Celebrating THE Baby

Three weeks after Christmas, on a day we were putting away some Christmas decorations, our family was studying Hebrews 8. As I was listening to the verses being read, I was overcome with joy of the Good News being described. At the conclusion of the chapter, I shouted HALLELUJAH!, leading to a surprised and puzzled six year old.

This chapter describes Jesus as the new, better, eternal covenant for God’s people! Hallelujah – to God be praised!! As best I could, I explained to my son why this is amazing news for us. God is so merciful!

When we look at Luke 2, our passage for today’s journal entry focuses on Jesus as a baby. He’s born in Bethlehem and the very next thing is the angel and heavenly hosts appear to the shepherds, share the news, and proclaim Glory to God! The shepherds went and found baby Jesus and then they shared this with others and praised God!

Christmas is a season that draws our hearts to the Lord and closer to one another, and is an opportunity to celebrate the Good News of who Jesus is, and how he came to save us. In general, babies represent hope for the future, newness and freshness, the miracle of life. And Jesus as a baby brings us so much more than that. Each year I’m challenged to keep Christmas in our hearts a bit longer, and not let the excitement of the good news be put away when the nativity is carefully packaged back up, when we take down the tree, and all the celebrations are over.

I love the example that the angels and shepherds gave us at the birth of Jesus – they wasted no time in telling others and praising the Lord!  In a few months we will celebrate and remember this perfect and complete gift from God, as Jesus becomes our sacrifice and then defeats the grave. Between now and then, will you join me in keeping the excitement and gratitude of this gift alive? What are some practical ways we can continue to share and worship like the angels and shepherds did? I’d love some ideas from others!

 

 

All in All

All in All

It’s pretty astonishing to look back and see how God paves the way for life lessons to be used decades later.

In my teens, I had a close friend that recognized my mind would get distracted with worries of what others thought or said about me. She wouldn’t even entertain the discussion or thoughts I’d bring up, and I was always impressed with her boldness to tell me directly, “You need to stop worrying about what others may think”. I’d never had a friend come out and say it that pointedly to me – and I would be taken off guard and the conversation would halt. She later died of complications with diabetes, and I credit her with first recognizing and helping me work on this area in my life.

In my twenties, God used my boss to help me with this. And when it comes down to it, it’s really a pride issue. Most worries, wondering, or anxiety about what someone may think of us, can be traced back to pride. If you keep asking yourself “but why are you concerned about that” when it comes to these types of worries, it’s usually more about us and our pride, than anything else. My boss had an awesome way of asking me, “Is this an issue between you and God? Have you sinned against this person? If no, and they have an issue with you, let the Holy Spirit do his work. Don’t take other people’s problems personally.” What an encouragement! I’ve seen those memes that say “not everyone is going to like you… you’re not bacon”, which are funny, but there’s some truth to that. Not everyone IS going to like me. And guess what? That’s okay. That’s not my problem, and I’m not going to take it personally.

In my thirties I found myself in a scenario where I had thoughts of “oh great, they don’t know the full story and they’re going to think X, Y, or Z about me, my choices, etc”. And again, God put a church leader in my path to remind me that it’s not mine to worry about. “Pray that they never have to walk the road you are walking or make the decisions you are making.” The encouragement and act of prayer brought me  peace from worrying what others may perceive or feel about me in that moment.

And it’s pretty easy to get into that cycle, right? Wondering can quickly escalate to worrying about what others may perceive, judge, speculate about us. Understandably, as we are designed for community (common union). We are called to live peaceably among all, and not cause others to stumble. Where this gets tricky – is we are also created as different members and parts of one body, all with different purposes and experiences, uniquely designed to glorify God and further the kingdom. How boring (and unproductive) if we were all identical! Different humans are going to have different thoughts – and that’s how God designed it!

So how do we keep our focus, first and foremost, on our relationship with the Lord? What are some practical ways to center God as our ALL in ALL, and not let relationships in this world come before him? How do you recenter when you feel out of balance?

Recently I felt prompted to apologize for a comment I made to someone. Even after I did, it still bothered me. After I spent time reflecting and praying about it, I figured out that I was more concerned about what the person may think of me after I made the comment, than I was about what God thought of it all. That may partly be because I can rely on the fact that God knows my heart and God knew what I meant by the comment. There’s grace there. But this situation caused me to examine other areas where I may have been more concerned with what others perceived, than I was about sinning against the Lord.

He’s so faithful to continue His work in us! I’m sure my forties will find me using some of these same life lessons about letting go of other people’s opinions and focusing on God’s.

Decisions become easier when your will to glorify God outweighs your will to please others.

I loved these passages that reflect the vastness of God. He’s more than we could ever comprehend or need. Relationships on this earth may fail, but God doesn’t fail. He came for each of us and has a plan for all. He really is our all in all.

He came for all and lives in all of us. (Col 3:11)

He is the source of all (1 Cor 8:6)

He supplies all your needs (Philippians 4:19)

He originated all (Romans 11:36)

He is all our hope (Psalm 62:5)

He is over all and through all (Eph 4:6)

 

Savior Baby

Nineteen years ago, Adam Nash was born. His birth was meticulously planned and while his parents always wanted another child, he was brought into the world with an additional purpose: to provide cord blood to his older sister, dying of Fanconi Anaemia. It was a medical success, and since then there have been more children conceived through IVF, carrying specific genetic makeup to provide for sick siblings. Isn’t science mind-blowing? As you can imagine, this brought up a lot of ethical and moral questions. News articles, interviews, books and movies have all followed these cases and told their stories. They’ve coined these genetically designed children as Savior Siblings and Savior Babies.

I’ve only read a few articles, am not an expert or speaking from a specific position. I am so grateful that I’ve never had to weigh options like this to save my child. The articles I’ve read span in language, from “win-win” to “commoditizing children”.

When we come to Luke 1:31-33 we find Mary, being informed that she will give birth to the Son of the Lord God. We don’t know exactly when it was revealed to Mary that this meant he was the Messiah and Savior (Hebrews 10 gives some additional insight). God came to earth, in perfect flesh with a body to make atonement for our sins. The planned Redeemer was born to walk with us, teach us, and die for us.

As we enjoy our Christmas celebrations and see the nativity sets with baby Jesus in the Manger, host Jesus Birthday parties, and rejoice with song and be merry… let’s also remember that He came for one purpose. For you and for me.

Our family has been doing a daily devotion together of the Names of Jesus. He’s the Way, the Root of David, the Good Shepard, the Alpha and Omega, to name a few of the twenty-nine name. As we’ve been reading about each of these, I’m humbled at the fullness of Jesus as a human and all the while coming with the purpose to reunite me with God. To secure my eternity in heaven through the redemption of my sins. The picture of Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane, praying to his Father to take the cup from him shows his flesh. The fully human side of Jesus knew the suffering he would endure on the cross. He was born that night in the stable, completely aware of the physical and emotional anguish he would go through.

Baby Jesus in the manger, is our Guide, our Friend, our Healer, He was born to be our Savior and our Sacrifice.

Plot Twist

There’s a man I know, and from early on in childhood he loved to learn. He was so fascinated by facts and figuring things out, that his parents couldn’t keep up with him. For his 5thbirthday, he asked for notebooks and pencils so he could take notes about his favorite topics. He was one of those kids that asked endless  why and how questions. In adolescence, he became especially curious about science and the human body. As he got older, he studied and learned as much as he could, eventually going to medical school and becoming a physician. He was a well-respected doctor in his field, when suddenly his life took an unexpected turn.

Plot twist – he becomes an author!

And I don’t even know if he wanted to make this change, but one thing led to another and he found himself meticulously documenting, describing, and getting everything written down that he could. His love for medicine didn’t wain, but he was so pre-occupied with this project, that practicing medicine became secondary.  He went from saving lives to writing about people’s lives, becoming a biographer and historian. He wasn’t sure why he, a doctor, was supposed to walk away from his practice and become an author, nor did he know the impact this change in direction would have. Nonetheless, he went.

He became one of the most successful, sought after authors in the world. EVER. There’s only two other authors that are more successful than him, by the world’s standards.

Meet Luke.

Biographer of Jesus and also the Apostles of the early church. His ‘project’ was advancing the gospel through truth-telling. Facts, documentation, historical accounts of salvation through Jesus.

We really know so little about Luke, and the first two paragraphs above describe my guess of what his life may have been like. Since he was such a humble servant, he kept the focus where the Holy Spirit led him: the gospel of Jesus. While we don’t have the details on his background or conversion, we do know the most important thing about him – he was a follower of Jesus. He was highly educated and trained as a physician, with great attention to detail and fact gathering. Christian tradition holds that he also drew and painted to go along with the books he wrote. He is also the largest contributor to the New Testament (Gospel of Luke and Acts of the Apostles), only surpassed in the Old Testament by Moses and Ezra. The Bible was written by God, and these writers were called to get the words on the page. What an amazing testimony through his faith and obedience, Luke influenced generations and generations to come.  The Bible is the most read, purchased, or copied book ever in history, and Luke was one of the top three leading writers!

One of the few and final pieces of information we have recorded about Luke is from Paul’s second and final letter to Timothy. In Chapter four he notes that only Luke is still with him in the ministry, as all of his other ministry partners have scattered. This is believed to be the last letter that Paul wrote, and he was killed shortly after.

Luke seemed so focused and impassioned to advance the gospel, that his own life, career, desires were in the background. From the outside looking in, it seems like a major life change and plot twist, and Luke doesn’t even mention it!

This is so inspiring to me, someone who likes to be on a path and moving toward a certain direction. When the “plot twists” in my life come, I usually make my thoughts on it pretty well-known. Why??? When I break it all down, the goals are the same, no matter how God decides to get me there: Salvation and glorifying God. Whether that’s through motherhood, being a physician or author, being a friend, sharing the gospel with a stranger… what may feel like a plot twist in my world, is just God’s way of accomplishing his ultimate goal. Is God calling you to something that feels like a big plot twist?

If you have time this week, do some digging and get inspired by Luke. I loved reading in my study Bible about his writing style, where he’s mentioned, etc. You can find Paul’s two other brief mentions of him in Colossians 4 and Philemon 1. It was also special to read how Luke and Matthew’s accounts of Jesus’s birth come together and bring the real event to life.

Voice Recognition

In a recent conversation with a friend, I recounted a situation that left me feeling kind of yuck in my heart. Ninety-nine percent of the time, running brings a lot of joy and goodness to my world. Time to commune with the Lord, escape from the worries of the day, and work hard. But in this particular scenario, I allowed my frustration to get in the way and have a negative attitude about someone in a race. As time went by, instead of feeling content with my effort or even victorious of the outcome, I was left feeling pretty blah and embarrassed about the thoughts going through my head about this other athlete. It definitely took away from the joy of the hard work.

Most friends, when hearing this story, would brush it off and say hey, that other athlete has issues. Don’t worry about it, we all have negative thoughts. She said some pretty rude stuff in the past, anyone would think those thoughts. Shake it off.

But not this friend. She’s a wise truth-teller. She made a point of saying, ‘if you’re feeling that press on your heart, I’m not going to speak contrary to the work the Holy Spirit is doing in your life’. She asked me some really insightful questions to help me get to the root of why the Holy Spirit was working on me in this area. Multiple times I have recalled the conversation, mostly her example to allow the Holy Spirit to work, and not gloss over it, justify it, or try to absolve my conviction. There’s definitely a time to lift someone up, and there’s a time to allow the Holy Spirit’s conviction to do his work. My friend had the wisdom to know the difference, and clearly she is filled with the Holy Spirit herself.

