Long time coming!

I used to privately call myself, ‘Lady in Waiting’.

Even now, I always hear the clock. Ticking, ticking. Time’s ticking away!

Photo by Enikő Tóth on Pexels.com

It seemed I was always waiting for something to change.  (Finishing school, growing up, getting married, having kids, etc.) I’ve done all those things, and there are STILL more things I’m waiting to happen. 

Now, I’m more comfortable with the waiting.  Things will happen when they happen. I still want to make the most of my time, but I do it differently.

Patience and Long-suffering are two words used in different translations of the virtues in the Fruit of the Spirit verse in Galatians 5:22-23.  Another word that is closely related is perseverance. 

“Not only that, but we also rejoice in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not disappoint us, because God has poured out His love into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, whom He has given us” (BSB). Romans 5: 3-5

I see perseverance as the ability to keep on, keeping on.  It requires grit, hard work, and a good amount of stubbornness.  It’s like, ‘Bring on the rain!’ and  ‘What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger.’  TOUGHNESS. 

Or, “Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up” (NIV). Galatians 6:9.

Where patience feels like there’s an end in sight, long-suffering, not so much.  It’s right there in the name, long.

This is the kind of long that happens when a husband and father goes on deployment after deployment, with the wife and mom doing her best to handle the kids, house, work, and pets on her own.

This is the kind of long when someone lives with a chronic disease or handicap that isn’t ever going to go away.

This is the kind of long that prays for something or someone consistently, and not seeing the results of those prayers for 20, 30, or even 40 years.  Like walking in the desert.

This long-suffering belongs with the other virtues like joy, gentleness, and kindness because if it didn’t, it would lead to bitterness and death.

“Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer” (NIV). Romans 12:12

Long.  Time.  Coming. 

In education, we work to help students build up their reading stamina – the energy, focus, and length of time students can sit still and read.  It’s the same in crosscountry and most other cardio sports (soccer, basketball, etc.). 

We recognize the strength and power in that kind of stamina.  Let us practice the same through our daily disciplines of prayer, study, and loving one another.

“Such things were written in the Scriptures long ago to teach us. And the Scriptures give us hope and encouragement as we wait patiently for God’s promises to be fulfilled” (NLT). Romans 15:4

One day, we won’t have to wait patiently, suffer, or persevere.  Time will no longer be a thing. 

For I reckon that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us. (AKJ)  Romans 8:18

You Got This!  (Well, actually, God’s got this, and He’s got you.)

“The sun will no more be your light by day, nor will the brightness of the moon shine on you, for the LORD will be your everlasting light, and your God will be your glory” (NIV). Isaiah 60:19

If You Love Me . . .

 

Last week, I included the verse, John 14:23. “Jesus replied, “Anyone who loves me will obey my teaching. My Father will love them, and we will come to them and make our home with them.” (NIV)

Some of you may be more familiar with the verse that came a little earlier in the chapter, “If you love me, keep my commands.”  John 14:15 (NIV) This is the kind of short, easy verse some of us may have memorized in Sunday School when we were young.

I have trouble with this verse because it sounds conditional. I’ve always been under the impression God’s love is unconditional, so why the ‘if . . . then’ statement? “If you love me” has always struck me as a manipulative phrase. I would never have trusted that coming from anyone without suspecting an ulterior motive was at its core or the person didn’t trust my love for its own sake. Is God trying to manipulate me? Do I have to prove my love to Him? Doesn’t He already know my heart? This just doesn’t seem right. I already know trying to be good doesn’t work.

Remember, if we don’t study scripture in context, we won’t understand it properly. What we have here is the record of a conversation between Jesus Christ and His disciples shortly before his crucifixion. Read the following with a little more context:

15 “If you love me, keep my commands. 16 And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another advocate to help you and be with you forever— 17 the Spirit of truth. The world cannot accept him, because it neither sees him nor knows him. But you know him, for he lives with you and will be[a] in you. 18 I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you. 19 Before long, the world will not see me anymore, but you will see me. Because I live, you also will live. 20 On that day you will realize that I am in my Father, and you are in me, and I am in you. 21 Whoever has my commands and keeps them is the one who loves me. The one who loves me will be loved by my Father, and I too will love them and show myself to them.”

Jesus is explaining to His followers that once He has died, been resurrected, and ascended to heaven, He will send His Holy Spirit, the Spirit of Truth, to remain with them. He will not leave them alone in this world. Rather than a manipulative statement, John 14:15 is actually a cause and effect statement. If the love of Christ is in us, we will keep His commands – because we love Him. Each part of the trinity is at work for the unity of love. Keeping His commands is a direct result of the love of God alive in us. Here’s one more verse, again, just a little bit earlier:

11Believe me when I say that I am in the Father and the Father is in me; or at least believe on the evidence of the works themselves.

