Wait for it

Is anyone else tired of it?  Tired of the constant fighting?  The discord across the country?  The blaming and name calling?  The media highlighting the bad instead of the good?  I want to scream when I watch the news and often find myself walking out of the room.  Where is God in any of it?  Where is God in our lives?

Tonight the Bible opened to the Book of Habakkuk, with the prophet complaining to God, echoing some of my own sentiment:

How long, O LORD, must I cry for help and you do not listen?

Or cry out to you, “Violence!” and you do not intervene?

Why do you let me see iniquity? why do you simply gaze at evil?

Destruction and violence are before me; there is strife and discord.

This is why the law is numb and justice never comes,

For the wicked surround the just; this is why justice comes forth perverted.

Habakkuk 1: 2-4

Habakkuk is a short book, so I read it all.  I must confess, I did not understand all of it, but the part that jumped out to me was God’s response:

Then the LORD answered me and said:

Write down the vision; Make it plain upon tablets, so that the one who reads it may run.

For the vision is a witness for the appointed time, a testimony to the end; it will not disappoint.

If it delays, wait for it, it will surely come, it will not be late.

See, the rash have no integrity; but the just one who is righteous because of faith shall live.

Habbakkuk 2:2-4

Wait for it.  It will surely come, it will not be late.  Wait for it.  The rash have no integrity. Wait for it.  For the just one who is righteous because of faith shall live.  Wait for it.

Patience is not my strength.  I read these lines over and over hoping they would lead me to some further insight.  But it still came back to these three words: wait for it.  Why can’t I know everything now?

I know the answer.  I don’t always like the answer, but I know the answer.  Because it is not my plan, not my timetable, not my vision.  I know God has a plan and I know that this year of 2020, will result in better vision for all of us.  We need faith.  We need patience.  We need to not let ourselves become victim to the ideas of the world around us.  The vision is coming.  Wait for it.  Wait for it with patience and integrity and faith.  It will  come at the appointed time.  We may think it is delayed, but it will not be late.  And when that vision comes, and it will, we need to write it down.  We need to share it.  It will not disappoint.

God,

You are mightier than anything 2020 can throw at us.  I know you have a plan and a timetable that I do not understand.  I have faith, even when the world seems to be crumbling around me, that your plan and your vision is greater than all of this.  Sometimes I just need reminding.  I just need to slow down and not be rash.  Help me to be a witness to your vision.  Help me to see the good when the world focuses on the bad.  Help me to “wait for it” with faith and integrity.

Struggling …

I am struggling. Struggling with churches closing their doors.  Struggling with an individual kneeling on a man’s neck.  Struggling with burning a business  in “protest.”  Struggling.

There seems to be so much wrong in the world.  I don’t want to be on a “side.”  I try not to judge others.  I don’t always succeed.  I try not to group people or assume things about them because of any group, whether it be race, or gender or occupation.  I don’t always succeed.  I was outraged after George Floyd’s death.  Outraged by the actions of the officer, outraged by the response of others, and I must admit outraged by the implication that this was race-based and the immediate attacks on both sides of this.  As a white person, I do not associate myself with the actions of the officer.  I know, I would never do that.  So initially I disassociated from the whole thing.  This was just another racial dispute that I wanted no part in.  I am above that, I thought.  And then a few days ago, I watched the video.   What shook me to the core was not the officer who kneeled on Mr. Floyd (which was absolutely horrible — but again, I can disassociate from that, because I would not do that).  What shook me was the people, the other officers and to some extent even the bystanders, who stood by.  I could not disassociate from that.  I could not disassociate from that because I know that could be me.  How many times have I stood by and done nothing when I see evil in the world, when I see injustice, when I see hurt.

It is easy to judge from a distance.  It is easy to clamor on social media or in after the fact rallies and protests.  But what do we do in the every day moments?  The little moments when we hear someone say or do something that is hurtful.  Do we laugh along because it is easier than standing up for someone.  When we know someone is not doing what is right, do we stay silent because we don’t want to rock the boat?  This isn’t a race issue, it is a people issue.  We have let morality fall to the side because it is not cool or not politically correct.  We stay silent far too often.