I’m reminded of this outline I came across years ago – which helped me pray and process through different thoughts. It can be HARD to distinguish between thoughts from the Holy Spirit, my own thoughts, or even thoughts from the enemy. I love this tool to help recognize the voice of the Holy Spirit:

When we recognize the voice of the Holy Spirit, we can continually empty our hearts and minds of other voices, and make more room for him.

Today’s reading is all about Stephen, Acts 6-7. He’s often remembered as the first martyr, stoned to death, but his testimony begins much before his stoning.

The early church was growing in size in Jerusalem and they needed to differentiate roles. Specifically, they sought out disciples that were filled with the Holy Spirit and wisdom, to coordinate the needs and sharing across the body of believers. Stephen was chosen, and recognized as a leader in the church. As the church grew and multiplied, Stephen kept showing up, with more grace and Holy Spirit power, miracles following. Fear spread across the Jewish leaders. They made false accusations against him (claiming he was going against Moses), and chapter 7 outlines Stephen’s response. Picture a courtroom setting and this is his closing statement to the Sanhedrin (the same Jewish council that sent Jesus to his death). Again, so filled with the Holy Spirit and wisdom, Stephen rehearses for them how they are behaving just as their fathers did and resisting the Holy Spirit. From Abraham, to Jacob, to Joseph, to Moses, to Joshua, to David… he pointed out salvation through Christ, and their history over time of disobeying God and persecuting his prophets. Stephen’s testimony of Jesus hit them right between the eyes. Verse 55 tells us that in that moment, being full of the Holy Spirit, he gazed into heaven and saw the Glory of God and Jesus standing at his right hand. This enraged the Sanhedrin and they took him out and stoned him.

Because of this persecution, the church scattered, and the salvation through Jesus was brought to more parts of the world. Instead of Stephen being shut down through his death, instead his impact was multiplied! His witness of living a Holy Spirit filled life and boldly proclaiming the truth of Jesus, was the catalyst for the church growing outside of Jerusalem.

Yes, Stephen was stoned to death and the first Christian martyr. But much more than that is the life he lived, recognized for how the Holy Spirit filled him, equipped him, and strengthened him.

I can’t help but think of this hymn, All of Thee, that verse by verse shows the process of sanctification, from a life of pride and self, to a Spirit-filled life.

God, You are so faithful and abundant. Show me areas I need to surrender so I can continually be filled with the Holy Spirit. Amen

 

Jesus and Zacchaeus

Jesus and Zacchaeus, Luke 19

1He entered Jericho and was passing through. And behold, there was a man named Zacchaeus. He was a chief tax collector and was rich. And he was seeking to see who Jesus was, but on account of the crowd he could not, because he was small in stature. So he ran on ahead and climbed up into a sycamore tree to see him, for he was about to pass that way. And when Jesus came to the place, he looked up and said to him, “Zacchaeus, hurry and come down, for I must stay at your house today.” So he hurried and came down and received him joyfully. And when they saw it, they all grumbled, “He has gone in to be the guest of a man who is a sinner.” And Zacchaeus stood and said to the Lord, “Behold, Lord, the half of my goods I give to the poor. And if I have defrauded anyone of anything, I restore it fourfold.” And Jesus said to him, “Today salvation has come to this house, since he also is a son of Abraham. 10 For the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost.”

What is the Holy Spirit stirring in your heart after reading this living passage?  Here are some questions that came to my mind:

      • Am I allowing my shortcomings (perceived or real) to keep me at arms length from Christ?
      • Do I need to take a step of faith and climb up out of the crowds and get closer to the Lord?
      • Is Jesus calling me by name for salvation or greater sanctification?
      • Am I jealous and questioning Jesus’s focus on someone or something I’ve judged as less than worthy?

