   They looked more like statues than real people.  In fact, they appeared downright bored, didn’t they?

Take A.B. Simpson here.

Albert Benjamin Simpson

Albert Benjamin Simpson (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

He looks the part of a serious preacher, which he was.  Reverend Simpson was also a theologian and prolific author.  He wrote 101 books, numerous hymns, periodicals, articles, and even complete curriculums.

Oh.  And he founded a denomination.  A rather impressive list of accomplishments.  No wasting time for Albert.

But A.B. did much more than sit in a book-lined office with stacks of research everywhere.  While pastoring a prestigious church in New York City, God laid a special call upon his heart–to establish a church specifically for the immigrants pouring into the city.  A.B. felt burdened for the poor, homeless, sick and displaced.

Yet his dream did not stop there.  Albert wondered how he could reach people overseas who did not yet know Jesus.  And one thing began to lead to another.  He gathered like-minded people together that led to Sunday afternoon meetings, which became revivals along the East Coast.  And The Christian and Missionary Alliance denomination was born.

From the soul of such an impassioned, focused, persevering man came these warm-hearted words:

Let us but feel that

He has His heart set upon us,

that He is watching us from those heavens

with tender interest,

that He is following us day by day

as a mother follows her babe

in his first attempt to walk alone,

that He has set His love upon us,

and in spite of ourselves

is working out for us

His higher will and blessing,

as far as we will let Him –

and then nothing can discourage us.

–A. B. Simpson (1843-1919)

Knowing that A.B. gave his life in selfless service, I find his words all the more meaningful.  Surely he felt God’s heart set upon him and following close during his many endeavors, that his Heavenly Father was working things out–in spite of himself.  Not just minimal sustenance, but for God’s higher will and blessing.

I like that.  Those words “higher will and blessing” hold hope and excitement for what’s to come for each of us, as God’s plan unfolds indefinitely until we meet him face to face.

I’m with A.B;  I want nothing to hold me back.  No doubt you feel the same.

*     *     *     *     *     *     *     *     *     *

Thank you, Heavenly Father, for introducing me to A.B. Simpson today.  I love this quote that highlights your compassionate love, your desire to use us, and even bless us.  May I be mindful of your watchfulness, and then nothing can discourage me.  

 

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Women's Bible Study

“I know we have to persevere and not give up on what we sense God wants us to do,”  S. shared at Bible study.  “And from the lives of Joseph, Moses, Daniel, and others in the Bible, I know God rarely smooths the path perfectly and makes every door open without me even turning the knob.  But what I want to know is how to proceed.  I’d like steps to follow!”

Heads nodded around the table, mine included.  Wouldn’t it be nice if God laid out step one, step two, and so on toward his perfect plan?

That idea has been circulating in my brain for nearly a week now.  Here are some observations.

1. God values our growth in faith more than our comfort in a predetermined plan.   

If it was best for us to know his plan in advance, then that’s what God would provide.  Instead, he allows our faith to be tested, in order to build our character.  That is important to him:

“The Lord detests men of perverse heart but he delights in those whose ways are blameless” (Proverbs 11:20).

2.  God values the process of spiritual growth, not just the final outcome of a purpose fulfilled.

Times of challenge give us opportunity to develop maturity  more readily than times of ease.  What might that development include?

  • Self-discipline–when we tackle difficult tasks.  Granted, the Holy Spirit empowers us (Galatians 5:22-23), but we must give ourselves over to him.  How?  Through frequent prayer, offered throughout the day, consistently asking for his guidance and help.
  • Self-denial–by doing without.  However, the attentive person will soon discover much to celebrate that may have been missed otherwise:  the stunning display of God’s creation, the joy of love and laughter with family and friends, the peace and strength from frequent communion with God.  Suddenly, gratitude flourishes in the heart, and what has been given up doesn’t seem so important anymore.
  • The full meaning of love–when given opportunity to respond in kind ways to difficult people.

