Man Finally Finds Calling At Age 80

We live in the age of the instant. Our information is delivered to us in real-time, nugget sized bites. An earthquake rumbles in Virginia and the information arrives in Washington D.C. before the tremors do. The birth of a child is instantly blasted onto Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram for all to see and rejoice. When I have a bad customer experience I can do an instant cathartic venting session to all my online friends. If a YouTube video takes more than six seconds to load I stop watching it. I mean, seriously, who’s got that kind of time to spare?

I. Hate. Waiting. With a zealous passion that probably borders on the psychopathic.

I would rather drive the long way to get somewhere than sit in stand-still traffic, even if sitting in traffic will get me to my destination faster. I would rather have a sharp stick to the eye than wait in the DMV. Don’t tell me the video needs to buffer. Don’t tell it’s going to be an hour until we can get a table. Don’t tell me my item is back-ordered and will be shipped in six weeks. Waiting grates against every high-speed, now, now, now fiber in my body. And this is a problem.

Why is it a problem? Because God does some of his deepest, most profound, most heart-changing work in times of waiting.

Moses was approximately eighty years old when he met God at the burning bush (Acts 7:30). Eighty! By the time most people hit eighty they are getting ready to sink the last putt on the last hole. Their life is winding down, literally and figuratively. They’ve accomplished just about everything they’re going to accomplish. They’re not going through an end of life crisis. And yet God saved Moses’ greatest public work for the last third of his life.

For the first forty years of his life Moses was a big man about town. He was a Prince of Egypt. He was a public figure doing important things. Then Moses killed a man and was forced into hiding. Moses spent the next forty years in the desert doing nothing. Well, not nothing. He was a shepherd. But he certainly wasn’t doing public ministry of any sort. He wasn’t writing books or going on a speaking tour or leading people. He didn’t have a popular blog or podcast. He was shearing sheep and fighting off predators and cleaning up sheep poop. Not too glamorous.

What was God doing in Moses during those forty desert years? He was doing heart work. 

As Moses tended the sheep God tended Moses’ heart. He taught Moses to lead the people of Israel by first teaching him to tend sheep. As Moses worked with sheep God was preparing his heart to work with people. Faithful in little, faithful in much. Faithful in waiting, faithful in moving.

Forty years is such a long time! I haven’t even been alive for forty years. And yet that’s how long it took God to get Moses ready. God seems to be like that. His time frame is so much longer than ours and he works so much slower than we would like. Which I guess is appropriate given the fact that he’s God and he has the appropriate perspective. It’s just that most of the time I wish God could move a little quicker. My time frame is usually in hours, days, and if it’s a really long wait, months. God’s time frame is millenia.

Slowness seems to be God’s preferred method of operation. It was years between God’s promise of a son to Abraham and the birth of that son. During those waiting years God pressed and shaped and molded Abraham’s faith. It was years between David’s annointing as king and his ascension to the throne. As David was hiding in caves and dodging spears God was doing heart work on David. He was making David into a man after his own heart.

We tend to chafe when it comes to waiting. We want God to move and we want him to move now. We want him to save our child right now. We want him to provide financially right now. We want him to 0pen a barren womb right now. We want him to deliver us from illness right now. We want him to provide a spouse right now. When God doesn’t come through quickly we start to complain and challenge God.

I’m not trying to minimize the pain or challenge of waiting in any way. Waiting is really hard and emotionally taxing. But as we wait let’s embrace the heart work God is doing in us. What is God teaching you as you wait? Is he teaching you to trust his promises more fully? Is he teaching you to rely on provision more heavily? Is he teaching you to rest in care more completely?

As we wait let’s remember the words of Peter regarding the coming of Christ:

The Lord is not slow to fulfill his promise as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance. (2 Peter 3:9)

God may move slowly but he knows what he’s doing.

+original photo by robstephaustralia

Murphy’s Law or God’s Law?

When my Dad was in the army in World War II, waiting in line was a way of life.