In this verse, Jesus says at the very least, His good work is evidence of the Father in Him. By comparison, our keeping the command to love God first, and loving others, is evidence of our knowledge and belief in Jesus Christ. Our obedience comes from the love God Himself gives us and empowers through the Holy Spirit.

There are some conditional statements by God throughout the Bible. Mostly, those have to do with promises. Even the covenant between Abraham and God was dependent on the Israelites keeping their side of the agreement.

Now if you obey me fully and keep my covenant, then out of all nations you will be my treasured possession. Although the whole earth is mine, you will be for me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation.’ These are the words you are to speak to the Israelites.” Exodus 19:5 – 6 (NIV)

Much of God’s promises depend on our being faithful or obedient. We make choices. In the Old Testament times, they had the prophets, laws, and sacrifices. Today, we still have the law, which let’s us know of our need for redemption, we have salvation through the sacrifice of Jesus Christ, and we have the Holy Spirit to help guide us into truth.

God does not need to manipulate us. Manipulation occurs when someone needs to cause another to do something that serves a selfish purpose. God doesn’t need anything from us, and He certainly isn’t selfish.  Think about this:

12if we endure, we will also reign with Him; if we deny Him, He will also deny us; 13if we are faithless, He remains faithful, for He cannot deny Himself.14Remind the believers of these things, charging them before God to avoid quarreling over words; this is in no way profitable, and leads its listeners to ruin. 2 Timothy 2:13 (NLT)

Let me encourage you. I write about this because I want you to trust God’s love for you. I want you to understand the truth. The truth is God is love. Love is patient. So, God is patient. He does know you, and He wants a relationship with you. God is not dependent on any of us. He’s trustworthy. He’s also forgiving. That’s the whole point of the cross. Our obedience is derived out of our love for Him.  Living things grow.  The more our love grows, the deeper relationship we have with Him, and the stronger our desire is to obey Him.  It takes time.  Let it grow!

Help My Unbelief

I promise to be honest with you every time I post. I confess I haven’t always fully believed and trusted God, the Bible, and the love of Jesus. The good news is, God is patient, God is faithful, and He has redeemed me. In fact, the process of redemption is still ongoing. Although I don’t understand everything right now, I DO trust He is revealing to me His goodness in His time.

I just finished Wait and See by Wendy Pope. In the past several months, one word has popped up again and again – cooperation. Wendy puts it in the last sentence of the last chapter. “Breathe deeply and ask the Lord to help cooperate with the work of His Word and the Holy Spirit so you can become more like Him.” (page 251)

And that is what I am doing. I used to think cooperating with God was about being good and obedient. While it’s important to live right, it isn’t the key. When I was young, I tried following the rules. I was kind, loved others, obeyed my parents, and didn’t curse; all the things it means to be a “good” Christian. My life’s circumstances seemed to contradict the good things I expected from living a life that was pleasing to God.  I didn’t trust God because of and with the pain I experienced.  I put up a shield to protect my vulnerable places from others, including God.  Unfortunately, I wound up with a bitter and cold heart.

After God renewed my faith, one of the challenges I faced was believing God had a purpose and a plan for me. The promises about His knowing me from before I was born, and His completing a good work in me seemed farfetched. The chaos of frequent moves and instability seemed to have no relevance to a plan at all.  I felt small and overlooked.

Several years ago, I came across a video about the Star of Bethlehem. I have often wondered about the many references to stars in the Bible, and how people could see constellations, or use them for planning purposes. There are so many stars, and they seem so arbitrarily situated! But in the documentary, I learned how the stars’ movements in the sky match what is recorded in the Gospels. Since we know how long it takes light to travel through space, it shows the purposeful and exacting placement of those stars when God first put them in the heavens. It caused me to reevaluate the apparent randomness of my life. I realized I needed to trust God more.

I have since seen walls torn down in my mind and heart. God is gently and patiently building a stronger faith in me as I spend more time with Him and allowing Him more access to my inner most being. Wendy writes, “Conquering selfish thoughts and behavior initiates a domino effect, and cooperating with God’s work in our life starts with getting personal with Him.” (page 84) A skeptical and compartmentalized mind won’t allow me to develop the intimate relationship I need to trust God completely. He is helping me overcome my unbelief. He is faithful. I know He will do the same with you.

To find out more about Wendy Pope and her book, click on  Wait and See,  or go to:  http://wendypope.org/book/

 

Star of Bethlehem Video: