What Is God Waiting For?

In Judges 10 the people have rejected the Lord and chased idol after idol. 18 years of oppression and their hearts were so hard that they still hadn’t repented of their sin. When they finally do, God tells them that he isn’t going to help. Instead, they need to ask their idols for deliverance. Then the people get desperate. Judges 10 tells us they finally got serious and paired their cry for deliverance with personal action and responsibility…they finally put aside their idols. How did God respond this time? The Bible says God responded “with impatience over Israel’s misery” (10:16). That was when God’s heart and attitude toward his people turned.

Sometimes we ask “What is God waiting for?” The answer may be that we aren’t really ready for Him to show up yet. We cling to our idols, as if they have anything to offer. In those times, God is unwilling to show up because He doesn’t really have our trust yet. We talk like He does but He knows the reality of what is in our hearts and it doesn’t line up. So God waits until it does. If you want God’s deliverance, it often takes action on your part and more than just a cry for God’s help while keeping a few idols in your back pocket for comfort. Deliverance comes to the repentant and true repentance comes through complete and unequivocal trust in the Lord.

Confirmation

I love it when God gives you the confirmation you need. He doesn’t really confirm every detail but He gives you enough to let you know His hand is in something. Maybe it is that other person who has the same idea at the same time and everything fits right together to where your efforts in ministry are multiplied like they never have been before. Other times God gives you a sense of peace about something. Still other times it is the opposite…God really unsettles your spirit about something. You can’t assume that God is going to do it the same way twice. God works in whatever way He needs to in order to help us follow the ways of Christ. It isn’t easy. It is challenging. It is risky. It is also worth it. I love when I get a glimpse of confirmation from God, a reminder that He is right in the middle of my issues guiding, leading and blessing it all.

Last, I am not talking about superstition here…like asking for God to send you a sign and you see a billboard along the highway that has a word in it that you think is the Lord trying to speak with you. If God is that poor of a communicator we are all in trouble! I am talking about prayed out, fasted up, scripture-aligning confirmation from God that convicts you of what God wants you to do.

Psalm 37 (ESV)

Fret not yourself because of evildoers;

    be not envious of wrongdoers!
For they will soon fade like the grass
and wither like the green herb.

Trust in the Lord, and do good;
dwell in the land and befriend faithfulness.
Delight yourself in the Lord,
and he will give you the desires of your heart.

Commit your way to the Lord;
trust in him, and he will act.
He will bring forth your righteousness as the light,
and your justice as the noonday.

Be still before the Lord and wait patiently for him;
fret not yourself over the one who prospers in his way,
over the man who carries out evil devices!

Refrain from anger, and forsake wrath!
Fret not yourself; it tends only to evil.
For the evildoers shall be cut off,
but those who wait for the Lord shall inherit the land.

10 In just a little while, the wicked will be no more;
though you look carefully at his place, he will not be there.
11 But the meek shall inherit the land
and delight themselves in abundant peace.

12 The wicked plots against the righteous
and gnashes his teeth at him,
13 but the Lord laughs at the wicked,
for he sees that his day is coming.

14 The wicked draw the sword and bend their bows
to bring down the poor and needy,
to slay those whose way is upright;
15 their sword shall enter their own heart,
and their bows shall be broken.

16 Better is the little that the righteous has
than the abundance of many wicked.
17 For the arms of the wicked shall be broken,
but the Lord upholds the righteous.

18 The Lord knows the days of the blameless,
and their heritage will remain forever;
19 they are not put to shame in evil times;
in the days of famine they have abundance.

20 But the wicked will perish;
the enemies of the Lord are like the glory of the pastures;
they vanish—like smoke they vanish away.

21 The wicked borrows but does not pay back,
but the righteous is generous and gives;
22 for those blessed by the Lord shall inherit the land,
but those cursed by him shall be cut off.

23 The steps of a man are established by the Lord,
when he delights in his way;
24 though he fall, he shall not be cast headlong,
for the Lord upholds his hand.

25 I have been young, and now am old,
yet I have not seen the righteous forsaken
or his children begging for bread.
26 He is ever lending generously,
and his children become a blessing.

27 Turn away from evil and do good;
so shall you dwell forever.
28 For the Lord loves justice;
he will not forsake his saints.
They are preserved forever,
but the children of the wicked shall be cut off.
29 The righteous shall inherit the land
and dwell upon it forever.

30 The mouth of the righteous utters wisdom,
and his tongue speaks justice.
31 The law of his God is in his heart;
his steps do not slip.

32 The wicked watches for the righteous
and seeks to put him to death.
33 The Lord will not abandon him to his power
or let him be condemned when he is brought to trial.

34 Wait for the Lord and keep his way,
and he will exalt you to inherit the land;
you will look on when the wicked are cut off.

35 I have seen a wicked, ruthless man,
spreading himself like a green laurel tree.
36 But he passed away, and behold, he was no more;
though I sought him, he could not be found.

37 Mark the blameless and behold the upright,
for there is a future for the man of peace.
38 But transgressors shall be altogether destroyed;
the future of the wicked shall be cut off.

