Remembering and Waiting

 

I love finding little notes in my Bible–like nuggets of gold, or better, stones of remembrance–reminding me of God’s faithfulness during certain periods of life. I came upon this yesterday, March 16, 2016, that pointed back to this date in 2011, 5 years ago.

In November 2010, I had been approached about a potential job at our church. Though I already had a job I loved as Director of Admissions and Marketing at a small classical school that my husband and I had been involved with from its start in 2006, we didn’t want to dismiss the opportunity without prayer. Over the next four months, we prayed and took each next step of a lengthy interview process. Somewhere along that path, I withdrew my name, but I didn’t have peace.

As I continued to pray, the Lord continued to speak and lead, and through a variety of circumstances, I re-entered the process. I knew that by putting my name back in, I was saying to myself if they offered me the job, I would accept it. That was a huge step, to be able to let go of something I loved, not knowing what the new job would really end up being.

Though I re-entered the process, it had been a few weeks, and they had moved on, and it was possible it was too late. I became stressed about the situation–that I might not be offered the job now that I felt it was so clearly from the Lord, and also that I would have to leave something that, through God’s grace and strength, I helped start and had invested my life in for 5 years. I would be giving up something that had almost become synonomous with who I was–part of my identity, even an idol to me.

As I went through those days of waiting, I came upon these two verses which God used to give me peace:

Wait on the LORD; be of good courage, and He shall strengthen your heart; Wait, I say, on the LORD! Psalm 27:14

The LORD is my strength and my shield; My heart trusted in Him, and I am helped. Psalm 28:7

These verses caused me to stop and reflect on all the reasons I believed this new job was from the Lord and right for me and my family. As I remembered each step of those four months He had brought me through, I was absolutely convinced this was the call He had for me. And so in that moment, I believed God. I trusted what He had shown me. And I decided that I would wait patiently for the church to come back to me with the job offer, recognizing and believing that would indeed happen.

It gave me total peace as only God’s Word and His Spirit can do. It was two days later that I was called and offered the job. I was told I could take time to think about it and pray. I remember replying that wouldn’t be necessary. I had prayed for four months, and I was confident this was from the Lord. I accepted on the spot, so convinced of God’s plan.

I guess a rather humorous point was that I was then asked if I would like to know how much money I would make! Oh, yes, forgot about that. That would be good to know! But when the call of the Lord becomes so certain, you know all the parts of it will work themselves out. And it’s been a great joy to have been serving in our church now for the last almost 5 years, seeing evidence over and over why it was from the Lord and the right thing. I love records like this that bring it back to mind, and I thank the Lord again for His gracious provision and clear leading.

Ten Years!

Ten years ago, God drew me to Himself in a way I hadn’t known before. I wrote this seven years ago, but link to it here today as I remember with thankfulness the work God has done and continues to do in my life. Thank you, Lord! The journey with you is full of true joy!

 

God Is Not Mocked

Last week I was asked to give a short devotional at our church to a young moms group. This is what I shared in hopes to encourage moms in a way God had encouraged me.

When my children were young (about 5 and 7), I vividly remember one bad day in particular. I was homeschooling that year (1st grade and pre-K), and I can’t say I was particularly cut out for it! I’m not sure all of the things that brought me to discouragement that day, but while I stood at the gas pump filling my car with gas, I felt despair. I had just watched my friend drive by with her kids, and my kids were probably sitting in the car fussing—or perhaps somehow just resisting all the great plans I had. I began to think destructive kinds of thoughts: “What do you think you are doing? All you are trying to do—does it really matter?! Look at so-and-so. She’s such a great mom, and why can’t you just be like everyone else? Do you really think you’ve been called to do the things you’re doing?” And on and on the thoughts went through my mind—just an assault, a barrage of negative thinking—and I was in no way trying to combat it as I was very upset.

Right in the middle of these defeating thoughts, it was as though these words sliced right across my mind, interrupting my thoughts with this clear one: God is not mocked.

I was surprised by this. In the midst of my distress, not even looking for an answer, God had stopped me in my tracks and met me with this thought. I went right home and looked in my Bible concordance to see where this was. I found it in Galatians 6.