None of these valuable traits of discipline, selflessness, and love would fully develop without lessons of experience.

3.  God values the development of our prayer lives–not for his benefit, but for ours.

Jean Nicolas Grou, a Jesuit priest of the 1700s, described healthy prayer as humble, reverent, loving, confident, and persevering.  As we practice those traits in our prayer lives, surely they will overflow into our character, in our actions and reactions.

Patient pursuit, then, is best applied to God’s ways, and then to God’s plan.

(photo credit:  http://www.st-tims-church.org )

 

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English: William Tyndale, Protestant reformer ...

English: William Tyndale, Protestant reformer and Bible translator. Portrait from Foxe’s Book of Martyrs. Česky: William Tyndale (portrét ve Foxeově Knize mučedníků) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

 

“If God be on our side, what matter maketh it who be against us?”
–William Tyndale (1494-1536)

 

Perhaps you’ve heard of Tyndale Publishing, best known for The Living Bible?

Then perhaps you’ve heard of William Tyndale, after whom the company is named. He’s been called by some “the Father of the English Bible.” His passion was to get the Bible into the hands of the common man.

You see, several centuries before his time, the Church Council of Toulouse (in France, 1229) forbade the use of the Bible by ordinary people. The Pope and priests felt that the common man could not understand the Bible, that clergy were the only ones who could properly interpret scripture.

Actually, Tyndale was not the first person to translate the Bible into English. That honor belongs to John Wycliffe, who lived in the 1300s. He translated from Latin into pre-renaissance English.

But Gutenberg hadn’t invented the printing press yet. All copies of Wycliffe’s translation had to be written out by hand.

Tyndale was perfectly suited for the task God gave him. He was skilled in seven languages: ancient Hebrew, ancient Greek, Latin, Italian, Spanish, French, and English. By the time Tyndale was ready to pursue his dream, the printing press had been in use for almost seventy-five years. So Tyndale sought permission and financial backing from the bishop of London to translate the New Testament from the original Greek into post-renaissance English. Permission was denied.

That didn’t stop Tyndale. He traveled Europe, looking for a place to settle. Worms, Germany, a Lutheran city, became his home.

 

English: John Wycliffe in his study

English: John Wycliffe in his study (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

 

I can’t help but notice: German was not on his list of known languages. The right location may not have been a comfortable choice for Tyndale, but it was God’s choice.

By 1525, the New Testament in English was complete. Because of the printing press, several thousand pages could be produced in one day. In Wycliffe’s day, only a few pages could be hand-copied each day.

The newly-printed Bibles were smuggled into England in barrels, covered with cloth and articles for sale. Sometimes they were packed in bales that looked like cloth, or even hidden in sacks of flour.

It wasn’t long before the bishops and priests in England discovered that English Bibles were being sold. Officers of seaports were instructed to find and burn all copies.

Yet Bibles were still smuggled in.

A clever Catholic bishop of London decided he would buy all copies of the Bible that were being printed. He contacted a merchant in Germany to make arrangements. The bishop’s plan was to burn every Bible, once they arrived in England.

What that bishop didn’t know was: that merchant in Germany was a friend of Tyndale’s.

Yet the friend made a deal with the bishop anyway. Why? So he could give the proceeds from the bishop to Tyndale. More copies than ever were printed and sent to England. The bishop could not possibly buy every copy.

Imagine his shock when that bishop learned later it was his money, spent to keep English Bibles out of England, that actually paid for a veritable flood of Bibles into the country!

One might expect that Tyndale worked on to translate the Old Testament and lived well into old age, able to write and minister under God’s loving care. One would be wrong.

For nine years, Tyndale did escape authorities and was able to continue his work. But a man named Phillips, a frequent guest in Tyndale’s home, betrayed him. Tyndale was tried for heresy and condemned as a heretic. In 1536, he was strangled and then burned at the stake.

