waiting for the fruit to ripen and be picked

Once in a while, I wish it were more often, we might become aware of something new, either on the horizon, or which has arrived already, through which we are going to be challenged in a new way, our faith stretched and shaped to be more like Jesus. That is when we need to pray and wait and seek to live into and find what God has for us. Some trial and error almost certainly involved in that, to be sure. This is not found out on paper, but in real life.

Too often we jump to conclusions one way or another. Either dismissing it, because it doesn’t fit into our paradigm of faith we now have, or imagining we know already what we’re getting into, and the full significance of it. In doing so, we limit God, his working, and what we can learn, and most importantly our growth in the process.

We need to be present with all our deficiencies, realizing we’re not ready ourselves, and therefore waiting on God in faith. Not moving on our own, but trusting in God to guide us, to help us know and accomplish what we’re incapable of by ourselves.

In all of this, we continue to trust in God in and through Jesus, hold to the gospel, and keep going back to scripture in the fellowship of the church. Knowing that God is faithful and committed to us and to the salvation of all in and through Jesus.

 

when faced with a difficult situation, the need for wisdom

If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you.

James 1

Now two prostitutes came to the king and stood before him. One of them said, “Pardon me, my lord. This woman and I live in the same house, and I had a baby while she was there with me. The third day after my child was born, this woman also had a baby. We were alone; there was no one in the house but the two of us.

“During the night this woman’s son died because she lay on him. So she got up in the middle of the night and took my son from my side while I your servant was asleep. She put him by her breast and put her dead son by my breast. The next morning, I got up to nurse my son—and he was dead! But when I looked at him closely in the morning light, I saw that it wasn’t the son I had borne.”

The other woman said, “No! The living one is my son; the dead one is yours.”

But the first one insisted, “No! The dead one is yours; the living one is mine.” And so they argued before the king.

The king said, “This one says, ‘My son is alive and your son is dead,’ while that one says, ‘No! Your son is dead and mine is alive.’”

Then the king said, “Bring me a sword.” So they brought a sword for the king. He then gave an order: “Cut the living child in two and give half to one and half to the other.”

The woman whose son was alive was deeply moved out of love for her son and said to the king, “Please, my lord, give her the living baby! Don’t kill him!”

But the other said, “Neither I nor you shall have him. Cut him in two!”

Then the king gave his ruling: “Give the living baby to the first woman. Do not kill him; she is his mother.”

When all Israel heard the verdict the king had given, they held the king in awe, because they saw that he had wisdom from God to administer justice.

1 Kings 3

There are those times and circumstances in which we are in a quandary to know what to do, maybe what to say and not say. Special times during which we need wisdom. The James passage quoted above is about facing trials, while the passage on Solomon’s ruling over the two women’s dispute comes in the narrative right after Solomon’s prayer for wisdom. We can be sure, James tells us, that God will give us wisdom when we ask, God being generous and not fault-finding. Solomon received that wisdom in spades, coming from his sincere request with the great responsibility that he faced as king of Israel. Ultimately sadly he failed, though just maybe the book of Ecclesiastes lends us in part some of a new wisdom discovered after his failure.

We have to keep looking to God for wisdom, and we must be determined to carry it out, to live what we learn. But we can be sure that if we ask and wait, God will give us the wisdom we need. In and through Jesus.

letting God be God

Sometimes, I’m afraid we lose hope or vision, or kind of throw in the towel so to speak, because we have been trying to take matters in hand ourselves, or thought somehow an outcome depended on us. And part of this problem may have been with reference to timing; we don’t see what we want to see, or any sign of it, and so we give up hope. A big part of this can be control.

What we need more than anything else is the faith to step back and simply let God be God. We may well have our role in what might unfold, but more often than not we are likely getting in the way of what God is doing, or wants to do. Yes, again we may be involved in what God is doing, but that can only be the case if we step back first and wait and pray. We then might see enough light to move forward and do something, but until then, we best remain still. Better yet, we should do nothing until it becomes clear to us what we’re called to do. It’s not like we can’t make mistakes in this endeavor. It’s only that our number one priority should be to make sure we’re not getting in the way of what God may be doing.