Waiting in line to get your paycheck, waiting in line for dinner, waiting to see the movies, waiting to get clothing and equipment. He waited in so many lines he promised himself that after the war he’d never wait in line again. Until he found himself back home, once again waiting in line, with my mother to see a movie.

We can’t escape waiting, much as we’d like to. Murphy’s law says that no matter what lane of traffic we switch to, the other goes faster. And how is it that the cashier who’s never touched a cash register takes over as soon as I get in line? And I don’t even want to mention waiting in airports. Waiting is part of our lives.

Waiting is part of our spiritual lives. Waiting isn’t Murphy’s Law but God’s law. I’m waiting for him to heal family members. Waiting for him to change me and help me. Waiting for God to work in my children. Waiting for guidance.

Lamentations 3:24-26 says, “The Lord is my portion,” says my soul,“therefore I will hope in him.” The Lord is good to those who wait for him,to the soul who seeks him. It is good that one should wait quietly for the salvation of the Lord.

Waiting is an act of faith. Because in waiting for the Lord, we are saying, Lord I trust in you. I hope in you. I have confidence that as I wait, you are being good to me and you are acting on my behalf. I’m trusting you for grace to come. Faith waits confidently for the Lord to fulfill his promises.

God’s word is filled with promises of future blessings. Promises we must wait for. Promises for our children. Promises to give us all we need to glorify him. Promises to protect us and keep us. Promises we wait for in faith.

James exhorts us, Be patient, therefore, brothers, until the coming of the Lord. See how the farmer waits for the precious fruit of the earth, being patient about it, until it receives the early and the late rains (5:7). Farmers wait in patient faith. They don’t go out and dig up the seeds every day to check if they’re growing. They trust that the rains have activated them underground and they’re growing. There will be a harvest. That’s how we wait for the promise of the Lord’s coming. We don’t see it, but something is happening. The Lord will come.

That’s how we wait in faith for God. God is at work in my children. At work in me. Like the rain at work in the seeds in the ground. And someday there will be a harvest. While we are waiting, keep watering God’s promises by prayer and thanksgiving. Ask God to fulfill his promises. And thank him that he will. Thank him for the grace that is coming.

Waiting is an act of faith. While we are waiting and trusting, God is working.

(Originally published October 24, 2007)

Sentries In The Box Of Patience

Certain saints are summoned to active marching duty, and others are ordered to keep watch on the walls. There are warriors on the field of conflict and sentries in the box of patience. –Charles Spurgeon

There’s nothing more frustrating than wanting to do something for God, and not being able to.

At times we want to be out on the front lines serving God and we find ourselves keeping watch on the walls.  Every believer will have times like this.  And some are “sidelined” longer than others.  It might be because of a sickness or an accident.  It might be because of persecution.  And when we find ourselves in a spiritual holding pattern, there’s nothing we can do to get out of it but pray.

In times of waiting we can feel worthless, like we’re not bearing fruit for God.  We can feel hopeless and tempted to despair.

But as Spurgeon said, waiting is something God calls us to.  The Bible’s full of stories of men and women who found themselves sentries in the box of patience.

Moses wanted to lead Israel out of Egyptian slavery, but after taking things into his own hands and killing an Egyptian, had to flee to the backside of the desert for 40 years.  Can you imagine those 40 years for Moses tending flocks in the desert?  He may have thought he’d totally blown his chance to be useful to God.

Joseph spent years in an Egyptian prison.  He too may have felt like God had set him aside.

David spent a long time in the desert running and hiding from Saul before he finally became the king of Israel.

Jesus spent 30 years in obscurity before he began his public ministry.  He was tempted in every way we are except without sin. He surely was tempted to impatience at times.  Even Jesus himself had to spend time as a sentry in the box of patience.

Paul spent a lot of time in prison and John was exiled to the island of Patmos.  So when God calls us to wait, it’s nothing he hasn’t called multitudes of saints to before us.

When God calls us to wait, it doesn’t mean he isn’t actively at work in our lives.