Do not be deceived, God is not mocked; for whatever a man sows, this he will also reap. For the one who sows to his own flesh will from the flesh reap corruption, but the one who sows to the Spirit will from the Spirit reap eternal life. Let us not lose heart in doing good, for in due time we will reap if we do not grow weary.

Galatians 6:7-9

Those words were the encouragement my heart needed: Do not be deceived, God is not mocked. Do not lose heart. Do not grow weary. Sow to the Spirit. Press on!

As I considered sharing this for the devotional, I went to the Good Friday service at our church. Reading through the passages in our worship folder, I couldn’t help but notice the mockery of Jesus in the Gospels. In Luke 27, we are told how the soldiers and Roman cohort stripped Jesus and put a scarlet robe on Him. They wove a crown of thorns and put it on his head. They kneeled down before Him and mocked Him, saying, “Hail, King of the Jews!” They spat on Him and beat Him on the head. After they mocked Him, they led him away to crucify Him (Matt. 27:27-31).

As He hung on the cross, those passing by were hurling abuse at Him, saying, “You who are going to destroy the temple and rebuild it in three days, save Yourself! If You are the Son of God, come down from the cross.” In this same way, the chief priests and scribes and elders were mocking Him, saying, “He saved others; He cannot save Himself. He is the King of Israel; let Him now come down from the cross, and we shall believe in Him. He trusts in God; let Him deliver Him now, if He takes pleasure in Him, for He said ‘I am the Son of God'” (Luke 27:39-43).

I did a quick word study on mocked. The Greek word for mocked in Galatians 6:7 (mukterizo) is only used this one time in the entire New Testament. It means to turn up the nose, sneer at, treat with contempt.

The Greek word for mocked in the mockery of Jesus in the Gospels is empaizo. Its meaning is very similar and closely associated to the one in Galatians. This one means to mock, delude, deceive.

As I thought about this ultimate example of mockery—Jesus being mocked—I wondered how He felt at these accusations coming against Him as He knew the path He was walking—a painful one for our good, for our very salvation. Three days later, He would rise from the dead, and in the end, God was not mocked! Jesus arose triumphant having done the will of His Father. His resurrection is the very centerpiece of our faith.

It gave me perspective for those mocking thoughts and lies that can still come to my mind. We must come back at these lies with truth, with the truth of God’s living Word. He will not be mocked. As we seek Him through reading the Bible and in prayer, as we obey His will and follow Him, we can trust that as we sow in the Spirit, in due time we will reap—even if the outcome looks uncertain or even bleak. Don’t lose heart. Press on. Don’t grow weary. Patiently wait. Keep trusting God. Sow to the Spirit. Don’t believe the lies. God is not mocked.

Weekend Wrap-up

These are just some quick thoughts as I wrap up the last week or two that have been on my mind.

  • I heard a lady on the radio yesterday giving her testimony. She had been living a really rough life, and she wanted to know if God was real. She shared how God revealed Himself in this moment of crisis in an unmistakable way. At the end of the call, she threw in this statement that has stuck with me: “I wasn’t looking for God to change my life; I only wanted to know if He was real. But once I knew that He was real, my life was changed.” I loved that thought. When we experience the reality of who God is and what Christ has done for us, we will be changed!

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  • I went to a cross country match to watch a family friend run. What I loved was seeing him at the end, even though he was surely tired, sprint to the finish, even overtaking another runner at the very last moment. This running with the end in sight, with a focus on the finish, was a picture to me of how to run the life of faith which is compared in Scripture at times to a race:

    Hebrews 12:1-2: “Therefore, since we have so great a cloud of witnesses surrounding us, let us also lay aside every encumbrance and the sin which so easily entangles us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of faith, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.”

  • This week we celebrated the day that my daughter came home from the hospital 14 years ago ago after a three month stay. She was born three months prematurely (27 weeks along, 2 pounds) and came home on her original due date. It’s hard to pass milestone moments like these without pausing again to remember and give thanks to God for her life and His protection over her and for the many miraculous ways we saw His hand at work during those challenging days. These are indeed stones of remembrance.