I’m tempted to ask, “Why, God? Tyndale was obedient to you. He left his home country, his friends, everything familiar. He worked so hard, ministered to others, and helped the poor. You miraculously blessed his work, and protected him for nine years. Yet in the middle of translating the Old Testament, Tyndale was arrested and martyred. Why, God?”

One commentator remarks: When God’s work for Tyndale was completed, God took Tyndale out of this life; and God gave his faithful servant the privilege of leaving this life through a martyr’s death (www.prca.org).

My perspective is so short-sighted. I tend to see death (martyrdom in particular) as tragic and distasteful. But from eternity’s point of view, “if God be on our side, what matter maketh it who be against us?”

Heaven awaits!

* * * * * * * * * *

Thank you, Father, that there is no cause to fear suffering and death. You have promised to be with us, to give us the strength to endure, just as you did for William Tyndale. And then, after just a little while, you will take us to our real home of eternal bliss. Glory!

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Last Thursday I shared with you a decision-making discovery God brought to my attention while studying Acts 10:1-11:18. In that passage we read the story of Peter’s encounter with Cornelius (a non-Jew). As a result of the apostle’s visit to this Roman centurion’s home, his entire family and many friends became Christians. (For a summary of those events, click on the link above to Part One.)

In review…

God doesn’t always connect all the dots when guiding our decisions.

Peter experienced a strange vision, and received brief instructions from the Holy Spirit. But a number of important questions were left unanswered. It appears Peter was left to connect the dots on his own.

The lesson for us seems to be: act upon what you know (from scripture), heed the inner impressions from the Spirit, and step out in faith.

And now…

Decision-Making Discovery—Part Two:

Peter received confirmation from others that a visit to Cornelius was the right choice. (Remember, according to Jewish law, it was the wrong thing to do.)

Affirmation #1: The entourage from Cornelius knew exactly where to find him.

Peter was traveling about the country (9:32). There was no way for those messengers from Cornelius to know he was in Joppa, staying at Simon the tanner’s seaside home—except by divine intervention (v. 5).

Surely this extraordinary revelation was not lost on Peter. Events were lining up in a miraculous way. God was about to do something extraordinary.

Affirmation #2: Six Christian brothers from Joppa accompanied Peter to Cornelius’ home (10:23, 11:12).

There is no record that Peter had to cajole them. Scripture simply says, “Some of the brothers from Joppa went along.” Remember, Cornelius’ home in Caesarea was thirty miles away. This was no quick trip across town. By volunteering their time and effort, these six friends offered valuable encouragement and support.

Lessons #1 for us:  Affirmation of others can be important evidence of God’s approval.

I say can be because if we try to manipulate people’s response, if we shamelessly seek after it, that affirmation may not be reliable.

But let’s consider what happened to Peter, and learn from his experience.

Lesson #2: Step out in faith and accept the affirmation, especially if there’s any hint of God’s miracle-working ways involved. Peter’s encounter with the three messengers is our example.

Lesson #3: When a number of people tell us the same thing, it’s probable the message is accurate. Six men showed their support of Peter’s decision to visit Cornelius by going with him to Joppa. There may have been others who gave encouragement also. Scripture includes no record of opposition.

Are you puzzling over a course of action?

 

 

Do you have supporters coming alongside to offer encouragement, verification and support for a particular choice? Count them. You may be surprised how much confirmation God is presenting!

Thank you, Father, for the encouragers in my life. They have created uplift in my soul when circumstances have weighed me down.

May I remain faithful to renew my mind with the wisdom and guidance of your word. May I step out in faith each day, ready to embrace any surprises you have for me–like a spur-of-the-moment trip to Joppa! And may I rest in the confirmation you have already given. Equip me, I pray, to be a wise, encouraging support for others.

* * * * * * * * * *

What affirmation have you received as you faced uncertainty or a tough decision? Please share your experience and be a voice of encouragement for someone else!

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