Sometimes God makes us wait to teach us to trust and depend on him.  Waiting humbles us – it reminds us that we’re very limited creatures.  Waiting reminds us God is in control and our times are in his hands.  Waiting strengthens our prayer lives as we seek God again and again for an answer.  Waiting makes us compassionate toward others in their trials.  Waiting builds patience, faithfulness and long-suffering.  And waiting makes us all the more grateful when the wait is over.

Do you feel like you’re in a holding pattern right now?

The best thing you can do is thank and praise God your life and all he’s working in you now.  Ask him for whatever you desire, ask him to change your situation, and ask him for grace should he keep you there.  Pray for saints whose wait is much harder than yours, like persecuted believers in prison camps in North Korea.  Pray for brothers and sisters you know who are suffering much worse than you and waiting for an answer from God.

Murphy’s Law Or God’s Law?

When my father was in the army in World War II, waiting in line was a way of life.

Waiting in line to get your paycheck, waiting in line for dinner, waiting to see the movies, waiting to get clothing and equipment. He waited in so many lines he promised himself that after the war he’d never wait in line again. Until he found himself back home, once again waiting in line, with my mother to see a movie.

We can’t escape waiting, much as we’d like to. Murphy’s law says that no matter what lane of traffic we switch to, the other goes faster. And how is it that the cashier who’s never touched a cash register takes over as soon as I get in line? And I don’t even want to mention waiting in airports. Waiting is part of our lives.

Waiting is part of our spiritual lives. Waiting isn’t Murphy’s Law but God’s law. I’m waiting for him to heal family members. Waiting for him to change me and help me. Waiting for God to work in my children. Waiting for guidance.

Lamentations 3:24-26 says, “The Lord is my portion,” says my soul,“therefore I will hope in him.” The Lord is good to those who wait for him,to the soul who seeks him. It is good that one should wait quietly for the salvation of the Lord.

Waiting is an act of faith. Because in waiting for the Lord, we are saying, Lord I trust in you. I hope in you. I have confidence that as I wait, you are being good to me and you are acting on my behalf. I’m trusting you for grace to come. Faith waits confidently for the Lord to fulfill his promises.

God’s word is filled with promises of future blessings. Promises we must wait for. Promises for our children. Promises to give us all we need to glorify him. Promises to protect us and keep us. Promises we wait for in faith.

James exhorts us:

Be patient, therefore, brothers, until the coming of the Lord. See how the farmer waits for the precious fruit of the earth, being patient about it, until it receives the early and the late rains (5:7).

Farmers wait in patient faith. They don’t go out and dig up the seeds every day to check if they’re growing. They trust that the rains have activated them underground and they’re growing. There will be a harvest. That’s how we wait for the promise of the Lord’s coming. We don’t see it, but something is happening. The Lord will come.

That’s how we wait in faith for God. God is at work in my children. At work in me. Like the rain at work in the seeds in the ground. And someday there will be a harvest. While we are waiting, keep watering God’s promises by prayer and thanksgiving. Ask God to fulfill his promises. And thank him that he will. Thank him for the grace that is coming.

Waiting is an act of faith. While we are waiting and trusting, God is working.

Originally published Oct 24, 2007

Why It’s Good To Wait For God

God tells us it is good for us to wait for him.

The LORD is good to those who wait for him, to the soul who seeks him.
It is good that one should wait quietly for the salvation of the LORD.
(Lamentations 3:25-26)

Here are a few things God does for us when we wait for him:

  • He humbles us

Waiting helps us realize that we are dependent creatures.  We’re not the captain of our souls or in charge of our own destiny.  We’re not self-sufficient, but we live by every mercy dispensed from God’s hand.

  • He teaches us to seek him

Waiting on God is not passive.  As we wait, we seek.  We pray, we beseech God.  We cry out “How long, O Lord?”  We ask, and knock and submit our requests to God.  If we got what we wanted right away, we wouldn’t draw near to God and we’d miss out on the joy of his presence.