39 The salvation of the righteous is from the Lord;
he is their stronghold in the time of trouble.
40 The Lord helps them and delivers them;
he delivers them from the wicked and saves them,
because they take refuge in him.

Gideon’s Weakness and the Grace & Peace of God

We usually associate “grace and peace” with Paul’s letters but grace and peace show up in other places in scripture. One of those places is in Judges 6. Gideon was told to deliver Israel from the Midianites but Gideon is concerned because the days he lived in weren’t like the days of his ancestors. He knew the story of the parting of the sea and deliverance from Egypt. He knew God was present with his people in those days because God acted in mighty ways. Gideon’s assumption was that God must not be present like he was because God isn’t acting like he used to act (see Judges 6:11-13). God assures him that he really was going to be the deliverer of Israel and Gideon’s response went like this,

“If now I have found grace in your eyes, give me a sign that it is really you talking to me.” – Judges 6:17

Gideon brings back an offering and it is consumed in flame. He then realizes he has seen the angel of the Lord and fears for his life. But God says,

“‘Peace! Do not be afraid. You are not going to die.’

So Gideon built an altar to the Lord there and called it The Lord Is Peace.”

Grace and peace go hand in hand. Without grace there is no peace because, like Gideon, we cannot stand in the presence of a holy God and live. So praise God that he is loving and graceful and we can have peace because he is the ultimate deliverer of his people! If you are going through something and lack peace or maybe you are upset because you just don’t have the power to fix the problems in your life…remember what Paul said in 2 Corinthians 12:7-10,

“Therefore, in order to keep me from becoming conceited, I was given a thorn in my flesh, a messenger of Satan, to torment me. 8 Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me. 9 But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. 10 That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.”

Do you know when God responded gracefully to Gideon in Judges 6? It was when Gideon said he wouldn’t be able to deliver the people because he was the least person of the weakest clan from among his people (6:15). God has a way of sorting these things out in ways that remind us that he is in charge, not us. So rest in the grace of God and find your peace there.

A Patriarch, A Judge and a Prophet Walk Into a Bar

I have been studying Gideon and I ran across some really interesting parallels he has with Jacob and Elijah.

They all were called on by God.

They all had personal encounters with God.

They all built altars to the Lord

Jacob and Gideon had their names changed.

Gideon and Elijah had encounters with the prophets of Baal.

Gideon and Elijah had their offerings burned up with divine fire.

Gideon stands at a point in Israel’s history that points back to the first Israel (Jacob) and forward to the prophet Elijah. In Gideon’s story we are reminded that God can do great things with weak people (Judges 6:15) and severely limited resources (7:1-7). We are also reminded that God is incredibly patient (the offering made sure it was God’s voice, the fleece made sure it was God’s will and hearing the dream of the enemy confirmed God’s will) and graceful (6:17)…and that God hears the cry of His people and is a divine deliverer. Last, we learn that God is present even when it doesn’t seem like he is (6:13).

The Appeal of Living in the Known

Living in the “known” has a lot of comfort and appeal but doesn’t always stretch our faith to the degree to which God calls. There is a big difference between only making decision when we think we are assured of success and living by faith and embracing what is unknown to us but known to God. God is faithful and we must be faithful as well.

God Uses Our Failures

I realized on Sunday that someone told me something earlier in the week that I was supposed to pass along. I forgot to say anything about it and I felt really bad about it. So I sent an apology email to my elders letting them know what happened and that I was the guy who dropped the ball. One of them replied that because of my mistake there were things that happened that were really needed and that God had worked through my failure to bring about some needed things! Wow, God is amazing.

But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. 10 That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.” – 2 Cor 12:9-10

When was a time for you that, looking back, you could see God work through your failures? We are truly strong when we are strong in the Lord and not strong in and of ourselves.

Taking Risks for the Kingdom

The New Testament is a continuous story of risk takers. John the Baptist is killed because he called out Herod on his sin. Jesus is crucified because the religious authorities thought he was a blasphemer. Paul was killed in Rome because of his preaching the Gospel. Stephen was stoned because of his testimony. Peter and John were arrested because they healed a man. Paul and Silas were beaten and imprisoned for casting out an evil spirit. Timothy had to stand up against false teachers. James had to make a bold decision regarding how to treat the Gentiles who were coming to Christ. Barnabas and Ananias took a chance on Paul.

These men took risks for the kingdom. They didn’t settle for comfort. They didn’t settle for staying home. The very word apostle literally means someone who is sent. These guys were out on mission, taking risks and expanding the kingdom. The question for us is this, how much risk are we taking? Look at your church budget and ask if any of it reflects any level of risk for the kingdom. How many of our programs and ministries are aimed at keeping the mature Christians comfortable and how many are designed to take the message to those who need it most?

Before we launch out, it is important to make sure we are doing these things for the right reasons. We don’t do it to be trendy. We don’t do it because it is a fad. We do it because God has called us to it and we want to be faithful to our calling. Most risks aren’t taken sitting in front of a computer but being in the presence of real people, those who need God and those who have the potential to lead but need someone to equip them.