For the last several months, I have worn a band on my arm that says “God Strong” referring to Ephesians 6:10-11.  But it only really connected to me, when I re-read this shortly after I watched the video:

Finally, draw your strength from the Lord and from his mighty power.  Put on the armor of God so that you may be able to stand firm against the tactics of the devil. For our struggle is not with flesh and blood but with the principalities, with the powers, with the world rulers of this present darkness, with the evil spirits in the heavens.  Therefore, put on the armor of God, that you may be able to resist on the evil day and, having done everything, to hold your ground.  So stand fast with your loins girded in truth, clothed with righteousness as a breastplate, and your feet shod in readiness for the gospel of peace.  In all circumstances, hold faith as a shield, to quench all [the] flaming arrows of the evil one.  And take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.

With all prayer and supplication, pray at every opportunity in the Spirit. To that end, be watchful with all perseverance and supplication for all the holy ones and also for me, that speech may be given me to open my mouth, to make known with boldness the mystery of the gospel for which I am an ambassador in chains, so that I may have the courage to speak as I must.

Ephesians 6:10-20

We are trying to draw too much strength from rallies and protests and people.  (If only the same numbers would show up to church on Sundays).  We need to return to drawing our strength from God.  We need to dress each morning in God’s armor, His truth, His righteousness, His peace.  Our faith is a shield and His word, His Spirit is our sword.  We don’t need to burn down buildings, we don’t need to arm ourselves with firearms, we don’t need to engage in social media warfare.  His word is our sword.  Our faith is our shield.  Armored in God’s truth, we can stand firm against the tactics of the devil.  We can stand strong in the face of evil.  We can have courage to speak, as we must, to share the word of God, to open our mouths and make known with boldness the mystery of the gospel.  I have been weak.

As I read this description about the armor of God, I realize just how much a battle this is.  A battle against evil.  And although the verse speaks in terms of warfare and describes armor, and shields and swords, the weapons are not human weapons.  We are not fighting humans — indeed, we need to stop fighting each other — we are fighting the devil, the darkness that surrounds us.  And like any battle, we cannot expect to be able to just roll out of bed and be strong — we need to prepare so that we are ready when we are in a situation of injustice that we can stand up, stand firm and speak God’s truth.  We need to pray with all supplication (I had to look that up –asking or begging for something earnestly or humbly).  It is God’s armor we seek.  We need to shod our feet in readiness for the gospel of peace.  We need to pray and have faith and read God’s word.  This is how we prepare for battle, and we must prepare for battle.

Dear God,

Too often I have stood by silent.  I have let others denigrate You and Your creation.  I have been politically correct and tried to please this world, even though I know how messed up it can be, even though Your world is where I want to be. Help me to put on Your armor.  I want to stand firm against injustice.  I want to stand strong against evil.  I want to speak Your words in the face of hurt.  I don’t want to be a bystander in this world anymore. Please give me the courage to speak your word, even when it may not be popular.  Help me to open my mouth and make known with boldness the mystery of the gospel.  Give me the words to fight injustice, to respond to evil and most importantly to help my friends and neighbors and even enemies, know your love.

 

The Coronavirus Gift; An Easter Awakening

We have been given a gift, perhaps in an unusual way, but nonetheless a gift.  A gift of time.  But what are we doing with it.  We have been freed from our routines, freed from traffic and daily grinds.  But what have we done with our freedom.  I heard on the news this morning that despite the added time on our hands, most of us are working out less, most of us are falling into poor eating habits and most of us are adding more screen time into our lives.  If the coronavirus doesn’t get us,  our own sloth and gluttony certainly might.