  • He teaches us to trust him

While we’re waiting for God to save our child or meet our needs we stretch our faith to the limit.  We trust, though all our circumstances tell us to despair.  As we wait, our trust grows.

  • He builds patience and perseverance into us

The only way to get patience is to have to wait for something.  Perseverance only comes through enduring trials, failures and persecution.

  • He reveals what is in our hearts

What comes out of your heart when you don’t get what you want?  Grumbling?  Hard thoughts of God?  Or praise and trust?  When you can wait with a quiet heart, you know God has done a work in you.

  • He helps us to treasure him above the things we are waiting for

He teaches us to find our contentment in him.  He is our portion, not anything in this world.  Only Jesus can truly satisfy us.  No person or thing that we wait for can satisfy us like Christ.

  • He makes mercy sweeter when it finally arrives

We appreciate blessings more when we’ve prayed and trusted and waited for them.  We appreciate health more after sickness.  And how much more will we enjoy our eternal weight of glory after our temporary, light afflictions.

photo by CmdrFire

Work While You Wait

stomach poster

Much of the Christian life consists of patiently waiting in faith for God to fulfill his promises.

We wait for God to answer our prayers to provide.  We wait for God’s timing to give us wisdom.  We wait for the Lord to direct us into our vocation in life.  We wait for God to provide a spouse, a house or children.  We wait patiently for God to save and transform our children.  We wait for the Holy Spirit to produce fruit in our lives.  We wait for God’s comfort in the midst of tragedy.  We wait for Jesus’ return and the promise of seeing his face and being fully transformed into his likeness.

What do we do while we’re waiting?  Faith and patience seem so passive.

Like a doctor’s waiting room.  You walk through the doors and the 36 people who fill every seat in the room look at you with bloodshot eyes, pain-creased foreheads and red runny noses and you wonder if there are any seats in the next county so you don’t get infected.  You know it’s going to be an interminable wait.  You seek distraction in either Field and Stream magazine or a brochure on reflux.  By the time the nurse calls your name, you barely remember it, but you leap to your feet only to be led down the hall to a room on the right where you continue to wait, only relieving your boredom by looking at the posters of medical illustrations of intestines and sinus infections that grace the walls.

Is this what waiting in the Christian life looks like?  No way.  Our waiting is active waiting.  We work while we wait.

For God is not unjust so as to overlook your work and the love that you have shown for his name in serving the saints, as you still do.  And we desire each one of you to show the same earnestness to have the full assurance of hope until the end,  so that you may not be sluggish, but imitators of those who through faith and patience inherit the promises.  (HEB 6.10-12)

Notice that writer of Hebrews commends the Hebrews for their “work and the love that you have shown for his name in serving the saints.”  Then he urges each of them to “show the same earnestness,” to keep diligent working for Christ, because actively laboring for Jesus produces “the full assurance of hope until the end.”  The author urges his readers not to “be sluggish” but to keep imitating the diligence and earnestness of others who by working while they patiently wait in faith inherit God’s promises.

We work while we wait.

Not in our own strength, but by the grace of God.  Don’t sit around, serve somebody.  Don’t lay around bemoaning your bad fortune, look to the interests of others.  Serve wherever there’s an opening, whenever you have a chance.  Pray hard, read the word, consciously give God thanks and praise for everything you can.  Visit someone who’s sick or call or send them a card.  Call an unbelieving friend and ask if you can take him to lunch or read through a gospel with him.  Do what you can.  Work while you wait.

photo by SqueakyMarmot

When God Delays

Now Jesus loved Martha and her sister and Lazarus.  So, when he heard that Lazarus was ill, he stayed two days longer in the place where he was (JN 11.5-6).

These two sentences seem to contradict each other.  The first says that Jesus loved his friends.  Yet when he hears of Lazarus’ serious illness, rather than responding, he waits two days longer, and Lazarus dies.  That doesn’t sound like love to me.  Wouldn’t it have been more loving for the Great Physician to rush to the aid of his friends?

