Monday, September 29, 2008

What does it mean to "wait upon the Lord?"

This question was recently posed in one of my Wednesday evening classes. Certainly on the surface we think of patiently trusting in God to come through for us in moments of need, whether that’s the need for guidance, financial provision, relational reconciliation, etc. “Waiting” on God has the same connotation as “hope,” which is a confidence in God to bring about the future he has promised (Thus the various translation of Isaiah 40:31 depending on what version of the Bible you use – the Hebrew word is qāwâ).

John Oswalt, an OT scholar, notes that “waiting on the Lord” implies two things.

1) Complete dependence on God
2) A willingness to allow Him to decide the terms

Oswalt writes, “to wait on him is to admit that we have no other help, either in ourselves or in another…[it is] to declare our confidence in his eventual action on our behalf. Thus waiting is not merely killing time but a life of confident expectation.” (Oswalt, New International Commentary on the Old Testament: The Book of Isaiah Chapters 40-66, p. 74).

Confident expectation – I like that. So practically speaking, what does this look like? Does it mean that I stop moving forward in my pursuit of discerning God’s will? If someone is unemployed, do they stop making phone calls to look for a job and simply “wait” on the Lord? Well no, because “wait” does not necessarily imply ceasing activity.

A person can wait patiently for God’s timing/God’s terms and yet at the same time do whatever is necessary and available to provide for one’s family. Maybe God wants to teach you something by serving and working for food in less "glorious ways" before He is ready to give you a greater amount of responsibility and income elsewhere. Besides, there are strong warnings against idleness in Scripture (see 2 Thessalonians 3:6-12). So we should always be pressing onward and working out our salvation (some phrases from Philippians) – the operative idea here is “movement.”

Until God moves in a much larger way, I am going to serve him and work hard day to day, trusting that if there are greater needs then God will meet those needs in His own way and perfect timing. Sometimes he whittles us down to what we truly need first before He leads us and provides us with what we will need for later. We don’t always need what we think we need.

Waiting on God gives Him the opportunity to develop your faith and character, to shape your trust – the kind of trust that is surrendered, selfless, and obedient to Him. If we sincerely want to be followers of Christ, then we have to be submit to whatever God intends for us in order to make us that way – even if that means suffering and waiting. You don’t know what’s around the corner, but He does.

So to wait means ultimately to trust in the Lord with all your heart, leaning not on your own understanding, but in everything acknowledging His sovereignty and lordship over your life – and when you do, He will direct your paths. He wants you in His will more than you really want to be in it. So let Him work it out in your life, be patient, and wait on Him. Have that confident expectation in His power, and in His timing. He is faithful, and He will give you what you need when you need it. Is not your life worth more than sparrows? (Matthew 10:31)

Monday, September 22, 2008

People UNLIKE You - Relational Wisdom

Is it not true that one of the natural social realities of our lives is that we tend to surround ourselves with people who look like us, talk like us, and agree with us? We long to be liked, appreciated, revered, and understood – and finding someone who agrees with us is often the path we choose to find fulfillment in these areas.

Though this may feel good, I have found that this is not the most helpful way to grow. Abraham Lincoln was known for the fact that he had a Secretary of State and a Secretary of War that often did not agree with him. Yet Lincoln did not shun them or fire them, and in listening to their different point of views he actually found them to be helpful.

This all leads to some insights worth noting:

1) Never dismiss or write off someone from your life simply because they do not agree with the majority of your opinions or convictions. We are often unaware of the weaknesses of our views or blind spots in our lives that someone who is just like us would never pick up on or challenge us to consider.
2) Knowing that there are others who see things differently than you do has a way of reminding you that you are not the center of the universe, that your opinion is not the only one that may have value, and that God has made people differently, and there is something refreshing about that.

Having said all this though, I will tell you that when it comes to some things, there does need to be opinions that are equally shared by all – especially when it comes to truth claims. For there is such a thing as absolute truth, and there is no room for diversity when it comes to issues like the Lordship of Jesus Christ or the inerrancy of Scripture. But that’s not my point right now.

My point is: don’t be so quick to cling to people who always think just like you – that kind of friendship circle is not always conducive to your growth. Some of the most bizarre people I have met that have crazy ideas and preferences have strangely ended up bringing more excitement and joy to my life than I would have ever anticipated. And the more I rub up against them, the more it rounds off my edges – and occasionally, I’ve even changed my whole perspective on something. The bottom line: it’s not the most important thing to be right all the time. And sometimes, I am totally wrong.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Soli Deo Gloria (To the Glory of God Alone)

I am thankful today to know that one of my projects is now coming to fruition. I learned this past week that my doctoral dissertation will be published by a rather fast growing evangelical publishing company, known as Wipf and Stock publishers out of Eugene, Oregon. When I wrote this book to fulfill the requirements of the degree, I intentionally wrote it in such a way that it would be readable and usable not simply for academic minds, but I wrote it in a user friendly manner for the local church. I’ve never really talked about this that much, because I never wanted my discussion of it to seem self-serving or to be viewed as some kind of boast. But I do believe that God led me to write it. Perhaps in an upcoming blog I will share the gist of its contents – but in short, it talks about how God’s love in seen in the practice of church discipline. But right now I just want to praise the Lord for this, and to remind each of you that perseverance, patience, and a hard work ethic pays off, no matter what God has called you to do. If you do it with the motive of glorifying God rather than to simply make a name for yourself, then I believe God has a way of using it in His own way and in His own time. Just be faithful friend, and let God take care of the rest.
(The picture above is my brother-in-law Seth playing with my two sons Joshua and Andrew at the beach -- evidently they are working on a project of their own.)

Thursday, September 11, 2008

A Call to be Satisfied With the One Who Fills

For those of you who know or attend my church, I have been preaching the last 4 months through the Gospel of Mark. It has been spiritually invigorating for me. I think the reason why is that I am getting a deeper snapshot of who Jesus is and am finding myself increasingly distanced from the temporal fallen world that I live in. Isn’t that the way it’s supposed to be? Is it not true that when we “see and savor” Jesus Christ for who He really is, our appetites ought to change? We should hunger and thirst for the One who is the Bread of Life and who quenches our thirst with living water. Furthermore, our taste buds change, and the sinful world we live in seems less appealing, unable to satisfy, almost foreign to us.

I hope this is what is happening to me. When I make a statement about how much I long for the 2nd Coming of Christ, I sometimes have to qualify it by saying that it doesn’t mean that I want “out” of my joyful life with my wife and kids or the ministry God has called me to. What I’m saying is that I long for the resolution that God has promised. I desire to see His wonderful plan of redemption unfolded and consummated in fullness – and at the height of it is seeing Jesus for who He is in all of His glory and splendor.

“Dear friends, now we are children of God, and what we will be has not yet been made known. But we know that when he appears, we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is.” 1 John 3:2

My prayer is that I would become much more aware of those times in my life when I am settling for less than God’s best. Those things will never really satisfy. I think the more you look at Jesus, I think the more you become aware of those distractions, those fillers that really leave you wanting. I think more and more I agree with John Piper, who said, “God is most glorified in us when we are most satisfied in Him.”

His is the Bread of Life. And I’ve always loved bread. So I guess that’s where I ought to look and be filled.