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  • Then finally we wrapped up the football season for my son this week. It was a great season, and I am glad to see his hard work and discipline in the sport, his great coaches who use the sport as a means to bring gospel truths into their lives, and the friendships he has developed.

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My Father

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The other night we were at my mom’s, and when I got home, this picture was on my camera. Because my mom recently moved, my daughter had found this picture leaning in a room against the wall. She asked my mom who it was, and my mom told her it was her grandfather. I think she was taken with the thought and took the picture to capture it.

45 years ago today my earthly, biological father passed away. He was on his way to work and died in a car wreck. I was an infant. Though I’m confident he loved me (a realization that didn’t actually strike me until after I had my own children), I never had the opportunity to know him, and that is a certain loss in my life. I often wonder what it must have been like for my mother to walk through that day, to receive the call that he wasn’t at work, to have the policeman knock on the door, to arrive at the hospital to discover he was already gone.

I’ve never had thought to write about him, perhaps because my experience of knowing him was so brief. I remember during my childhood wondering what part of me was like him. I am a lot like my mom, so I wanted to know if there was anything about me that could connect me to him. But I didn’t know him, and I only knew life with a mom and a sister. It wasn’t sad to me that I didn’t have a dad because I knew nothing different, though at times I felt different from my friends.

It feels strange to write about him. Perhaps it’s something sacred that isn’t meant to be shared. Perhaps I don’t even know enough to write. And perhaps that is sad. But there are some things that I do know that I wouldn’t have known otherwise that I remember now with praise and thanksgiving.

Psalm 68:5 says, “A father to the fatherless, a defender of widows, is God in his holy dwelling.” I can tell you that verse is true. God has been a Father to me, and I’ve always had a strong sense of Him being my heavenly Father, the one who loves and cares for me. His faithfulness to us has been so obvious, and His presence so near. He has watched over and protected me all the days of my life, and the absence of an earthly father made this reality more clear to me. I praise God for that.

My father’s family, though they did not live nearby, have always been involved in my life. We spent most Christmases with them growing up, and I would visit my grandparents frequently, particularly in summertime. They stepped in to love us and care for us, even though their son/brother was gone and we lived farther away. My parents were only married five years, but his family never lost touch with us, always sought us and invested in our lives. I know their love, and I love them, and that also is a gift.

Many men in our church stepped up to reach out to us – inviting my sister and me to father/daughter banquets or inviting us on activities with their families. What kind and generous thoughts. My best friend’s dad always showed me love and kindness, and her parents made me feel like one of the family. Others come to mind, a gift to know godly men who cared for us.

And then my mom remarried when I was 14. “Step-dad” hardly feels like the appropriate word for him as much as he was involved in our lives and how much he loved us and eventually my own children. He was a wonderful, godly man who went to be with the Lord four years ago now.

I’ve had the blessing of not just one father, but many father-figures, and knowing my heavenly Father most of all. On a day that could be reflected upon with sadness, I reflect on it with joy. As Job said in Job 1:21, “The LORD gave and the LORD has taken away. Blessed be the name of the LORD.” And He has given so much more. He has given me Himself.

Galatians 4:6, “And because we are his children, God has sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, prompting us to call out, ‘Abba, Father.'”

Prayer: Thank you, Lord, that I know you as my Father, that you have loved me as your child, adopted me as your own, redeemed my life from the pit, and set my feet upon a rock. Thank you for caring for me so personally. You are this same heavenly Father to all those who believe upon your Son, who by faith trust in Jesus for the forgiveness of sins and eternal life. Through Jesus’ sacrifice, His death and resurrection, we are given access to you by faith. What was broken by sin was restored in Christ. And this Father/child relationship is the sweetest and most significant one we can know. Thank you that I can call you “Abba, Father.” In Jesus’ name, Amen.

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Remembering is Believing

You know the old saying, “seeing is believing.” If something is so crazy or unbelievable, you might hear, “You just have to see it to believe it!” We’ve all probably used a similar expression both in jest or in full seriousness.