We need to check our attitudes, and then some of them we will have to check in the door. God is great and God is good, and God is a God of grace, all in Jesus. Before we apply quick judgments against others, we need to remember God’s grace in our own lives. Do we believe that God is active in the world, and that God cares about each person he has made? It’s not like it all depends on us; God is at work. But God wants to use us as his witness and instrument of peace and love. Most of us need to learn a kind of passivity of faith, which will enable us to become active in ways that our helpful in harmony with God’s working. The same kind of help that has made a difference in our lives from others in God’s working in and through Jesus.

when troubled

Is anyone among you in trouble? Let them pray.

James 5

Yet man is born to trouble
    as surely as sparks fly upward.

Job 5

Trouble is a part of life. We probably do well to gear ourselves for it. At the same time, we want to enjoy life, and gearing for trouble means we learn to be blessed in the midst of it. But with the blessing of God. Although there are especially difficult times when all sense of blessedness might seem to be gone.

Trouble they say can either embitter us, or make us better. But as James points out, and as we see in Job’s response to his great trouble, we should be inclined to call on God for help, and for God’s answer. And hopefully through it we will find God’s blessing not unlike Jacob did when he wrestled the angel of God, and was actually wrestling God himself (Genesis 32).

Little do we know the possible blessing of being in trouble. We want to avoid trouble like the plague, but instead, we need to be open and receptive to whatever God might be doing through it.

Above all, as James tells us, we need to dial down and simply pray. Refuse to take matters in our own hands. And wait on the counsel of God in answer to prayer, perhaps through others, through the word, or directly to us. Most likely in ways we can hardly trace, but with confidence that God will guide us and help us through all the troubles of this life ultimately to experience his grace to his glory in and through Jesus.

loving rebuke

I often think  that only God can deliver the correction we occasionally (at least) need. After all, it is God who is love. We are not, but are a mixed bag of good and bad, and left to ourselves, we’re at the center of our existence, or something less than the actual God is, often some combination of that.

And yet Jesus tells us that if our brother or sister sins against us to rebuke them. We have to watch out, because they may not be sinning against us. Only God knows the heart. It is hard to receive and probably even harder to give any kind of rebuke. We need to be on each other’s side, and any possible correcting words may put a wedge between us. That said, somehow by grace, we ought to be open to this practice, as long as it’s not commonplace, I say. Dallas Willard doubted that such can be done today, since people always take it personally and feel condemned. I wonder what it is in our age which makes this so, but it does seem to be the case in my own experience.

Probably giving a rebuke is not without sin when we do so out of our own personal pain, or aggrievement. Certainly prayer ought to accompany it, and preferably much prayer. And if much prayer, than it would seem wise only to offer a word of loving correction after one has at least slept on it. In other words, don’t rush in to correct.

If we do offer that word soon after the incident, we need to be concerned lest the relationship is hurt. We want a growing relationship through God’s love in Jesus by the Spirit. God’s grace in and through Jesus is the sphere in which we live. So we should be open to offer a word of apology and the asking for forgiveness for giving the rebuke in the first place. But probably we shouldn’t be hasty in doing that, either, unless we were clearly out of bounds in our attitide and action. While we likely were not without sin in offering the rebuke, there is also likely some truth in what we offered. If we ask for forgiveness out of our own feeling of fear and condemnation, that in itself isn’t right, either. We need to have enough clarity in the light and love of the Spirit to be able to proceed that direction. It may be wisdom to simply pray. Love does cover over a multitude of sins, so it may end up being something apt to address later, or completely let go. Yet in never mentioning it, it still remains. Maybe that in and of itself is an impetus to continue to pray, which may be needed.

Friendship nowadays seems to be about buddy, buddy times, in which there is no accountability. Maybe a better way to apply any needed rebuke is by example in love, and letting go of the perceived wrong done against us. After all, that is to be our heart attitude. And too often rebukes are done harshly. It might be best to approach someone with questions, and listen, trying to put the best construction on their answer. That could leave the window open to help them understand how their actions or words might have come across to us, or someone else.