But Jesus delays precisely because of his love for them, for he has something far better in mind than simply healing Lazarus.  He aims to display his glory by raising Lazarus from the dead.  He will demonstrate that he is the Resurrection and the Life, the omnipotent God who speaks a word and raises the dead, just like he spoke and created the galaxies.

Sometimes God delays to answer our requests because he intends to reveal his glory in a greater way than we can imagine.

I recently heard the senior pastor of a large church share that when he was a teen he rejected his parents and their faith.  “All I wanted was to be left alone,” he said.  One family reunion he refused to leave the family van, but sat there in a black funk all day in the cold rather than join the family.  Even when his grandmother cajoled him to come in he rebuffed her.

Yet in time, God led him to the cross.  Now he’s leading a church.

I’m sure his folks prayed for his salvation from birth and would have preferred that Jesus save him as a child.  But by rescuing him later in life, Christ displayed his almighty power to redeem the hellbound and hardened, giving hope to hundreds of parents.

So whatever you’re praying for, don’t give up, even if it seems like nothing’s happening.  Jesus is planning something greater than you can imagine.

Waiting in Pain

It was 1 a.m. when the neck spasm began.

Intense pain, slowly pulling my neck forward. I hauled myself out of bed, took some ibuprofen, and lay on the couch in the living room. The pain kept intensifying, my head drawing further toward my chest. By 2 a.m. I couldn’t endure the pain any longer, so I grabbed the car keys and eased out my driveway toward the hospital.

If you’ve been to the emergency room lately you know it usually involves lots of waiting. It’s my least favorite place to wait. You wait while they take your symptoms and insurance information. Then you wait in the examination room. Wait while they ask more questions about pain levels and insurance and medical history, your grades in elementary school, political affiliation, favorite bowler and patron saint.

By 4 a.m. I still hadn’t received so much as an aspirin. My chin is practically touching my chest. I know that no human being has ever tasted such excruciating pain. What is taking so long? They must be flying the medicine here from New Zealand. Have they no mercy on the suffering? Am I in some kind of Edgar Allen Poe story? I’ll tell you anything you want. Just let me have some medicine.

And then, outside my room, I hear someone say, “Hey guys, I’m gonna make a run for some burgers. Anybody want anything?” I’m incensed. You’re going out for burgers while I’m writhing in agony in here? And then I hear laughter. They’re laughing out there. Laughing. While I’m in here with an ice pick in my neck.

Finally, my painkiller came, about 30 minutes after the burgers.

Waiting in pain is no fun. Bob waited in pain for 16 years.

16 years ago, I got a call that Bob, a friend from church, had been life-flighted to Pittsburgh. He’d flipped a tractor, and fallen beneath it, sustaining many injuries, particularly to his back and head. God spared his life and eventually he came home to his family. But Bob never quite got back to normal. For 16 years Bob suffered constant excruciating headaches, neck and back pain.

Last May he’d sunk to the lowest point in his life. He was on the verge of despair when his wife Denise heard about a new treatment – injections into the back muscles that cause them to tighten, aligning the spine and relieving headaches. Bob was skeptical but began the treatment to please Denise. But now, after a few months of injections, Bob has been experiencing lasting relief from headaches for the first time since his accident. How thankful Bob and Denise are to God. What joy they are experiencing.

Lamentations 3:24-26 says, “The Lord is my portion,” says my soul,“therefore I will hope in him.” The Lord is good to those who wait for him,to the soul who seeks him. It is good that one should wait quietly for the salvation of the Lord.

Why was it good for Bob and Denise to wait? As they’ve waited, they’ve developed a deep trust and reliance on God. They’ve experienced the Lord’s help and strength. For all these years, in addition to other ways he serves, whenever church families have moved, Bob’s been on the point, leading the crews loading the moving vans. You never would have known his head was throbbing. I’ve never heard the slightest complaint escape his lips. Bob’s one of the funniest guys in our church, with a great sense of humor and cheerful demeanor.

