Monthly Archives: September 2019

Are You Patient with God

“I will drive them out little by little before you, until you have grown numerous enough to take possession of the land.” (Exodus 23:30)

We live in a fast-food, express lane world. We have instant cash machines in grocery stores, drive-through banking, one hour cleaning, jiffy lubrication for our cars and overnight delivery of mail. We seem to be in a constant rush. The virtue of patience and waiting holds little value, considered more a distraction than an attribute.

In the Exodus 23, God is giving instructions to the Israelites about how he is going to help them overcome the people who occupy the land he has prepared for them. He says he is not going to drive out the occupiers in a single year. Instead he will drive them out little by little until the Israelites become numerous enough to take possession of the land. He explains that if he drove out the occupiers immediately, the land would become desolate and the wild animals would be too numerous for the Israelites to handle.

God designed us to grow little by little from infancy to childhood, from childhood to puberty, from puberty to adulthood, from early adulthood to maturity. Shortening the process will not lead to the desired outcome of maturity and wisdom. How often have we seen the fame accompanying a child actress or the instant wealth accruing to a gifted collegiate athlete gone professional lead to a disastrous result?

Our daughter Emily was born with Down syndrome. One of the characteristics of children with Down syndrome is that they experience delays in their development. That first step takes a little longer. First words come a little slower and physical coordination can take time, but each milestone is accompanied with much rejoicing and a sure sense of achievement.

Ironically, the Lord calls each of us to seek him eagerly, but then often has us wait to see the fruit. St. Paul acknowledges that even “creation waits in eager expectation for the sons of God to be revealed…in hope that creation itself will be liberated from its bondage to decay and brought into the glorious freedom of the children of God.” (Romans 8:19, 21)

We who accept God’s offer to dwell in us are the sons and daughters of God being revealed generation upon generation to liberate this created world from its bondage to sin and decay. It is a long term process, but the benefits can last an eternity — for us, our families, our colleagues, our workplaces and the world around us. It is noteworthy that of the fifteen characteristics St. Paul uses to define love in 1 Corinthians 13, the first is patience. He says, “Love is patient, love is kind…”

The question is can we abide by God’s timing of what he wants to accomplish through us? While we are looking for instant success, God realizes that we often need preparation to do what he has put before us. “Little by little” he prepares us, and the hearts of the people he wants us to reach, so we need to be patient with God to provide the circumstances for us to act.

Several years ago, one of our daughters made a plaque with beautiful calligraphy for my den. It reads, “Be still and know that I am God.” (Psalm 46:10) I gaze on it each morning while I meet Jesus for coffee and wait on the quiet whisper of his will.

Do You Hear Jesus Say Your Name?

“Jesus said to her, ‘Mary!’” (John 20:16)

On the first day of the week following Jesus’ crucifixion, Mary Magdalene had gone to the tomb where Jesus had been laid. She sees that Jesus’ body is not in the tomb and she is distraught. She encounters Jesus, but does not recognize him, thinking he is the gardener. Though she does not recognize him by sight, she does by the way he says her name. “Jesus said to her, ‘Mary.’”   It was a sound familiar to her and exclusive to their relationship.

When I was a young boy, my mother called me, “Billy.” When I heard her call me, I didn’t have to see her to know that it was her. My father used to call me “son.” Again, I didn’t have to see him when he addressed me to know that it was him. There was a special relationship and familiarity there. The same is true with my wife, members of my family and close friends.

This is the kind of relationship Jesus wants to have with us – one that is so close, so familiar, and so intimate, we don’t need to see him to know he is there. At every moment he stands at the door of our heart waiting to be invited in, ready to embrace us and to offer his friendship, ready to listen to our deepest concerns and offer his wisdom — ready to say our name. “He calls his own sheep by name and leads them out…the sheep follow him because they recognize his voice.” He says, “I know mine and mine know me.” (John 10:3, 4, 14)

It is easy for me to let the noise and many distractions in my life drown out the gentle whisper of Jesus. It requires a deliberate choice on my part to stop and listen for his presence.

How close is your relationship with Jesus? Do you hear his gentle whisper in your thoughts? Do you recognize him when he calls your name or seeks to offer guidance to your path?

Faith is Not Private and Separate from Life

“Whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus.” (Colossians 3:17)

The idea that faith should be separated from living out most of the rest of our lives appears to have become conventional wisdom over the last 50 years. We hear the phrase, “separation of church and state” and apply it to other venues in our lives such as the workplace and the public square. We are told that that our faith should be private and personal, not to be shared with others.

This perspective is 180 degrees contrary to God’s intention as evidenced in the words of Scripture and Jesus. St. Paul’s exhortation quoted above is not confined to what happens at church on Sundays, but to everything we do. Later he says, “Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart as if you are working for the Lord.” (Colossians 3:23)

This is a 24/7 exhortation meant for Monday as well as Sunday, the workplace as well as church or where we may have a daily prayer time. There are no boundary lines to Christ living in us, and we in him. Once we invite him in, he is present in everything we do – working for our employer, taking our children to soccer practice, helping with the dishes, assisting a sick friend with yard work, testifying at a City Council hearing, helping our children with their homework, listening to a work colleague share a personal problem – “whatever you do in word or deed.”

God created us to work and take care of the garden of his creation, including the physical world and one another. (Genesis: 2:15) Our work is how we make ourselves useful to one another and thus to God. It is a divine assignment.

From the time God became one of us through his incarnation in Jesus and the pouring out of his Holy Spirit on the people of his early church, his intention has been to dwell not in temples or buildings, but in us individually and personally, assuming we accept his invitation. I met him one evening many years ago in an individual and personal way, and accepted his invitation to dwell in me. Today, I experience his presence in many ways – the sacraments of my church, my prayer time (we meet for coffee every morning), and in many of the people he places in my life.

There are times when I have neglected his presence, or separated my words and deeds form his presence because I have put him in a box. The unfortunate thing when that happens is that his presence may not then be available to the people in my life who would otherwise be blessed by him. God created us with the freedom to accept or reject his invitation to dwell in us, but his desire for his creation and for his created, is that we not separate him from our lives and work.

Do we imprison God, only to be released on Sunday, or do we let him be manifested in every aspect of our life?