God Has Made Himself Available

Prayer was a big part of the Old Testament. People prayed all the time. They prayed for many things and in many locations. That was possible because they believed prayer reached the very thrown of God. It is one thing for your words to be in God’s presence and quite another for you to actually be in the presence of God. If you wanted to be in God’s presence you would have to go to the temple for that. However, it wasn’t just as simple as showing up at the temple with a “get into God’s presence for free” card. Here is a diagram (from ebibleteacher.com) of the temple that shows how exclusive permission was to gain access to God’s presence.

Herods Temple 1024

If you fell into the 99% of the world that wasn’t Jewish you could only get as close as the Gentile’s court. If you were part of the 1% of the world’s population that was Jewish you could get further. Half of that 1% (Jewish women) was able to get as far as the court of women. The other half of that 1% (Jewish men) were able to get further into the court of Israel. Beyond that you have to be a male Jewish priest to get any closer to God’s presence. Any closer and it required you to be the High Priest to gain access to the Holy place. The Most Holy Place was not only restricted to the High Priest but could only be entered on a particular day, the Day of Atonement. Getting into God’s presence in the Most Holy Place was exclusive.

In Hebrews 10:11-22 we learn that the exclusivity of the temple was temporary. Jesus’ death, burial and resurrection opened the way for the whole world to have access to God. The curtain has been torn and the walls of separation between man and God have been removed by Jesus Christ. The Hebrew writer tells us that Christ’s sacrifice has made us perfect (Heb 10:14) and the result of that is our ability to enter the Most Holy Place by the blood of Jesus Christ (Heb 10:19-22).

Through Christ, God is now available to all. He is not distant. He is near. The ultimate sign of God’s availability to us came through Jesus Christ. In Christ, God took on flesh and dwelt among mankind (John 1:14). It was God’s way of saying he is here, he is real and he is present. He is Immanuel, “God with us.” The apostle Paul tells us that the dividing lines of exclusion have been done away with in Christ,

26 So in Christ Jesus you are all children of God through faith, 27 for all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. 28 There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. 29 If you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise.” – Gal 3:26-29

I am so thankful that our God is able to break all the dividing lines the world loves to draw between people and make us all one in Christ! What is more, God’s Spirit now dwells in us. Paul goes so far as to say that we are God’s temple (1 Cor 6:19-10). No more distance. No more exclusion…instead, availability and presence. God is good.

I Can Do It Myself

DSC_0611One of Elijah’s favorite lines is, “I can do it by me-self”. It might be a glass of milk that he normally drinks without a problem but says that phrase and then proceeds to spill a bunch down the front of his shirt, pooling up on his shorts. He wants independence but he isn’t ready for it.

When you are totally dependent but act as if you aren’t consequences abound. When you are two years old, consequences include spilled milk, stained shirts, and broken toys. When you are an adult consequences include spilled blood, stains of sin and broken lives. We might think we can do it all by ourselves but the truth of the matter is we must rely on God in everything. We want independence but we weren’t meant to live independently. Like Elijah we aren’t ready for it and the truth is we never will be. Life independent of God is death.

The Prayer I Woke Up Praying

I rarely ever wake up in the middle of the night and have trouble falling back asleep. Missy will tell you that once I lay down in bed it is not uncommon for me to fall asleep in mid sentence. I sleep hard. But last week I woke up around 4am and just couldn’t get back to sleep. There was too much on my mind. Around and around went the thoughts but it all kept coming back to a prayer that I just kept praying over and over that night, “God, increase my desire for you.” The Sunday before I had challenged our 20s & 30s Bible class to pray that prayer because a growing desire for God is central to our own spiritual development. It wasn’t just something I expected them to do, it is becoming more a part of my own prayer life.

So there I was praying that prayer and feeling at peace. When it was time to get up I told Missy about the prayer. I told her, “God and I had a conversation last night…it was pretty informal but it was needed.” This is a prayer that I continue to pray and I am grateful that God can and will answer that prayer. It also helps me to refocus myself and my own desires to be more in line with God’s desires and to put away the distractions.

So I would encourage you to start asking God to increase your desire for Him. There is nothing magical or automatic about it. It is going to take work. It is going to take removing some things that distract you and replacing them with other things that point you back to God. In a sense there will be sacrifice that will come along with that prayer but it will all be worth it because when we pray things God himself desires for us you can be sure He will answer.

Do not fret because of those who are evil
or be envious of those who do wrong;
for like the grass they will soon wither,
like green plants they will soon die away.

Trust in the Lord and do good;
dwell in the land and enjoy safe pasture.
Take delight in the Lord,
and he will give you the desires of your heart.

Commit your way to the Lord;
trust in him and he will do this:
He will make your righteous reward shine like the dawn,
your vindication like the noonday sun.

Be still before the Lord
and wait patiently for him;
do not fret when people succeed in their ways,
when they carry out their wicked schemes.
Psalm 37:1-7