Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Feeling Forgotten

In you, Lord my God,
  I put my trust.
I trust in you;
  do not let me be put to shame,
  nor let my enemies triumph over me.
No one who hopes in you
  will ever be put to shame... 

My eyes are ever on the Lord,
    for only he will release my feet from the snare.
(Psalm 25: 1-3 & 15)

When you were a kid, did you ever have to wait on your parents to pick you up? Maybe there was a time when your parents were later than usual. All the other kids were gone already, and there you were sitting on the steps alone, wondering if Mom or Dad had forgotten you. Well, sometimes life can feel rather like that. Even though we try hard to convince ourselves that we are the masters of our own destiny, in reality much of our lives are spent feeling like we did as a child: powerlessly waiting. Maybe you're trying to get pregnant, or hoping to be able to retire soon, or looking to get accepted to a college, or even waiting for love to find you. In times like these you may wonder, "Has God forgotten about me?" "Surely, I thought He would have answered my prayer by now." "What is He waiting on?" "Why won't He give me what I need?" 

If you find yourself waiting on God today, read Psalm 25. The psalmist finds himself waiting on the Lord to act in his defense, to vindicate him and free him from the snare of his enemies. There is a lot of soul nourishing wisdom in this psalm, but allow me to unpack just one piece of advice for you. Look in verse three. There the psalmist reminds himself, "No one who hopes in you will ever be put to shame." Often while you wait on God you will have to fight off doubts and fears just like you did as a child. As I sat on those steps waiting I would say to myself. "I know Mom wouldn't forget me. She probably just got stuck in traffic. Just wait. She'll be here. Just wait." This is exactly what the psalmist is doing! He reminds himself that God won't abandon him. God is faithful! He never abandons those who place their hope in Him. Even when we don't understand His plan, even and especially when we don't understand His timing, we can continue to trust, continue to wait in hope, because we know on whom we are waiting. God won't abandon you! "My eyes are ever on the Lord," the psalmist says, "for only He will release my feet from the snare." Keep your eyes focused on Him, continue to trust in who He is, and the waiting gets easier.

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

God doesn't hurry

But when the fullness of the time came, God sent forth His Son, born of a woman, born under the Law, so that He might redeem those who were under the Law, that we might receive the adoption as sons.
Galatians 4:4-5

I loved philosophy in undergrad. I'll never forget talking about Aristotle's ideal man. My professor explained that this ideal man would be tall, have a deep voice and he would never be in a hurry. He invoked John Wayne's slow, swaggering gait as an example. To hurry meant to be late, which meant you had made an error. The ideal man always had time to slow down and swagger. I knew right then and there that I was ruled out on all accounts. I was a short tenor who often had to run across campus to get to classes in time. 

I don't really know what the ideal man is like, but I am convinced that any God worthy of worship is never in a hurry. I mean what kind of a god would be in a hurry? One who didn't know the future? One who procrastinated or who had lost control? That's not a god I want to serve. 

Thankfully, the God of the Bible passes this test. He is never in a hurry. Over and over again in Scripture we see that God, knowing all future events, simply waits until the right time to act. God waited until Abraham was 99 years old before He gave him a son. It had been 24 years since He first promised him a child. Then once Israel went down into Egypt God let their numbers increase for 430 years before He rescued them from slavery. And when they fearfully refused to enter the Promised Land, God didn't hesitate to banish the entire generation to live out their remaining years in the wilderness. He would simply take the next generation into the Promised Land. Why not? He has all the time in the world.

We find the same God at work in the New Testament. During the time between the old and new testaments God was silent for roughly 400 years, biding His time. By the time Jesus finally was born it had been more than a thousand years since God first promised a Deliverer. What happens then? Basically nothing until Jesus is thirty years old. After Jesus' birth and circumcision we only have one story about His entire adolescence recorded in Scripture. He was roughly thirty years old before anyone really took notice of Him. The Messiah was living right under people's noses and they didn't notice... and God took His time revealing it to them.