Most of all, I’m challenged to be postured to hear the voice of the Lord. I need to reserve more time for listening and yielding. I’ve been in a season of transition, with my younger kids both in school, praying for guidance.  What’s next, where can I best serve, and asking for direction. In between all of the prayers is continued busyness. Noise. Activity.  And while most of it may be deemed “good”, what’s been lacking is stillness to hear what God has for me.

Zacchaeus took a day away from his work to seek out the Lord. In return, Jesus called him by name, joined him in his home, and led him to salvation and sanctification.

Does anyone feel called to step away? If you want to join me, I love partnership and accountability. Get in touch! I’m choosing Tuesday, November 12th, as a day to yield, listen, and sabbath.

 

Photo: Wikipedia, Zacchaeus and the sycamore tree he climbed. 

The Fear of Letting Go

Jesus shared approximately forty parables with his followers, and it’s no wonder that almost half of them included a message on wealth. He knows our hearts, what we hold on to, and what trips us up.  Money is definitely one of those things.

I know how money makes me feel – more powerful and more in control. Which is exactly when I start to get in trouble and rely less on the Lord and more on myself. While the world is focused on wealth accumulation, God calls us to wealth distribution through reduction. Can you think of anything that is asked of us, that isn’t ultimately for our own good? I love the scripture that says “lay aside every weight” – and our wealth can become a heavy, burdensome weight that slows us down.

More money, more problems… it’s so true! The more stuff we buy, the more it requires. We need space and time for all of the upkeep, repairs, updates, and maintenance, for the THINGS we accumulate through our wealth.

When you read in Mark 10:17-31 about the Rich Young Man, you find that he is seeking eternity. He has followed the letter of the law, and now he is seeking surety of eternity. How cool that Jesus’ love for this man is called out. Right before he gives him this very direct admonition, he “looks at him and loves him”. God’s grace for us is so amazing, leading us with love.

Because Jesus knew his heart, he drew his attention to the one thing that was getting in the way of his relationship with God. His stuff. He was told by Jesus to give away all he had, and come and follow him. Instead of heeding the instructions, the man left, sad at the thought of losing his stuff. I wonder what specifically was most hard for him. Did he cling to the security he believed his money  represented? Were there family heirlooms that he didn’t want to give away? Maybe he was accustomed to the conveniences that he saw his wealth provide.

Another thing that strikes me is that time and time again in scripture we have examples of people being called to sell or give their stuff. It’s not just “give your extra money”, but it’s a call to simplification through reduction. Idolatry has been a challenge for thousands of years, and while we may not be making golden calves, I think we all could think of things that get in the way of our relationship with the Lord.

I don’t want to be captive to my possessions. I can think of a few areas I need to “clean house” and let go. Along with an abundance of stuff, I also have a bunch of justifications for it all. Seriously! One big category for me is in all things ‘serving and hosting’. At some point in time, I started accumulating things for celebrations. Decorations, dinnerware, linens, and on and on. You know, for the next dinner party, birthday gathering, etc. I’ve collected and then kept all these things, justifying it with some scripture about the gift of hospitality. Serve well. Oh, and I will use it all again someday, so I should really be a good steward and save it. WHAT?!! Okay, who is going to check in with me in a couple of months to see if I’ve cleaned out my storage area?

As God loves us, he sanctifies us. I don’t know what God has for you today… maybe it’s a release of your money, stuff, time, or something else. Ask him, and I know he will lovingly reveal it to you, just as he did the Rich Young Man. He perfectly knows what we need, and what we don’t need.

This passage wraps up with the disciples questioning the difficulty of a wealthy man entering heaven. And Jesus reminds them of God’s power: With man it is not possible, but with God, all things are possible. Be encouraged – God will equip you to do whatever he calls you to.  And when he helps us to unclench our fists, and truly let go of the things we so tightly hold on to, it is then that our hands are open. Open to receive more of his love, grace, and blessing. He promises that we will receive so much more in eternity than we can imagine.