Most churches have closed.  What have we done to stay connected to God?  Have we opened the Bible?  Have we taken time to pray?  What are we doing to stay close to God when it is not offered to us on a silver platter? What are we doing to praise Him?  To thank Him for all of the abundance that we still have even if we are currently suffering?

Today I opened up the Bible to the book of Samuel and I read these words:

If you fear and serve the LORD, if you listen to the voice of the LORD and do not rebel against the LORD’s command, if both you and the king, who rules over you, follow the LORD your God—well and good.  But if you do not listen to the voice of the LORD and if you rebel against the LORD’s command, the hand of the LORD will be against you and your king.

1 Samuel 12: 14-15

Each of us fails at times, sometimes more than others, to listen to the voice of the Lord.  The Lord woke me up the other morning urging me, actually shouting to me, to SPEAK and yet I let work, TV and my cell phone distract me.  I look at our country currently, with many churches closed, with governors threatening to quarantine anyone who dares to gather in worship of the Lord, and with abortion clinics being deemed “essential businesses” and I question whether we are listening.

Samuel goes on to say:

“Do not fear,” Samuel answered them. “You have indeed committed all this evil! Yet do not turn from the LORD, but serve him with your whole heart.  Do not turn aside to gods who are nothing, who cannot act and deliver. They are nothing.  For the sake of his own great name the LORD will not abandon his people, since the LORD has decided to make you his people.  As for me, far be it from me to sin against the LORD by ceasing to pray for you and to teach you the good and right way.  But you must fear the LORD and serve him faithfully with all your heart, for you have seen the great things the LORD has done among you.

1 Samuel 12: 20-24

I am reminded of a similar verse later, when God tells Solomon:

The LORD appeared to Solomon during the night and said to him: I have heard your prayer, and I have chosen this place for my house of sacrifice.  If I close heaven so that there is no rain, if I command the locust to devour the land, if I send pestilence among my people, if then my people, upon whom my name has been pronounced, humble themselves and pray, and seek my face and turn from their evil ways, I will hear them from heaven and pardon their sins and heal their land.

2 Chronicles 7: 12-14

Indeed, I was napping after reading Samuel and again I felt God stir me with these words: “if then my people, upon whom my name has been pronounced, humble themselves and pray, and seek my face and turn from their evil ways, I will hear them from heaven and pardon their sins and heal their land.”

If we look to the governors, and Congress, the CDC and the president, we continue to look in the wrong place.  If we focus on the news and social media, we are focusing in the wrong place.  If you have listened to them at all, you know… they do not know anything about this virus or how to control it.  They have changed their opinions about what to do multiple times.  Why do we keep looking to them to save us?

God has told us what we need to do:

“serve the Lord”

“listen to the voice of the Lord”

“Do not fear . . . . You have indeed committed all this evil! Yet do not turn from the LORD, but serve him with your whole heart.  Do not turn aside to gods who are nothing, who cannot act and deliver. They are nothing. ”

“serve him faithfully with all your heart”

“humble [your]selves and pray, and seek [God’s] face and turn from [your] evil ways”

And God will hear us from heaven and pardon our sins and heal our land.

On this Easter weekend, may we all arise from the dead in our hearts, may we all break free from the tombs that encase us, may we all witness God’s love, and may we humble ourselves and pray.  We are not the solution.  Neither Republicans nor Democrats, neither science nor the media, neither anger nor fear is the answer.  God is, and always was, the only answer.  How quickly we forget when things go well and how quickly we blame when things go bad.  May we praise God this Easter and every day with our voices raised wherever we are.  We don’t need the church building, we just need to open our hearts, listen to God’s word , and humble ourselves and pray.

Dear God,

You sent your only son into this world because we could not undo the harm that we caused.  Redeem us once again.  We who have let this world envelope us with material goods.  We have allowed “leaders” to cut you out of our lives.  And we have chosen gods, including facebook, and cell phones,  above you.  Awaken us this Easter.  We need you.  We need you in our lives everyday.  Allow us to be reborn.  Send forth your Spirit upon us and renew the face of the earth.