We certainly do need to trust God in all of this. What wisdom might any reader like to offer on this? 

holding on for God’s peace (waiting on God): my experience with depression

Yesterday, as I recall it, I read at least one message about waiting on God which was confirmed later in the day. I myself struggle with what might be called clinical depression, maybe a mild form, especially when I read that one of the signs of clinical depression is to not be able to get out of bed. Well, I suppose it manifests itself in various ways. Although I’ve never been diagnosed as such, at one time I asked our general doctor if I could try a med for possible depression, so that along the way I did two of them, then quit. The first helped a lot, it seeemed. One person who knew me said I was a different person, like I had been born again. But it wore off over time. The second gave me splitting headaches. So I quit taking them, and went back to my old self.

When I look at biblical writings such as in the psalms (Psalms 13 and 88 being two good examples), Jeremiah and Lamentations, along with other writings in scripture, I realize that a good number of people in scripture were not immune to this kind of suffering. We surely would have to include Jesus himself at certain points, certainly in Gethsemane, and when he cried out with his sense of having been forsaken on the cross.

For me what is helpful is being in scripture and from that, in prayer. And remembering that all and everything is linked to the gospel which good liturgy keeps in front of us, along with our necessary response to it. So that it’s the message of the good news of Jesus in the fellowship of the church by the Holy Spirit which keeps me sane, and hopefully helps me to grow in conformity more to Christ.

Although I have experienced some of the “charismatic” side and believe in some of that, I don’t at all get help from any ecstatic experiences, since I don’t experience them, and really am not intent in seeking such. Not that my experience ought to be the measure of anything, but that is the way it is for me. I am not a believer in trying to enter into the right experience, or find some life changing book. Some of that here and there, if it happens, might help, but by and large the kind of help I think that makes the needed difference is what God gives us little by little, and how God helps us grow in ways which are quite well beyond us through the gospel in the word/scripture, in the fellowship and communion of the church, and through the experiences, even hard knocks and places in life.

“Wait on the Lord.” Not a fun place to be, but important for the growth of our faith. When we feel overwhelmed, or are looking for an answer to a problem, or simply in prayer over a matter, we need to hold on to faith by waiting on God. God will come through: God’s peace, presence, protection and provision according to his will and promises in and through Jesus. And hopefully this can be more and more our set response to the inevitable difficulties we will experience in life. Something even at this relatively later stage in my life, I continue to work on.

the blessed assurance that is ours in Jesus

“I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.”

John 16:33

Jesus’s words to his disciples was the climax of what he spoke to them on the night in which he was betrayed and just before his “high priestly prayer” (John 17). His overcoming or conquering (NRSV) of the world took place through his death and resurrection.

Life is sure to have its difficulties, both in terms of following the Lord, as Jesus made clear that night to his disciples, and simply in terms of the troubles we all face in the daily bumps we encounter, and in the potentially life-changing issues we run up against.

In all of this we have to ask ourselves where our confidence lies. Yes, we want to make good decisions, and we don’t want to be foolhardy. We want to live in the wisdom God offers, for facing the immediate difficulties, and for living well and growing in the long term. But in some ways we will fail. And along the way we may have failed significantly. Whether or not that’s the case, our confidence surely does not at all lie in ourselves, but in the one who alone can make us confident and able to go on and do well in that one’s eyes, no matter what.

And so let us hope in the Lord so as to gain new strength (Isaiah 40:31) to continue on, and hopefully do well in the Lord’s eyes, together in God’s will and work in Jesus in the world.

becoming part of the answer

I jokingly told someone yesterday that I would make a good Buddhist. What I was thinking about is what one Roman Catholic spiritual director in my past was trying to help me with, but which I probably wasn’t getting: the need to become integrated, or one in and of ourselves, something scripture talks about in a number of places, and exemplifies especially in the life of our Lord, who reflected in his earthly life the life of the Trinity. And for us in him, we are to wait on God to help us to this, so that we’re no longer double-minded (double-souled, perhaps more literal) in all of our ways, through faith in the midst of trials and through receiving the Lord’s wisdom in answer to prayer (James 1).

