Waiting, Waiting, Waiting!

My wife would tell you that “waiting” is not something I enjoy!  Whether it be standing in line at the grocery store, waiting for a table at a restaurant or waiting to hear my number called at our local DMV!  I get impatient and it impacts my attitude.

That is why Ps. 27 hit me today. David said in verse 14,

Wait for the Lord; be strong, and let your heart take courage; wait for the Lord!”

All of us have had times in our lives where we want to do something and for whatever reason, it just doesn’t seem to happen as fast as we would like.  If you are like me, I have a tendency to want to take control and make things happen.  Personally, I want this coronavirus problem fixed today so that we can get back to our normal lives!  I want to go, but it seems that God is not in a rush.

I appreciated the wisdom of Gerald Wilson who said,

“One of the most difficult aspects of faithful Christian living for me has been waiting for God. Too often I am impatient and want God to act now, on my schedule. Most often that is not how it happens. Waiting takes strength and demonstrates trust, courage, and endurance[1]

Why does God want us to wait for him and his perfect timing in our lives?  This is a great question and again, Wilson has helpful insight when he says,

Waiting on God is hard work. Yet, it is one way—perhaps the only way—of demonstrating God’s strength manifest in our weakness. Whenever we rush frantically about trying to “do it” on our own, we in effect become “functional atheists,” denying by our actions that God is active in our lives. Often to admit that we are powerless is the first step toward acknowledging God’s strength unleashed in our lives.”[2]

Waiting helps me realize that I am not in control, but God is.  Instead of trying to make things happen, sometimes God works our circumstances to help us refocus our dependence back upon him.  Often times, instead of trying to force things to happen, I need to get on my knees and pray to God for his help.

Does “waiting” mean that I passively just sit there?  The NIV Study Bible clarifies the meaning of this verse when it says,

“To wait for the Lord is to look to him with dependence and trust, not passivity; this is what enables one to be strong and courageous.”[3]

As you and I wait for God to meet our needs, address the coronavirus pandemic and fix our economy, and whatever else is troubling us, we should be people who express hope and courage with the confident expectation of God’s provision.

As Tom Constable apply summarizes, believers of all people,

“Can remain positive and confident about our spiritual safety as we find our delight in the Lord. When fear raises its head, the way to defeat it is to return to trust in Yahweh.”[4]

Father, thank you that while I need to be active and expectant in my hope in you and your provision, I should not be frantic, or worried as though you were not actively involved in my life.  You are my refuge.  You are my rock.  As you say in Ps 23, you vigorously pursue me with your goodness and mercy.   Father, continue to give our country’s leadership wisdom and bless their efforts to control this virus and restore our economy.  Thank you for being actively involved in my life even when I cannot see it because of my circumstances.

Following Jesus with you,

 

 

[1] Gerald H. Wilson, Psalms, vol. 1, The NIV Application Commentary (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2002), 490.

[2] Gerald H. Wilson, Psalms, vol. 1, The NIV Application Commentary (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2002), 491.

[3] Crossway Bibles, The ESV Study Bible (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles, 2008), 971.

[4] Tom Constable, Tom Constable’s Expository Notes on the Bible (Galaxie Software, 2003), Ps 27:13.

My Shepherd and Lavish Host

Today I was impressed with something that is said in one of the most familiar Psalms in the Bible, Psalm 23.  It seems that there are two primary descriptions of God in this passage. The first is that he is our Shepherd.  As our Shepherd, he leads, guides, protects and provides for his sheep. These truths should be a great encouragement to us today.

But, the second description is what hit me today because of the challenges we are all experiencing with the Coronavirus.  It is in verses 5-6 which says,

You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies; you anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows. Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life, and I shall dwell in the house of the Lord forever.”

In the verses above, God is now pictured not as a Shepherd but as the Lavish Host of a grand meal and you and I are his guests.  This meal takes place “in the presence of my enemies.” Did you see that?