We know that we can not cure what is wrong in the world.  We need you, Lord.  Lord, we pray that you heal our land.  And more importantly that you heal our hearts.

Help me to listen more, to serve you more, to not turn to gods who are nothing.  You alone are my strength.  You alone are my salvation.  Heal us Lord, from the inside out.

2020: The year of Clear Vision (not Coronavirus)

It may feel like “our” world is falling down all around us.  The coronavirus/COVID-19 has created a worldwide crisis and panic, the likes of which most of us have never seen.

We can bemoan the lack of toilet paper, the closed restaurants and activities, the impact on our wallet…   But what an opportunity for awakening it provides!

It seems like everything is closing.  We are being told to distance ourselves from others, to self isolate.  Our sources of entertainment, bars, restaurants, schools, and activities are closing.  I was saddened this weekend when I heard that so many churches were also closing.  I found myself asking, “What is the plan, Lord?  Help me make sense of this.”

And then it hit me — what a blessing all of this is.  A chance to slow down.  A chance to be quiet.  A chance to be alone… with God.  Even in church, I sometimes find myself just checking a box, distracted by those around me, rather than in a conversation with God.  There are so many distractions in our daily life — now many of those are being closed or isolated from us.  No excuse not to spend some quiet time with God.

What an opportunity to make 2020 not the year of the coronavirus, but the year when we open our eyes and ears — the year when we get clearer vision — 20/20 vision on what’s important.

Let’s take the time that we have been given, the social distancing that we are supposed to be observing, to remove the distance between ourselves and God.  Let’s fill the six foot space around us with God . . . His love . . . His arms . . . His wisdom . . . His plan.  He never asks us to distance ourselves from Him — we seem to do that all on our own.  What a great time to recapture that space with Him.

May the eyes of [your] hearts be enlightened, that you may know what is the hope that belongs to his call, what are the riches of glory in his inheritance among the holy ones, and what is the surpassing greatness of his power for us who believe, in accord with the exercise of his great might, which he worked in Christ, raising him from the dead and seating him at his right hand in the heavens, far above every principality, authority, power, and dominion, and every name that is named not only in this age but also in the one to come.

Ephesians 1: 18-21

Lord,

Open our eyes.  Help us to see more clearly.  Open my eyes to see the wonders of your law and of your love. I want to focus on you.  I want to use this year of 2020, to make my vision 20/20.  Guide me in your ways.  Help me to see and utilize the opportunity that the current situation presents.  Help me to focus on your world not what we get distracted by in our world.  Our world is temporary — yours is eternal.

Open my eyes, Lord, I want to see more clearly.

 

Go

Do you ever think about all the things wrong with the world?  Ever wonder why someone doesn’t do something about it?  Ever wonder why God doesn’t do something about it?  Today I read the Book of Judges:

and the messenger of the LORD appeared to him and said: The LORD is with you, you mighty warrior!  “My lord,” Gideon said to him, “if the LORD is with us, why has all this happened to us? Where are his wondrous deeds about which our ancestors told us when they said, ‘Did not the LORD bring us up from Egypt?’ For now the LORD has abandoned us and has delivered us into the power of Midian.”

The LORD turned to him and said: Go with the strength you have, and save Israel from the power of Midian. Is it not I who send you?  But he answered him, “Please, my Lord, how can I save Israel? My family is the poorest in Manasseh, and I am the most insignificant in my father’s house.”  The LORD said to him: I will be with you, and you will cut down Midian to the last man.

Judges 6:12-16

This is not a new message, but I was surprised to find it buried in the old testament.  I was surprised to feel like Gideon, whose story I had not read before.  Who am I to do something?  Who am I to change the outcome?  Who am I to carry out God’s will?  I am not strong.  I am not rich.  I am not powerful.  I do not come from a connected family.  I am not the most religious.  I have not read all of the Bible.  I have not studied all of God’s word.  Who am I?  How can I do anything.  Surely, it should be left to someone else.