The disciple Thomas used this language in John 20:25. Jesus had appeared to the other disciples after His resurrection and shown them His hands and His side (verses 19-23), but Thomas had not been present. When they told him about it, Thomas said, “Unless I see in His hands the print of the nails, and put my finger into the print of the nails, and put my hand into His side, I will not believe.” Unless I see, I will not believe.

A friend, strong in his faith, recently was going through a time of legitimate suffering. He’s never wavered in his faith, but in the midst of his hurt, he said something along the lines of, “At some point, you just need to see God is there. It doesn’t feel like enough to just know it.” He knew all the right things, but understandably wanted to really see God’s active, visible power in the situation and experience anew His presence in it. He was articulating what we all can probably identify with and have perhaps felt in moments of acute pain.

As my husband and I listened to our friend, I could see the words “seeing is believing” in my head, words I have written along the page of my Bible in Exodus. The word “remember” came to my mind as a possible antidote to our friend’s questions.

In the Book of Exodus, which describes the Israelites “exodus” out of slavery in Egypt, the Israelites had no trouble believing God when they saw active, present evidence of Him, such as when the Red Sea parted or when the manna first fell to the ground. But even in the midst of such stunning wonders and awesome acts, they were tempted to doubt and fear, to lack faith that God would act again to save and deliver them. They were a forgetful people.

In Exodus 14:10-12, the Israelites, who had fled from Egypt after the Lord sent 10 plagues to cause Pharoah to let them go, now stood before the Red Sea being pursued again by Pharaoh. What they saw (“seeing”) caused them to fear (“believing” they would die): “The children of Israel lifted their eyes, and behold, the Egyptians marched after them. So they were very afraid…. Then they said to Moses, ‘…have you taken us away to die in the wilderness? … For it would have been better for us to serve the Egyptians than that we should die in the wilderness.’” (emphasis mine)

Rather than remembering that the God who had just delivered them with 10 plagues could now deliver them again, they doubted based on what their physical eyes could see.

“And Moses said to the people, ‘Do not be afraid. Stand still, and see the salvation of the LORD, which He will accomplish for you today. For the Egyptians whom you see today, you shall see again no more forever. The LORD will fight for you, and you shall hold your peace.’” (Exodus 14:13-14) (emphasis mine).

You know the rest of the story: The Red Sea parted, and the Israelites were saved, and “the LORD overthrew the Egyptians in the midst of the sea” (Ex. 14:27). Moses and the children of Israel sang a song of praise to God in Exodus 15. But how long would they remember?

The next scene (Ex. 15:22-27) after their praise to God takes them three days in the wilderness with no water. They began to complain, and God gave water. Then there was no bread (“Oh, that we had died by the hand of the LORD in the land of Egypt, when we sat by the pots of meat and when we ate bread to the full! For you have brought us out into this wilderness to kill this whole assembly with hunger.” Ex. 16:3). And the LORD rained bread from heaven for them.

There were no limits to the miraculous acts the LORD could and would perform on their behalf, with great patience and mercy, and yet, there were continued complaints and lack of faith. For “seeing is believing” and whatever the present moment brought dictated the faith they had.

What if remembering – recalling to mind who God is and what He has done – is a key to ongoing belief? Rather than following the example of the Israelites or Thomas, needing to see to believe, I offered the thought to our friend that perhaps he needed to remember. Maybe he should write down all of the times he had seen God act and known His presence. Maybe he should also write down the promises of God given in Scripture. And then maybe he should cast his eyes upward to see the God who does act for good and in love for his people, even as we live in a sin-sick world experiencing the pain and suffering the Bible acknowledges we will and tells us to expect.

Jesus was gracious to give Thomas that opportunity to see His hands and side eight days later (John 20:26-29), to which Thomas responded, “My Lord and my God!” Jesus said, “Thomas, because you have seen Me, you have believed. Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.

In the wilderness times – and at all times – we can go beyond seeing our present circumstances to remembering, and as we do, we can pray and expect and believe and look up and hope and praise. God is there, and we will see Him even as we remember and look to Him again to answer our cries in the way that He knows is best for His glory and our good. Remembering – recounting His awesome acts and presence with us – is an act of believing.