Bob and Denise have experienced Christ’s grace in weakness, and found God to be a refuge and strength. God has built patience and perseverance into them. And now, because they have patiently waited, they’ve seen God’s providence in providing healing through an unexpected avenue. Also, their patient waiting has made the answer to their prayers all the more sweet.

Is it good to wait quietly for the Lord? Ask Bob and Denise.

I Have it Worse than Anybody

Last night I called an old friend. When he asked me how I was doing, I jokingly said Eyore-like, “I have it worse than anybody.” This triggered about 15 minutes of sparring as to whose life is more miserable. He recently bought a house and lamented having so much “stuff” he just doesn’t know where to put it. He can’t figure out where to store his boat and his Corvette. His family and friends compounded his misery by giving him a ton of housewarming gifts.

“That’s nothing,” I said, “I have to live with myself in all my complexity and complicatedness.” He had to concede – I have it worse than anybody.

The truth is, I have it better than most people. But in my sinfulness, I still often battle discontentment. God has many weapons in his arsenal to search and destroy this sin, but one of his best is making us wait.

Lamentations 3:24-26 says, “The Lord is my portion,” says my soul,“therefore I will hope in him.” The Lord is good to those who wait for him,to the soul who seeks him. It is good that one should wait quietly for the salvation of the Lord.

Why is it good to wait for the Lord? Because waiting is the soil where patience and contentment grow. And they are sweet when they bloom in our soul. How can we be content while waiting? By making Jesus Christ our portion, the one who satisfies us with his love as we wait for him and seek him. He gives us himself, the best thing he could possibly give us.

My mom first taught me a wonderful way to cultivate contentment while waiting. I was 23, jobless, broke and had just moved back home from an aborted attempt at making it as an artist in Philadelphia. She told me the Bible says to give thanks for everything. “For everything?” I blurted, “Even a flat tire? I’m supposed to thank God for a flat tire?” Mom said, “Yes, because up the road there’s an accident that God spared you from by flattening your tire.” So I tried it. I was building a patio for my parents. As I lugged flagstones in the summer heat, I said, “Lord, thank you for these stones. Thank you for this miserable heat. Thank you that I don’t have any money. Thank you that I don’t have a job. Thank you that I am stuck living here at home with my parents.” Do you know what happened? I gradually began to experience joy and contentment in Christ. Though Jesus didn’t immediately change my circumstances he began to change my heart.

Why not take a minute right now to give Jesus thanks for your life exactly as it is? Thank him for the stones and the heat and for having to wait for him. And ask him to be your portion.

Endless, bottomless, boundless grace

“The Lord is my portion,” says my soul,“therefore I will hope in him.” The Lord is good to those who wait for him,to the soul who seeks him. It is good that one should wait quietly for the salvation of the Lord. Lamentations 3:24-26

The secret to waiting is to delight in the Lord Jesus Christ as our portion, our joy, our satisfaction.

John Owen says, “Consider the endless, bottomless, boundless grace and compassion that is in Christ, the God of Zion…we are too needy to be satisfied by a mere creature…in Christ there is a fulness like that of light in the sun, or of water in the sea…when the well of his humanity is inseparably united to the infinite, inexhaustible reservoir of his diety, who can possibly drain him dry?” (Communion with God, p.61)

The sun drenches the earth every day with heat and light, and is never exhausted. Jesus Christ is to believers a sun and a shield. We receive grace upon grace from him, and his reservoir remains filled to the brim. His mercies are infinite and overflowing. Though we have committed millions of sins against him, he washes all them away, and the ocean of his mercy is not drained in the least. He has inexhaustible supplies of love and grace and strength and joy for his beloved.

Jesus loves for those he has redeemed to come to him for grace. He delights in us, for he’s become our husband and we are his bride. He never tires of hearing us, loving us, blessing us, filling us. He says, “Open your mouth wide, and I will fill it” (Ps 81:10). He loves to hear us say Jesus, you are my portion. You’re my joy, my satisfaction. All my delight is in you.

Come to the Fountain today. Come to Christ who is full of endless, bottomless, boundless grace and compassion. Come and drink and be satisfied as you wait upon him.