But like Gideon, God calls each of us.  We are strong and powerful and rich and wise because God sends us.  We can make a difference because God sends us.  We can do wondrous deeds because God sends us.  We can save the world and each other because God sends us.  We can stand up to the mightiest foe because God sends us.  And He will be with us.

Lord,

I know I am not worthy.  And without you, I am weak.  But with you, I am strong.  Lead me where you want me to go.  Send me, Lord.  Give me the strength to follow your call, to do your will, to fight the wrong in the world and to make you visible to the world.

 

Strong Faith, Big Heart, Can’t Lose

The snow fell today — like the dewfall — silently coating the world in a white soft blanket.  Like a baptismal gown or a white funeral pall covering the casket, the snow seemed to wipe away the gray and darkness of the winter skies.  Beautiful, silent, purifying and slowing down the world.

The perfect backdrop for a funeral.  God wiped the world clean with snow as he welcomed home his son today.  And while there were tears for the human loss, there was glory in the hope and love of God.  And we were reminded of our call to love.  The priest’s words still resonate in my ears and in my heart.  As he praised the love and big heart of the man we lost, he encouraged the rest of us to “pray to have a big heart.”  The priest went on to state that those who have a strong faith, can’t help but love.  You cannot have one without the other.  Something I had never thought about before, but as I thought about the people in my life who have a strong faith, their lives do brim with love.  Love for God, love for their families and love for strangers.  They have big hearts and they show it.  It is not enough to simply claim faith, to simply claim to love God.  When I opened the Bible this evening, it opened to Galatians:

For you were called for freedom, brothers. But do not use this freedom as an opportunity for the flesh; rather, serve one another through love.  For the whole law is fulfilled in one statement, namely, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.”

Galatians 5:13-14

We are all called to love.  Faith requires love.   It is easy to love God.  He is all powerful, He has given us everything, He is our salvation.  It is harder to love our fellow man — what have they done for us?  But true faith requires true love.  God’s love.  Love even when someone might not deserve it.  Love even when someone hurts us. Love even when someone doesn’t show it back. Love in the good times and the bad.  True love.  Not just words.  But actions.  Indeed, the priest today reiterated that we must pray for that big heart — and then act upon it.  It is not enough to simply say it.  It is not enough to simply have a big heart.  It is not enough to just have faith.  We must act upon it.   We are called to make Christ visible.  To share His love.

As I read further in Galatians, it again echoed the message from today’s funeral:

Make no mistake: God is not mocked, for a person will reap only what he sows, because the one who sows for his flesh will reap corruption from the flesh, but the one who sows for the spirit will reap eternal life from the spirit.  Let us not grow tired of doing good, for in due time we shall reap our harvest, if we do not give up.  So then, while we have the opportunity, let us do good to all, but especially to those who belong to the family of the faith.

Galatains 6:7-10

We reap what we sow.  Let us sow love.  Let us act upon that love.  While we have the opportunity (and today’s funeral is a reminder that we never know how long that opportunity will be), “let us do good to all,” especially those in our faith family.

Our friend is ready to reap his harvest.  God’s white blanket of snow, purifying the earth before his body entered it,  tells me that his harvest is good.  I hope to one day be ready to reap mine.

Dear Lord,

Thank you for all of the people that you have blessed me with.  I see your heart in so many of them.  Through them I see how powerful and pure your love is.  I am inspired and contrite.  Lord, I pray for a big heart.  Help me to love like you do.  Help me to share your love with others.  Help me to get out of my self and my own wants and needs, fears and desires, and live for others.  Help me to act in love and faith with everyone I encounter.  Help me to make your son visible to others.  Thank you for renewing my spirit today, and wiping the world pure in snow.

O Lord, Create in me a pure heart and renew within me a steadfast spirit.