Neither the world, nor any of us needs someone who has all the answers, unless you’re talking about the Lord himself, who in a real sense is the answer. But both for ourselves and for each other and for the world we need to begin in and through Jesus to become something of the answer.

The answer lies in God, and a signficant part of that will be simply not knowing, but having peace, along with the knowledge and understanding which brings peace. Instead of running around and anxiously giving everyone answers, even as we continue to search for them ourselves (which I fell into doing yesterday), we need to settle down, and into the one source for all answers, and more importantly for all of life, so that we can begin to flourish while inevitably not having all of the answers. I can’t help but think of the story of Job, and how it ended.

Back to Buddhism, for a moment. It is said that  Siddhartha Gautama didn’t promote any teaching until he had come to thoroughly live in it, and not without numerous setbacks along the way. While I’m not at all advocating Buddhism which I understand to be a philosophy seeing life in terms of both physical and metaphysical, and hence indeed a religion, I think the point of being integrated, though we believe for different reasons, is one where some convergence can be found. We need to become something of the truth we promote. The good news in Jesus is to be truly good news in our lives, helping us toward flourishing, to be the witness we’re called to be to the world.

In Jesus’ words which we in him are to follow: We’re to make disciples of all nations, disciples meaning followers of our Lord, who in turn will make disciples of others, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything he commanded. And we’re to follow Paul’s example, even to follow him and others like him as they follow our Lord.

To become integrated, fully one in our Lord and with others in him. Everyday, at least once, and probably more, I need the Lord to help me back to that. To be still, to cease striving and know that God is God (Psalm 46). Something I want to live more and more in along with others who are a part of that whole in and through Jesus.

when we’re tired and worn down

Sometimes we either feel on the edge or pushed over the edge at least a bit. The pressures of life can seem relentless with little or no place to turn. That is when we probably need to slow down, to stop, to be still and quiet. To know that God is God.

Also to read. For me reading scripture and meditating on it, and remaining in it is so key. But just as key is the weekly service of liturgy which includes the scripture readings along with prayers, including corporate confession of sin along with the priest’s absolution, confession of the creed, and together partaking of the Lord’s body and blood in the Eucharist.

Sometimes we simply need that extra physical rest. Maybe a break from normal activities to sleep. We always like those occasional, or in the case of some of us, periodic, but not often enough for most of us get aways. And we need to learn how to do it when the normal routine is still pressing up against us. Not easy, but we do need to find our bearings, our strength in the Lord, learning to wait on him so that we are both strengthened and ennobled. To not only go on, but go on well in and through Jesus.

Advent: no unfounded hope

Of David.

In you, Lord my God,
I put my trust.
I trust in you;
do not let me be put to shame,
nor let my enemies triumph over me.
No one who hopes in you
will ever be put to shame,
but shame will come on those
who are treacherous without cause.
Show me your ways, Lord,
teach me your paths.
Guide me in your truth and teach me,
for you are God my Savior,
and my hope is in you all day long.
Remember, Lord, your great mercy and love,
for they are from of old.
Do not remember the sins of my youth
and my rebellious ways;
according to your love remember me,
for you, Lord, are good.
Good and upright is the Lord;
therefore he instructs sinners in his ways.
He guides the humble in what is right
and teaches them his way.

Psalm 25:1-9

Hoping in (NIV) or waiting on (NRSV) God never comes up empty. But one has to hold on to that hope, requiring a faith which waits. And that may seem foolish, except for the fact that we’re waiting on a God who is utterly and completely faithful.

God is up to some things which take time. Yes, God is working on us, but he is also working on other things, more unbeknownst to us. Our one task is simply to wait in hope. Hope in the biblical sense means the firm expectation that God will act in due time.

God trains us for the one great hope, “the blessed hope—the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ” (Titus 2:13) during the course of each day, and through many trials- real and imagined. As we experience God’s faithfulness in big and little ways, maybe in many relatively smaller, yet not insignficant ways, we can more and more look forward to the climax of all waiting and hope: when our Lord returns to bring final and full salvation for all who have put their hope in him.