Thursday, August 17, 2017

An Unexpected Discipline - Change

On some level, those in pursuit of Christ's ways say they want to change, but deep change is surely a process that we don't always understand or even pursue with the right cadence.  

Spiritual disciplines are those exercises we put ourselves through so as to engage in the change we think we need by strengthening of our faith-walk. While there are standard, time-tested practices of spiritual discipline that many have embraced, too often these are limited because of one major problem: they are people-initiated.  Such efforts can be weak or self-aggrandizing and cannot accomplish in our lives all that God intends for us.  We unintentionally hold ourselves back not always aware that God wants more for us than we want for ourselves.

I challenge you to consider, embrace and be grateful for the disciplines that God initiates.  His disciplines are more effective and more directed at what we need, instead of what is comfortable. When change is what God is doing, then His glory gets exposed in us instead of our own.

Of course, God's spiritual disciplines are not always pleasant because they are unexpected and hidden within false expectations and a false sense of righteousness which we often hold. This is true even in our expectations about God, because it can require us to let go of our false images of a "Santa" God or "Genie" Jesus.  Such disciplines are unpredictable, painful and challenging - even severe.  Yet, they serve God's greater purposes in our lives to bring about godly character in us.

Remember that God will not be rushed.  He is known for his perfect timing and it takes time to ready all elements. Without a willingness to wait, we will be regularly frustrated with God and ourselves and become disillusioned when faced with change.  We serve a God whose calendar moves by millenia, not minutes, and who thinks in terms of generations, not seasons (or days).

This means that the present circumstances may not make sense to us, although they do to God.  Waiting for the change we want can be debilitating unless it is marked by hope in God.  It is often not until the present becomes the past that we begin to understand and only waiting can supply us with the passage of time.  For disciplined believers, it is patient, confident and active trust that God still holds power, knows what He is doing and is working things out towards good for those who love Him.

Mature Christians can engage in God's change by doing the following:

  • Hold onto Biblical truths.
  • Stay reminded of God's victories in the past.
  • Keep a firm anticipation of receiving God's promises.
  • Stay alert to signs of change to nurture and join with God.
  • Stay ready for opportunity.
  • Take comfort from God in the waiting or the change.
  • Foster a spirit of obedience.
  • Let waiting restore and refresh for the energy needed in upcoming change.

When it comes to the change we need most, God knows best. In God's timing, we can begin to see waiting as the portal for hope.  Don't push ahead or divert your eyes. Stay close to His efforts!

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

One verse of #29

If belief as a child is enough
then all this over-thinking and over-doing is tough
on a child’s heart.


Give me mine back.

Monday, August 14, 2017

#31

I can't find You 
without me.

I can't find me
without You.


Thursday, August 10, 2017

An Unexpected Discipline - Waiting

Waiting is one of the last things we usually want to do.  Wait for dessert, wait for our favorite TV show to begin or movie to come out, or wait for our greatest dreams to come to true. It's America:  we're pretty instantaneous!  We can have dessert first.  We can catch trailers and early glimpses of what we want to see on the screen. (Although waiting for OSU football season is always forever.)  

Our dreams.  What we want most for ourselves and our loved ones.  Sometimes we don't even know what we are waiting for, but some will wait for a lifetime for life to seem worth living.  That is what will often drive us to God, praying and waiting for Him to accomplish a task in us or others. Waiting. I think, generally, we hate it.

Under what conditions do you find yourself waiting on God?

"What is God waiting on?" I have asked myself.  When the topic is about my path or another person's path, waiting can be a difficult demand.  It proves to be disciplining when we wait for any answer, whether it be "yes," "no," "not now," or "better than this."  

I have decided that lots of time, while I think I am waiting on God, in truth, I think He is waiting on me.  I think I am the one not ready and I need the waiting to prepare for God's answer.  I find that truth in James 1:2-4.  

Consider it pure joy, brothers and sisters, when various trials come your way because the testing of your faith produces perseverance.  Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, lacking in nothing.

The King James uses the word "prove" in place of "testing" of your faith.  The meaning of that word can be seen in its use in Geometry (for those who dare to remember).  A proof demonstrates and does not cause.  The "proofing" (revealing, demonstration) of your faith will develop that all important character trait of perseverance.  And this proofing isn't because God didn't know, but because you need to know what you are made of.  You need to know what faith is made of.

That line of thinking makes me more appreciative of the discipline needed in waiting, but how do I wait in such a way that my character is built?  How do I wait on God's timing, His purposes, His way?

There are two verses that I think really help us wait properly.  
The first is Psalm 27:14 - Wait upon the Lord; be strong and of good courage. Wait upon the Lord.

So, I am not to be twiddling my thumbs, worrying myself into a puddle or growing impatient with the process.  Waiting involves some definitive action.  I am to strengthen myself.  I am to seek out that which enables me to grow strong in spirit, emotionally and bodily.  Especially in the area of the request and need, I need to bring vitality to whatever effort God will bring about.

I am also to "be of good courage."  Some versions say "take heart" or "take courage."  It means to "ready the will."  As I wait, I need to ready myself to do the will of God:  to be able to see His way and to take on His tasks.

Wow!  I need to get busy as I wait.

Isaiah 40:30, 31 is the second.  Even youths grow tired and weary, and you men stumble and fall, but those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength.  They will rise up on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary; they will walk and not grow faint.

I am to keep my hope in the Lord and not in the situation and culture around me.  Hope is the assurance of what God can do.  I nourish hope in reading God's word: finding His truths and keeping them in the forefront of my thinking.  I also find hope in seeing God work in other people's lives and hearing their testimony.  It is important I surround myself with people of hope, because I will become the company I keep. That is a basic truth in all kinds of change models:  we need mentors, guides, friends, and a culture which will support the change we need.

The other part of these verses uses a phrase I find interesting: ...they will rise up on wings as eagles...  Some versions use "soar" in place of "rise up."  "Rise up" is the better translation considering the context. In Hebrew, the meaning is "to go up, to meet, to come up (before God)."  In the context of eagles, the metaphor is complete.  An eagle can only fly from a perch - a tree top or a cliffside.  Because of their wing span, they cannot get a flap going from the ground.  If they end up on the ground, they have to hop until they gain some heighth so they can catch the breeze to soar.

We are like eagles, destined to soar, with a "reach" that belies our position when we are down in the dirt, on the ground, not reaching for the heights God intends.  We all want victorious living over failure, loss, and even sin.  When waiting for victory, in what position do we need to be to catch the wind of what God is going to do?  Maybe it has been blowing all this time and you have not been in the place to feel it, to catch it. Maybe you have not even spread your wings.

I think God is waiting on us.  He has been patient through many circumstances, desiring to give us what we needed all along.  The activity of waiting is quite the work, a lot of effort, with powers that may even try to dismantle our strength, our courage, our desire and to keep us out of position for the good of God.  Use waiting as a time to enter the battle for the good of God in our lives.  

Remember, for there to be a victory, there must have been a battle.