Embracing God’s Ways: Habakkuk

Through his back and forth dialogue with the Lord, the prophet Habakkuk gives us so many lessons in just three chapters. As he tries to understand God’s ways, he learns to embrace them, which is the very definition of his name.

Here’s a breakdown of the three chapters:Chapter Dialogue Outline

I love that Habakkuk has boldness to ask the Lord what’s on his heart. He doesn’t shy away from the tough questions of why, when, how, (and then more ‘why’ questions).  He’s asking similar questions I find myself pondering today:

Why do you allow evil, God? Why do awful things happen to Christ-followers? The helpless? The unborn?

Why are you allowing the wicked to prosper?  When will they be judged? This world is a hot mess – hurry! 

As you read through this dialogue, do you notice how Habakkuk verbalizes to God his character in verse twelve? It seems as though he is reminding himself who God is, right as he is asking God his second round of ‘why’ questions.

He knows that God is holy, everlasting, eternal, a mighty rock, an establisher, and faithful. He even says We will not die. He knows that God will not let them die, and will continue to fulfill his promise to his people (Abrahamic covenant).

As Habakkuk continues with his questions – WHY use THEM? I have to admit I’ve had similar thoughts. And then I also can’t help but wonder WHY God uses ME. Or any of us. While the world wants to live in the comparison game, we know that only God’s judgement is righteous and fair. He isn’t looking at me compared to anyone else. On judgement day I will be standing solo. The Chaldeans may have made the people of Judah look less awful… but God saw wickedness across the board. And He uses it all as He sees fit. And judges it when and how He sees fit.

I can see where God has used sin committed against me, to sanctify me. Draw me closer to him. Cry out to him. And the sins I have committed against others, He also uses. It’s pretty humbling to think of how He can use even my biggest messes.

In the final chapter, we see Habakkuk embracing God’s plan. He praises God for who he is and what he has done and what we will do. Do you see the three Selah pauses in this chapter? I always think of those as a dramatic call to silence and meditation in that moment of the passage.

And then at the end of verse 16 we see him waiting. Waiting on the Lord’s timing. Waiting on the Lord’s plan. Quietly waiting, all the while he is trembling. What a beautiful picture of faith – it doesn’t mean that we are without worry or fear, but that with the trembling, we obey. We quietly wait for the Lord. Not only does he quietly wait – verse 18 shows us that he also rejoices! So he has gone from questioning, to embracing, to rejoicing!

Can you apply Habakkuk’s approach to any questions or problems you’re facing today?

I get lost in the confusion of our political climate and ask a lot of why, when and how questions about world issues. I’m going to try to process those in light of Habakkuk’s example. What do I know about God and how can I more fully trust in his eternal and perfect plan?

I have challenging relationships that need this wisdom, and the reminder to not get stuck in the comparison trap. God uses each of us in different ways, that are far beyond my understanding.

Can I rejoice and find true joy in the Lord, even when I  _______ his plan?

        • am worried about
        • don’t like
        • am confused by
        • am trembling about
        • don’t want to wait for

God, thanks for giving us this amazing true account of your relationship with your prophet, Habakkuk! It teaches us so much about who you are and to have faith in you. You are Holy, Eternal, Almighty, and Faithful!

With Wings Like Eagles

This weekend, over a hundred people are gathering from Central Illinois to run a charity half marathon to benefit families living in poverty in Central America. It’s been a really neat journey, from the spring when everyone signed up, learning about the communities we would be supporting… to then training through the warm and humid summer months, and now getting ready to toe the start line.  We will run the 13.1 mile victory lap of all the miles already run. The work is done. They hay is in the barn. The runners have done the hard training, and race day is the icing on the cake.

When I visualize running a successful race, it always comes with this image of leaping, and bounding, and flying – literally flying like an eagle. Isaiah 40:31 says we will mount up with wings like eagles, run and not grow weary!