Just Keep Praying

It is Groundhog Day!  One of my favorite days of the year.  Remember the movie about Groundhog Day where the day just keeps repeating itself?  I thought about that as I left church this morning.

Lately, I have been frustrated because I feel like I am stuck in an endless cycle.  I have been repeatedly praying for God’s help with a situation and it does not seem to be improving.  Indeed, I was starting to think of giving up.  As I thought about this and Groundhog Day, I was reminded of Jesus’ parable:

Then he told them a parable about the necessity for them to pray always without becoming weary. He said, “There was a judge in a certain town who neither feared God nor respected any human being. And a widow in that town used to come to him and say, ‘Render a just decision for me against my adversary.’ For a long time the judge was unwilling, but eventually he thought, ‘While it is true that I neither fear God nor respect any human being, because this widow keeps bothering me I shall deliver a just decision for her lest she finally come and strike me.’” The Lord said, “Pay attention to what the dishonest judge says. Will not God then secure the rights of his chosen ones who call out to him day and night? Will he be slow to answer them? I tell you, he will see to it that justice is done for them speedily. But when the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on earth?”

Luke 18:1-8

And then I thought of Paul’s words to the Thessalonians:

Rejoice always.  Pray without ceasing.  In all circumstances give thanks, for this is the will of God for you in Christ Jesus.

1 Thessalonians 5:16-18

(This also made me think of Dory in Finding Nemo: “Just keep swimming.  Just keep swimming.”)

And then I suddenly realized how silly it was for me to get frustrated with things not moving forward as quickly as I would like.  I am grateful that God is more patient than me.  He too may think that our relationship often feels like Groundhog Day, as He watches me commit the same sins and make the same mistakes over and over again.  (One of those sins is not being as forgiving of others.)  Thankfully, God does not tire of forgiving me.  Thankfully, God does not tire of my impatience.  Thankfully God, is much more patient than me.

And then I thought about the shadow that the groundhog sees.  Sometimes we get stuck in our own shadow.  Sometimes, we only see the dark side of what is going on.  But there is no shadow too dark for God.  And regardless of whether we see our shadow (just like regardless of whether the groundhog sees its shadow), Spring is coming, renewal is coming.  Sometimes it just may take a little longer.  In the meantime, we need to just keep praying, just keep praying.

Lord,

Thank you for being there even when I am lost in the shadows.  Thank you for your patience when I fail again and again.  I know that you hear my prayers.  I know that you will what is good for me.  I know that your plans are better than mine.  I have faith in you.  I will keep rejoicing in you and praying in thanksgiving.  Lord, I want to be a light, not a shadow on the world.   I pray for renewal for me and those around me.  We are ready for Spring.  Shine your light upon us.  Break through the cold hearts.  Fill us with love.  Build your kingdom here!  Help us to just keep praying.  I trust that you will answer in your time, in your way.   Help me to listen and follow and never give up.

Tribulations? You got this! (Or at least God does)

I am trying to make it through the Old Testament.  I have read Genesis many times, but usually get bored after Noah.  This time I have made it to Deuteronomy, which is a first for me.  It has been a lot of Moses since Genesis and I find myself waiting for Moses to die.  I am getting tired of the people whining, God and Moses getting mad, the people turning back and then, within a chapter, the people are doubting or failing once again.  I did not realize how much of the Bible is taken up with Moses.

It is very easy for me to judge these early Israelites.  Don’t they realize how much God has done for them?  He brought them out of slavery in Egypt.  What more do they want?  But then again, I don’t know how positive or trusting I would be wandering in the desert.  It’s not always easy to see the good that God is leading us to.  And although I am becoming bored with the repetitive nature of the people’s shortcomings.  It is comforting to know that no matter how many times they fail, the Lord God is still there.  Today Moses reminds them, that they can always turn back:

But from there you will seek the Lord your God, and you will find him, if you search after him with all your heart and with all your soul. When you are in tribulation, and all these things come upon you in the latter days, you will return to the Lord your God and obey his voice, for the Lord your God is a merciful God; he will not fail you or destroy you or forget the covenant with your fathers which he swore to them.