Tom Constable notes,

“In this verse David described God as a host rather than as a shepherd. As a gracious host God provides hospitality for His people. He supplies us with what we need and desire lavishly, and He does so not by removing us from the presence of our spiritual enemies but in their presence.”[1]

Although David probably had human enemies in mind in verse five, this passage is clearly also telling us that God will provide for us in all difficult times because of what he said in verse four which says,

“Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me.”

David said he fears “no evil.”  This is a general reference to all harm.  As we go through this challenging time, we must remember that God does not promise to prevent challenges in our livesInstead, he promises to walk through these times with us.  As a result, we must endure as we faithfully walk with him and trust him.

One other thing stood out to me in these verses. The realization of God’s lavish provision in the midst of his enemies caused David to say something significant,

“Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life.”

What does David mean by “follow”? I think Constable again points out something very important about David’s statement. He said,

“‘To follow’ here does not mean to ‘bring up the rear’ but ‘to pursue vigorously.’”[2]

Isn’t it encouraging and comforting to know that God vigorously is pursuing you and me to lavishly meet our needs in the midst of trouble?  May you and I continue to trust him to care for us and thank him for his abundance.

Father, thank you for helping me see something new in this very familiar Psalm.  Thank you for the truth that you are with us in times of trouble and you lavishly meet our needs as we walk with you. In fact, you will vigorously continue to do that!  Help me to walk by faith in your promises and display Christ’s character in the midst of all challenges. May you protect our country, our leadership and your Church at this time.

Following Jesus with you,

 

 

[1] Tom Constable, Tom Constable’s Expository Notes on the Bible (Galaxie Software, 2003), Ps 23:5.

[2] Tom Constable, Tom Constable’s Expository Notes on the Bible (Galaxie Software, 2003), Ps 23:6.

Soaring or Weary Flapping?

Have you found life to be hard at times?  How do we thrive in times of difficulty?  Today I was impressed with the description of the flight of an eagle,

“From his experience of living near an eagle’s hollow, Terry Fulham explains plains how eagles mount up. As a child of nine or ten he would visit the hollow for hours and sit and watch eagles circling and soaring overhead. On one occasion, he remembered observing an eagle standing at the edge of its nest, high up on the crags of a cliff. It just stood there, wings spread out wide open. And it stood and stood. Terry became impatient and started to throw rocks at the eagle to make it fly (of course, the nest was much higher than his stone’s reach). All of a sudden, the eagle slowly Iifted off the nest and began soaring-without any movement of its wings. It had waited for the wind to carry it aloft. We learn that apart from the wind there is no soaring, only weary flapping. We were made for soaring with the Spirit, to soar above the heights as well as through storms.[1]

How does this apply to you and me?  Notice what it says in Is. 40:31,

“But those who trust in the Lord will find new strength. They will soar high on wings like eagles. They will run and not grow weary. They will walk and not faint.

God, through the enabling of the Holy Spirit, has given us the capacity as believers to soar above the circumstances of life.  God has not promised to keep us from problems or trials, but he has given us the ability to rise above them as we walk in humble dependence upon him each step of the way.

As Issler further notes,

“By combining two biblical word pictures, the Spirit as wind and the believer as a soaring eagle . . .  a dynamic image takes shape, depicting how supernatural assistance helps believers rise above human limitations. Eagles were made for soaring, having long wingspans with powerful pinions. They soar great distances for hours at a time when the wind carries them”.

You and I are made to soar through the enabling of the Spirit rather than our weary flapping of self-effort!

Father, thank you for the reminder and the truth that you are with us every minute of the day.  We can soar, even in the midst of trial and trouble as you enable us.  Help me to remember my ability to live in a manner that pleases you only comes from your enabling.  Help me to soar today!

Following Jesus with you,

 

 

[1] Klaus Issler. Wasting Time with God: A Christian Spirituality of Friendship with God (Kindle Location 1846). Kindle Edition.