When I thought about today’s journal entry post of Isaiah  – of course I was going to share the parallels of this run supporting Central Americans and our strength from God. As I was packing and prepping for the race weekend, there were several things that came to mind and I was looking forward to putting pen to paper.

Right in the middle of all of this – I received some really awful news. One of our runners has a serious health condition that came on and definitely can’t join us. Our entire team is amazing…  but this runner is also SO INSPIRING. She is new to distance running, and this would be her first half. The runs didn’t always come easy to her. And yet she continued to focus on the bigger mission, fundraised to help others, and week after week, she logged her workouts, coming back for more even when she wasn’t loving it. When it got hard, she showed up. She has encouraged and led others this summer, and I had no doubts she would cross that finish line – and I couldn’t wait to witness it.

I wish I knew why this isn’t her weekend, why this has happened. And why now? I wanted her to wrap up her summer with a big bow – that finish line ribbon! Having made this hard decision myself two years ago for a race I had to pull out of, I know she’s feeling sad, hurt, and discouraged. And it’s kinda lonely when everyone you’ve been planning and prepping with is moving forward and you’re not.

When I go back to our scripture – it’s that first part of this passage that I struggle with… you know, the WAITING.

For they that wait upon the Lord will renew their strength.They will mount up with wings like eagles, run and not grow weary, walk and not faint.

Have you had situations where you had the wisdom to make the hard decision to wait? Or, if you’re like me, sometimes you don’t wait, you keep pushing forward, and God has a way of forcing the waiting!! I can think of a few of those… and God knew that more time was needed.

Do you believe in the strengthening power of the Lord, that comes in the timing of waiting? Yielding? Listening? Being still?

Or do you view the waiting as a waste of time… unnecessary, or uncomfortable even?

Will you join me in praying for my friend that wisely made the hard decision to wait, that she will feel God’s comfort and strength in the process.

So why do you think God call us to wait? What has happened during your seasons of waiting?

From big things to little things, from waiting on medical test results, to a relationship to start, or for the promotion we’ve been working toward… there is a LOT of waiting.

On the other side of these waiting periods in my life, I can look back and see how waiting has grown my patience and perseverance. Waiting has taught me how to rely more on the Lord. Waiting has transformed me. Think of Moses – from the start of his journey with the Israelites, through the end. All the waiting, yes, but also all the growth he experienced!

If you have a moment today, reflect with me on the waiting seasons you’ve experiences and write down what happened. How you handled it, what you learned, how your perspective changed. The next time you are in a season of waiting, dust off these notes and get encouraged by your own personal testimony of waiting.

Here are additional scriptures on waiting on the Lord:

I waited patiently for the Lord; he inclined to me and heard my cry. He drew me up from the pit of destruction, out of the miry bog, and set my feet upon a rock, making my steps secure. He puta new song in my mouth, a song of praise to our God. Psalm 40:1 

The Lord is good to those who wait for him, to the soul who seeks him. Lamentations 3:25

For the Lord is a God of justice; blessed are all those who wait for him. Isaiah 30:18

I wait for the Lord, my soul waits, and in his word I hope; my soul waits for the Lord more than watchmen for the morning. Psalm 130:5

If you’d like to learn more about the prophet Isaiah, check out chapter 6, which outlines his calling from God as a messenger to the people – and his quick and willing response! Isaiah 53 is the chapter of the prophesy of Jesus, including his rejection and suffering, for our salvation.

 

Lost Words

Five years ago, I received one of those phone calls. You know the type. The name pops up on the screen and your stomach drops. You know that the uncle you hardly ever talk to on the phone, is likely calling to deliver some news that a text or facebook message wouldn’t be appropriate for. In my heart – in my bones – I knew. I let it ring a few times while I settled myself quickly and then answered.

Hi Uncle Brad, what’s up?