Deuteronomy 4:29-31

This is a wonderfully repetitive message in the Bible.  And one I should turn to every day.  There is no promise that there won’t be tribulation.  Indeed, Moses tells them “when you are in tribulation” not “if”.  There will be tribulation.  We all face it.  Sometimes we go from one tribulation to the next.  The Israelites went from slavery to the desert and, yet I am reading it thinking “suck it up.”  “Don’t you know that God is bringing you to the Promised Land?”   It is so easy to judge thousands of years later when we know the outcome.  And thousands of years from now, people will look back at us and think the same thing.  God is leading us to the Promised Land.  There will be tribulations along the way.  We will be challenged, physically, mentally, spiritually.  We will fall along the way.  We will fail to trust and be led astray.  But God will not fail us.  When we search with our whole heart and whole soul (in other words, when we really want to find Him), we will find Him.  When we turn to Him, no many how many times we have failed before, when we turn back and obey Him, He will show us mercy.

My God, My God,

I know you will never forsake me.  I know the tribulations bring us closer.  But sometimes I need the reminder.  Thank you for being merciful.  Thank you for loving us through our darkest times.  My heart and my soul seek you.  I feel your love and your strength.  May my struggle through every tribulation and my rejoicing at every mountain top honor you.

 

God’s Book or Facebook?

The billboard on a local church had some poignant words:  Which do you open more? God’s book or Facebook?

This morning God’s book opened to Jeremiah:

When someone falls, do they not rise again? If they turn away, do they not turn back? Why then do these people resist with persistent rebellion? Why do they cling to deception, refuse to turn back?  I have listened closely: they speak what is not true; No one regrets wickedness, saying, “What have I done?” Everyone keeps on running their course, like a horse dashing into battle.

Jeremiah 8:4-6

I have never been a huge Facebook fan.  But I do flip through it from time to time.  And post a few pictures from time to time.  And I notice when I do, I generally start feeling doubt.  I feel regret.  I feel jealous of the perfect lives that others seem to have.  And when I post something, I wait for the affirming “likes” and approvals.

It is amazing how many of us look in the wrong places.  We cling to deception.  The deception that the world sells us.  The deception that we sell ourselves on Facebook and other social media platforms.  We speak what is not true.  And when we do wrong, when we make mistakes, we blame others.  We lash out at others.  It can never be our fault.

The courtrooms are filled with blame.  And the confessionals are empty.  Marriages are marred with divorce.   And children are being raised to believe that they are perfect and no one should tell them differently.  We do not ask “what have I done?”  Instead we exclaim, “Look what was done to me!”

We have convinced ourselves that we are perfect.  We are never to blame.  We are smarter and stronger and richer than others.  We don’t need God.  Our Facebook page proves that we are “liked” and “loved”.  And yet, our society is more depressed than ever.  Clearly we are wrong.

When I turned the page in the Bible, I read this:

Thus says the LORD:

Let not the wise boast of his wisdom, nor the strong boast of his strength, nor the rich man boast of his riches; But rather, let those who boast, boast of this, that in their prudence they know me, Know that I, the LORD, act with fidelity, justice, and integrity on earth. How I take delight in these—oracle of the LORD

Jeremiah 9:23-26

I am not wise.  I am not strong.  I am not rich.  Although I sometimes play those roles on Facebook or otherwise.  I am sometimes headstrong and keep running my course, when I know I should turn back, turn back to God.  I know God, but I want to know Him better.  I know that He acts with fidelity, justice and integrity.  But sometimes I forget.

Lord,

I know that You are the Truth.  In this world of deception, You are the Way.  Your book brings me Hope and Joy.  Your book reminds me what true Love is.  I know that no matter how far we fall, we can rise with You.  Thank you for always being there to remind us.  Thank you for always welcoming us back.  Help me to boast of you, not of me.  Help those who do not know you to find the way back to you, so that they too may boast of your goodness.  You are my God.  I boast of your goodness. I boast that I am your child and I am loved by you!