 

Primary Allegiance

I remember as a young boy reciting the Pledge of Allegiance in class.  “I pledge allegiance to the flag of the United States of America…” I was declaring my commitment to the flag and our country as a high priority in my life.  As I read about Esau today, I could not help but think of his lack of allegiance to what really mattered.  This passage says,

“Jacob said, ‘Sell me your birthright now.’ Esau said, ’I am about to die; of what use is a birthright to me?’ Jacob said, ‘Swear to me now.’ So he swore to him and sold his birthright to Jacob. Then Jacob gave Esau bread and lentil stew, and he ate and drank and rose and went his way. Thus Esau despised his birthright.” (Gen. 25:31-34)

I am sure you remember the story, where Esau’s temporal hunger was more important to him than his birthright.  Esau was not only willing to give up his special inheritance, but he also was giving up the leadership of the family.  The text says he “despised” his birthright.  Moses, in writing this is making sure we do not miss what Esau did.  It is a moral judgment of his action.

The word “despise” is emphasizing that Esau regarded his birthright to have little value. “For Esau, the birthright is a worthless object.”[1]

As Tom Constable notes,

Esau cared only for physical and material things whereas Jacob valued the spiritual. Esau gave priority to the immediate satisfaction of his sensual desires, but Jacob was willing to wait for something better that God had promised in the future.”[2]

I think the reason this hit me this morning is that I can treat the privileges of being a child of God in that same way that Esau treated his birthright without realizing it!  The amazing blessing I have as a son of the King, with a desirable future and destiny can be lost in the pursuit of temporary busyness and personal fulfillment. I certainly have responsibilities now, but I must not let them challenge God as the number one allegiance of my heart.

How are you doing with keeping Jesus the number one allegiance of your heart?

Father, thank you for letting me see how Esau lost his perspective and craved temporal fulfillment more than the promised future you had given him as a descendent of the Promise.  Father, life is busy, it has pressures and demands that can challenge making you the priority of my life.  Forgive me when that happens and help me to be aware of this before I lose you as the number one allegiance of my heart.

Following Jesus with you,

 

 

[1] William David Reyburn and Euan McG. Fry, A Handbook on Genesis, UBS Handbook Series (New York: United Bible Societies, 1998), 588.

[2] Tom Constable, Tom Constable’s Expository Notes on the Bible (Galaxie Software, 2003), Ge 25:31.

Do You Need a Hug?

With 2020 upon us, I can’t help but start to think about a new year.  For me 2019 was a good year, but how can I ensure that 2020 will be a great year?

The passage that resonated with me this morning is in Ps. 91:14-15 which says,

Because he holds fast to me in love, I will deliver him; I will protect him, because he knows my name. When he calls to me, I will answer him; I will be with him in trouble; I will rescue him and honor him.”

The writer of the Psalm is speaking for God at this point in the passage.  God is saying, “because he holds fast to me in love…”  What does that mean?  One possible understanding is “because to me he is attracted.”[1]  In contrast to other deities, this person was attracted to God alone and living for him.  Another way to understand this passage is “because he clings to me in love, even ‘hugs’ me.[2]

What a picture of intimacy with God!  This person is described as running to dad and hugging him in the midst of danger.  He is living life close to his Father.  The result of this choice to “hug” God alone, is that God will protect him.

The second thing that stood out to me and compliments the first observation is the statement, “because he knows my name.”  Knowing God’s name is the same as “knowing him.”  It is describing a person who has an intimate relationship with God and has chosen to live the path of life that he knows would please God.  It is the person who is walking in humble obedience to God’s direction.

The fruit of such a lifestyle will be that God will answer his prayer, protect him and rescue him.

So as you and I begin a New Year what do we need to make sure we do?  The central theme is summarized well by Donald Williams and Lloyd Ogilvie when they say,

If we long for and desire greatly to be intimate with God, He promises to be intimate with us.”[3]

Father, thank you for this description of intimacy that is available to those who choose to hug and cling to you through faith and obedience.  Help me in this New Year to make this description a reality of my daily living. May I stay close to you in 2020!

Following Jesus with you,

 

 

[1] John Goldingay, Baker Commentary on the Old Testament: Psalms 90–150, ed. Tremper Longman III, vol. 3 (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 2006), 48.

[2] George Angus Fulton Knight, Psalms, vol. 2, The Daily Study Bible Series (Louisville, KY: Westminster John Knox Press, 2001), 96.