What does this mean for us? Well, it means that God isn't in a hurry in your life either. Now don't mistake God's patience for indifference. You can be sure that God has a plan for you (Ephesians 2:10) and that He cares that He will not tolerate disobedience. But you can also be sure that He is not going to rush you. He will prepare you for what lies ahead and He will make sure it happens in His time. So relax. Trust the process. Trust God. Focus less on where you are right now or on how quickly you are moving forward. Focus more on being in right relationship with Him today and taking the steps of obedience you need to take right now.

Wednesday, April 12, 2017

See Your Sin

The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately sick; who can understand it? “I the Lord search the heart and test the mind, to give every man according to his ways, according to the fruit of his deeds.”
Jeremiah 17:9-10

It's important to remember that sin isn't just something we do, it's who we are. We are sinful. I know that we all like to think that deep down we are all good people who sometimes do bad things, but we aren't. We are bad people. Not necessarily bad in the sense that we are worse than others, but bad in the sense that we fall far short of God's righteousness. If we aren't careful, we will forget this. 

"Is that such a bad thing?" You may be thinking. "Why should I feel bad about myself all the time?" Well, you shouldn't but you should see yourself as you truly are. You see, God doesn't want to just free you from low self-esteem; He wants to free you from the sin in your heart. Look at it this way. A good doctor tells you when you have cancer and prescribes a treatment that can save your life. She doesn't lie to you and tell you that you're healthy and then send you home to die. The lie might feel better in the moment but the truth will be far better for you in the long run. So too, seeing yourself for the sinner you really are allows you to confess and forsake your sin. Over time the act of seeing your sins, confessing them and learning to be free of them by the power of God's Spirit is called sanctification. This is what helps us to become more and more like Christ. But each forward step in this progress begins with you seeing your sin.   

Oftentimes we mistakenly think of our sin only in terms of the things we do. But many of our most dangerous sins reside secretly in our hearts where they are hidden safely away from the gaze of our fellow man and, if we aren't careful, away from our own gaze as well. That's why we must regularly pause to search out and confess our sin. You can't confess and forsake sin you don't realize you have.

One last thought, when Jesus was asked what the greatest commandment was, He didn't respond with any of the many commands restricting behavior or any of the many commands prescribing behavior. Instead, He said that the most important command has to do with the heart. "Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind" (Matthew 22:37). So take some time to search your heart. What things do you love that you shouldn't? What things should you love that you don't? Pay attention to your heart. God certainly does. 

For further reading...

Wednesday, April 5, 2017

Never Alone

Hear, O Lord, when I cry with my voice,
And be gracious to me and answer me.
When You said, “Seek My face,” my heart said to You,
“Your face, O Lord, I shall seek.”
Do not hide Your face from me,
Do not turn Your servant away in anger;
You have been my help;
Do not abandon me nor forsake me,
O God of my salvation!
For my father and my mother have forsaken me,
But the Lord will take me up.
(Psalm 27:7-10)

Has God abandoned me? I don't know if you have ever asked yourself this question, but I have. For me it is a truly terrifying prospect to consider. Thankfully there is a sure answer to this question.


God does not abandon His children. He has told us in His Word: "I will never desert you, nor will I ever forsake you" (Hebrews 13:5). Jesus added "No one will snatch them out of My hand...and no one is able to snatch them out of the Father's hand" (John 10:28-29). 

So why do we struggle with this thought? Perhaps it is because God's faithfulness is other worldly. In our world it takes a bad parent, a terrible circumstance or both for a child to be disowned. But it does happen. Our streets are flooded with homeless men, women and even teens whose parents have done just that. Some are cut off from their families because they cause too many headaches. They are too needy. Others are disowned because they have committed some grave sin that their family finds unforgivable. 

This passage gives me immeasurable comfort by saying that even if there was a situation in which my own parents would disown me, God will not. Even for those whose parents have abandoned them, even then - especially then - God was there, ready and waiting, to take you into His care. You need only look to Him to receive comfort and grace. No matter how much trouble you are in, no matter how far gone you are, if you have been adopted into God's family through faith in Jesus Christ, then you are never abandoned, never forsaken,  never alone.