 

Faith of Abraham

So this past week, I took my only son to college, and dropped him off for a new adventure.  And as proud as I am of him, the separation is heart-wrenching.

This morning the Bible opened to the story of Abraham and Isaac:

Then God said: Take your son Isaac, your only one, whom you love, and go to the land of Moriah. There offer him up as a burnt offering on one of the heights that I will point out to you. Early the next morning Abraham saddled his donkey, took with him two of his servants and his son Isaac, and after cutting the wood for the burnt offering, set out for the place of which God had told him.

On the third day Abraham caught sight of the place from a distance.  Abraham said to his servants: “Stay here with the donkey, while the boy and I go on over there. We will worship and then come back to you.” So Abraham took the wood for the burnt offering and laid it on his son Isaac, while he himself carried the fire and the knife. As the two walked on together, Isaac spoke to his father Abraham. “Father!” he said. “Here I am,” he replied. Isaac continued, “Here are the fire and the wood, but where is the sheep for the burnt offering?”  “My son,” Abraham answered, “God will provide the sheep for the burnt offering.” Then the two walked on together.

When they came to the place of which God had told him, Abraham built an altar there and arranged the wood on it. Next he bound his son Isaac, and put him on top of the wood on the altar. Then Abraham reached out and took the knife to slaughter his son. But the angel of the LORD called to him from heaven, “Abraham, Abraham!” “Here I am,” he answered. “Do not lay your hand on the boy,” said the angel. “Do not do the least thing to him. For now I know that you fear God, since you did not withhold from me your son, your only one.”

Genesis 22:2-12

This story challenges me, even more so this week.  This is faith.  This is putting God before all else.  Do I have the will and desire to put God before all else?  I like to think I do but my actions rarely carry this out.  Could I have done what Abraham did?  I feel pretty strongly that as much as I would like to say yes, the answer is no.  It was hard enough just to drop my son off at college.  Thankfully, God has not tested me in this way.  Probably because I don’t pass the much smaller tests.  All too frequently I fail to put God before work, before social media, before my favorite TV show, before sleep, before whatever it is I want to do.  I blame the lack of time, the busy world, the need to be there for others.  After all, the world is exhausting.  These seem like good excuses, don’t they?  Of course, they are not.  Especially since God promises us the rest that we need:

“Come to me, all you who labor and are burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am meek and humble of heart; and you will find rest for yourselves. For my yoke is easy, and my burden light.”

Matthew 11: 28-30

Why then do I let the world get in the way of what I need.  Why do I let it stop me from coming to God, putting Him first.  The only answer is a lack of faith, a lack of patience and a lack of a willingness to sacrifice.  I know God is the answer.  I know He will provide.  I know that it is only through Him that I will find rest and peace.  But my senses are bombarded with the worldly promises of happiness, which never quite come true.  I don’t want to give up what I want.  I don’t like to sacrifice.  I am stuck in the world and mindset of “I want it now” and if I can’t get what I want now, I will settle for what seems like the next best thing.  This is what keeps me from having the faith of Abraham.  And as I say it out loud, I know how stupid it sounds, how childish it sounds, and I pray, as my son heads off on his own, that he has not learned this from me.

God,

I know that you are everything, everything that I want, everything that I need.  I want the faith of Abraham.  I want to put you first above all else, but I am struggling.  Help me, Lord.  I am burdened and weary.  Fill me with your love and your peace.  Fill me with your strength so I can resist the temptations of what seems easy.  Give me the patience and faith when I cannot see you or feel you to not settle for something else.  I love my son and I miss him dearly, but I love and miss you more.  Pull me back into your arms, so that I may do your will and stop worrying about my own.  (And please provide the same for my son as he begins to embark on his own in this world of distraction).