It was my Dad. He died in the middle of the night – unexpectedly a few months before his 70thbirthday. We had just buried my grandma (his mom) two years before, and I think he died of a broken heart. The coroner said the official term was coronary disease.

I was in my mid thirties, and with a 3 year old and a seven month old in tow, we went and planned a funeral 2,000 miles away. It all seems like a blur now, and as I reflect I just have to smile at God’s timing.

I knew my Dad loved Jesus, and I knew my Dad loved me. But you know what was neat? After returning from California with much of my Dad’s belongings, I found notes he had written in the margins of books he was reading about God. I saw goals he had written down, ideas and thoughts he had about theology. What a gift to see that in your parent’s own handwriting.

My dad had lived a hard life – as a kid, he was despised by his stepfather, he had failed marriages and two children he was estranged from most of their lives. He struggled with substance abuse and it wasn’t until later in life when he was paying for the consequences of those choices that he came to faith in Jesus. I reconnected with my Dad in my teens, although he was in California and I was here, and it was mostly through the mail and phone calls. As I got older we had trips and visits – and he didn’t miss an opportunity to share his testimony of faith with me. It was powerful to then see that belief continue until the day he died.

The last two years of my Dad’s life, I had grown closer to him. He had lost his mom, his best friend, and he was lonely. We talked and texted more. I checked in on him and spent time listening to what was happening in his life. Just getting to know more of who he was. He was a man that carried a lot of burdens and regret from his past, trying to look forward and follow Jesus.

Three months after my dad died, my grandma on my mom’s side sent me some mail. She was going through boxes and found letters that my dad had written her from his time in prison (postmarked 1996). Letter after letter, he poured his heart out about Jesus, his love for my half sister and me, and more. While I don’t have a lot of memories of my Dad from age 4-16, I can be thankful for God’s provision in this other way. In one letter to my grandma, he wrote that he didn’t have money to send me a gift so he wrote me this poem and sent it to me. Thankfully (miraculously?) my grandma kept this letter and her copy of the poem, because I didn’t have it.

If you’re still with me – and wondering what any of this has to do with our reading for today – let’s dive in.

2 Chronicles 34:14-33 (and 2 Kings 22 is another good cross reference for this chapter)

Josiah is king, and he’s following the ways of the Lord – going away from his predecessors and ancestors’ idolatry and sin. He is having the temple restored and during this restoration process, one of the high priests, Hilkiah, finds the lost scroll, what we call the book of Deuteronomy. What a discovery!

So. Many. Questions.

How long has it been lost? DECADES!

How did it get lost? (Those funny memes of You Had ONE Job are entering my mind) But truly, it was in the very place that it should be – in the temple that the high priests had access to.

Is Deuteronomy THAT critical? YES! Such a rich book, tying together God’s law and God’s love for his people. Deuteronomy also shows us that keeping the law is in response to God’s grace, not a means to earn God’s favor. Jesus references scripture in Deuteronomy more than any other OT book, even combating the temptations of Satan with these powerful words (Luke 4).

Now what? The book is rediscovered (thanks, Hilkiah) and King Josiah uses these words to turn the hearts of the people back to the Lord. It’s a revival of sorts, with repentance, reconciliation, and restoration. God’s word is powerful, living, and brings people to action! If you missed Stephanie’s post last week on King Josiah, check out the details here.

So back to Hilkiah, the high priest that found the lost book. What a cool legacy and blessing that had to be in his own life! When I first read this passage I had to ask myself – have I ever lost anything and then found it? Or discovered something that maybe I didn’t even know was missing? The letters my grandma found from my Dad quickly came to mind, and I’m so blessed by them. And they’re nothing in comparison to the words we have from our Heavenly Father!

What a gift He gave us in revealing Himself to us through scripture. Do we long to read the words? Treasure them for the love and grace they pour into us? Keep them in our hearts and ready to use? When was the last time I craved the Word, just so I could know God more? If we want to grow in our love for God and his people, wouldn’t getting to know Him more deeply, be a great start?