[3] Donald Williams and Lloyd J. Ogilvie, Psalms 73–150, vol. 14, The Preacher’s Commentary Series (Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson Inc, 1989), 162.

Soul Gladness

Have you experienced in life moments of great joy in your relationship with God and then at other times, moments where you feel indifferent or your heart can even be cool toward God?

I certainly have felt all those things and that is why I was struck today by Psalm 86:4 which says,

Gladden the soul of your servant, for to you, O Lord, do I lift up my soul.”

Even king David had times where he needed God to ignite his soul with joy.  David prays and asks God to “gladden his soul.”  The word “gladden” is fascinating.  It “describes a state and agitation of rejoicing.”[1]

What an interesting way to describe the meaning!  David is lifting up his soul to God and asking him to agitate it so that he is in a continual state of rejoicing!  This internal happiness comes from lifting his soul (his inner self) to God to perform his work.

The NLT translates this verse,

Give me happiness, O Lord, for I give myself to you.”

Why did David think God could agitate his soul to a state of continual rejoicing?  Verse five explains this further when it says,

For you, O Lord, are good and forgiving, abounding in steadfast love to all who call upon you.”

The word “for” in verse five is introducing why David thinks God can give him soul gladness.  It is because God is good, forgiving and abounding in his steadfast covenant love toward him that he can experience such joy. As David remembers, prays and dwells on God’s goodness and love, his soul is “stirred up” or “agitated” to a state of happiness.  As David thinks about truth it influences his soul.

Father, what a great reminder of my need for you and your constant work in my life!  I lift up my soul to you and ask you to gladden me to a state of happiness because of who you are and all you have done for me.  Thank you for your forgiveness and constant dependable love. May my soul respond appropriately by being in a state of joy as I think of these truths.

 

Following Jesus with you,

 

 

 

[1] Warren Baker and Eugene E. Carpenter, The Complete Word Study Dictionary: Old Testament (Chattanooga, TN: AMG Publishers, 2003), 1160.

 

Are You Ready?

With our celebration of the birth of our Savior on December 25th, I am reminded this Christmas Eve of the story of the visit of the Magi.  Notice how Matthew describes the details,

“Now after Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea in the days of Herod the king, behold, wise men from the east came to Jerusalem, saying, “Where is he who has been born king of the Jews? For we saw his star when it rose and have come to worship him.” When Herod the king heard this, he was troubled, and all Jerusalem with him; and assembling all the chief priests and scribes of the people, he inquired of them where the Christ was to be born. They told him, “In Bethlehem of Judea, for so it is written by the prophet: “ ‘And you, O Bethlehem, in the land of Judah, are by no means least among the rulers of Judah; for from you shall come a ruler who will shepherd my people Israel.’ ” Then Herod summoned the wise men secretly and ascertained from them what time the star had appeared. And he sent them to Bethlehem, saying, “Go and search diligently for the child, and when you have found him, bring me word, that I too may come and worship him.” After listening to the king, they went on their way. And behold, the star that they had seen when it rose went before them until it came to rest over the place where the child was. When they saw the star, they rejoiced exceedingly with great joy. And going into the house, they saw the child with Mary his mother, and they fell down and worshiped him. Then, opening their treasures, they offered him gifts, gold and frankincense and myrrh.” (Matt. 2:1-11)

This amazing story describes those who are called “Magi” coming to worship Jesus.  Who were these men?  The word “Magi” is probably referring to those who served a king(s) rather than those who were kings.  Michael Wilkins notes,

“Magi were probably more along the lines of religious advisers to their court.”[1]

These Magi traveled for months to cover approximately 900 miles to be able to worship this baby that was born a King!  They find Jesus in a house, and at this point, Jesus is described by the word “child,” which indicates he was no longer a baby but an infant or toddler.  This implies that he was at least months old at the time of their visit.  This possibility is also supported by the fact that Herod wanted to kill all children under the age of two.

These Magi were also Gentiles not Jews.  Why would God announce to Gentile Magi about the birth of Jesus?  One reason is that God, in the very beginning is announcing the birth of his Son to the world. The significance is that salvation is open to not just the Jews but to the whole world!

When the Magi arrive in Bethlehem they worship Jesus and give him gifts.  What was going on in their culture to cause these Magi to want to make this long journey to worship a Jewish baby born a King?  Wilkins states,

“The people of Israel had long waited for the rightful heir to the throne, but God announces his arrival first through these Gentile Magi. An expectation had circulated in the world of the first century that a ruler would arise from Judea. Suetonius writes, ‘Throughout the whole of the East there had spread an old and persistent belief: destiny had decreed that at that time men coming forth from Judea would seize power [and rule the world].’. . This belief had penetrated beyond the borders of Israel, so that others were looking for a ruler(s) to arise from the land of Judea.”[2]

The Magi then, come to Bethlehem to worship the one they had heard would rule the world.  They most likely thought he was just a human king, but they worshipped God’s provision of this world leader and through that worshipped God.  In contrast to the worship of the Magi, the Jewish leaders did nothing but try to help Herod execute him.  God’s very own people, those who had the greatest opportunity to know him and worship him, have rejected his Son.

As we prepare for this great celebration of the birth of our Messiah, may we respond with hearts of worship like the Magi.  May we take time to honor Jesus as our Lord and Savior!

Are you ready to worship our King?

Merry Christmas!

 

 

[1] Michael J. Wilkins, Matthew, The NIV Application Commentary (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House, 2004), 94.

[2] IBID, 106.

Why Singing at Christ’s Birth?

Today I was reading about the angels singing at the birth of Jesus.  In Luke 2:13-14 it says,

And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying, “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among those with whom he is pleased!”

Why were the angels singing?  As I studied this I learned some interesting things about the culture at that time that may help to explain the significance of this worship. First, the birth of a baby boy in a Jewish home was recognized as a very special blessing from God.  Howard Vos notes,

In a society that had no social security benefits the sons carried on the family line and name, cared for and occupied the family inheritance, and provided for their parents in old age.[1]

Having a son to ensure the continuation of the family name and knowing this son would also one day provide for his aging parents was a reason for abundant celebration.  In fact, this special event was marked by great joy. William Barclay makes a very helpful observation about that culture when he notes,

When the time of the birth was near at hand, friends and local musicians gathered near the house. When the birth was announced and it was a boy, the musicians broke into music and song, and there was universal congratulation and rejoicing . . . Jesus was born in a stable in Bethlehem and therefore that ceremony could not be carried out. [2]

Therefore, secondly, the birth of a son was marked by local musicians gathering at the home and singing in celebration!  Could it be that since mankind could not provide the appropriate praise to God at the birth of Jesus, that God made sure his Son was properly announced with singing not of mere men, but the very angels of heaven?

The birth of Jesus has a far greater benefit than mere temporal provision.  Jesus brings eternal life to those who embrace him as their Savior and God.  There has never been a birth worthy of more celebration!

Father, thank you for sending your Son!  You are worthy of praise for his birth which has changed my life and the course of history!  Help me to live out my faith and life in a manner that is in harmony with Christ’s teaching and mission.

Following Jesus with you,

 

[1] Howard Frederic Vos, Nelson’s New Illustrated Bible Manners & Customs: How the People of the Bible Really Lived (Nashville, TN: T. Nelson Publishers, 1999), 450.

[2] William Barclay, ed., The Gospel of Luke, The Daily Study Bible Series (Philadelphia, PA: The Westminster John Knox Press, 1975), 23.

Simplicity and Humility

When we read Luke 2:1-7, it is easy to gloss over some of the depth of this story because we are so familiar with it.  Have you paused to consider what really happened here?

God had predicted something over 700 years earlier in Micah 5:2. In that passage it says,

“But you, O Bethlehem Ephrathah, who are too little to be among the clans of Judah, from you shall come forth for me one who is to be ruler in Israel, whose coming forth is from of old, from ancient days.”

Since God’s Word is trustworthy and true, God orchestrated kings and all the details necessary to make sure his Son was born in Bethlehem! How easy it is for me to forget that I have a heavenly Father who is intimately aware of the details of my life and fully capable of accomplishing his plan regardless of what my circumstances might imply.

The other big thought that hit me today was the simplicity and humility surrounding the birth of Jesus. Luke 2:7 says,

And she gave birth to her firstborn son and wrapped him in swaddling clothes and laid him in a manger because there was no place for them in the inn.

After making an 80-mile journey from Nazareth to Bethlehem, Jesus is born in a humble setting, wrapped in swaddling clothes and laid in a manger (a place where animals fed).

William Barclay gives clarity as to what “swaddling clothes” were when he notes,

Swaddling clothes consisted of a square of cloth with a long bandage-like strip coming diagonally off from one corner. The child was first wrapped in the square of cloth and then the long strip was wound round and round about him.[1]

Did you notice that the God who orchestrated the events to make sure Jesus was born in Bethlehem did not ensure that his Son was welcomed with plush accommodations befitting his position?  What does this tell us about God?

I think Darrell Bock has great insight when he says,

Importance is not a matter of one’s environment or the supposed status that things bring. Rather, importance is a function of one’s role in God’s work. Jesus is important not because of the setting of his birth, but because of who he is before God[2]

Father, position, power, prestige, etc. are not important to you.  That is so contrary to our culture and approach to life.  What is important is who I am before you because of what Jesus has done for me as my Savior!  I am your son! Help me to remember the wise words of Bock when he said, “Those ‘on whom God’s favor rests’ include those whose claim to fame may be nothing more than that they wake up each day and pursue a living in service to God.”[3]  Help me to live simply and humbly as Jesus has modeled for me.

Following Jesus with you,

 

[1] William Barclay, ed., The Gospel of Luke, The Daily Study Bible Series (Philadelphia, PA: The Westminster John Knox Press, 1975), 21.

[2] Darrell L. Bock, Luke, The NIV Application Commentary (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House, 1996), 86.

[3] IBID, 87.

Always Teachable

The amazing story of the birth of John the Baptist began with an angel of the Lord who appeared to Zechariah, his father, as he served in the temple.  He was so terrified at the appearance that the first thing the angel said was “do not be afraid.”  After learning that God would answer his lifelong prayer for a son, Zechariah, a devout priest for life, chose to doubt God rather than believe!  God enabling his wife Elizabeth to bear a son past the age of childbearing did not fit Zechariah’s view of God.

Can you imagine if you were Zechariah?  You have been a passionate, committed priest serving God for a lifetime.  You are old and now an angel appears and shakes up your view of God and his plan for your life! How would you respond?

It appears that Zechariah, over time, fell into complacency.  As a believer, I must remember it is never too late to learn and grow.  Darrell Bock summarizes this thought well when he says,

The lesson that pious Zechariah learns is important, especially to those who have a rich spiritual heritage. He is a man of lifelong faith who still needed to grow. It is all too easy to view one’s spiritual life as something that can be mastered rather than something to be maintained[1]

Bock goes on to say,

Often we are tempted, on the basis of past experience, to put our spiritual well-being on cruise control and rest on the laurels of a tradition of activity.[2]

These observations make me want to ask myself, “am I teachable”?  Have I put my spiritual pursuit of God on cruise control without realizes it?  Am I open to God shaking up my world by allowing him to accomplish his will in my life in a way I had not anticipated?

Father, thank you for the captivating story of the birth of John the Baptist who was born at just the right time and in the exact way you wanted it to happen.  His dad, Zechariah did not understand how you could accomplish the great miracle of John’s birth.  I cannot fully understand you or your ways either. Help me to not become complacent by thinking I have you “figured out.” Instead, help me to be like Zechariah, who as a result of your work in his life responded in faith and with words of praise when he said,

“’He asked for a writing tablet and he wrote, ‘his name is John.’ And they all wondered. And immediately his mouth was opened and his tongue loosed, and he spoke, blessing God.” (Luke 1:63-64)

May we be teachable and passionate about following God his way. May we be blessed to always be surprised by God and how he works in our lives.

Following Jesus with you,

 

 

 

[1] Darrell L. Bock, Luke, The NIV Application Commentary (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House, 1996), 79.

[2] IBID, p. 79