30 Days of Cultivating Thankfulness: Day 21 – The Patience of God

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Inspirational Thought of the Day:

Some consider it cruel that God would permit consequences when we sin, but this, too, is a demonstration of His patience.

Scriptures of the Day:

2 Peter 3:9

“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.”

Jeremiah 44:22

“The LORD could no longer bear your evil deeds and the abominations that you committed. Therefore your land has become a desolation and a waste and a curse, without inhabitant, as it is this day.”

Since the beginning of time, God has patiently been drawing us to Himself, revealing our sin that we might come to repentance and renounce our ways. The weary pattern of our stubborn sin and His merciful redemption is repeated incessantly, revealing God’s great patience. As we wind up in the mud pit again and again, darkened by our own counsel, He picks us up, dusts us off and sets His love on us again and again and again.

In His great kindness and patience, we are not consumed. All have fallen short of the glory of God. All have been offered salvation, but not all have accepted it.

Some have been in awe over the patience of Job, but it cannot even be compared with the patience of our God. Job complained of his plight, while God willingly chose His own suffering to win our hearts.

What patience of God to see our wickedness and to triumph over it with mercy. With mercy. Our flesh would not do as much. Such lavish patience is foreign, undeserved in our eyes. But then so is His amazing grace.

Patience is not permission to sin without consequence. It is not the abuse of grace or the casual acceptance of such an astonishing sacrifice on our part. Some consider it cruel that God would permit consequences when we sin, but this, too, is a demonstration of His patience. It is in the suffering for our sins that our eyes can be opened to recognize our sin and our need of God. Even in our failures, God works patiently to redeem them and us with His mighty salvation.

Oh patient God, lover of our souls! Lord, You are so patient, longsuffering and kind. Thank You for opening our eyes to understand how great Your salvation is. May we never take for granted Your mercy and live lives worthy of Your great sacrifice.

Worshipful Wednesday: Our Strength

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Inspirational Thought of the Day:

The admission of our inability is the beginning of our ability in Christ.

Scripture of the Day:

Psalm 59:9-10

“You are my source of strength! I will wait for you! For God is my refuge. 10 The God who loves me will help me; God will enable me to triumph over my enemies. 17 You are my source of strength! I will sing praises to You! For God is my refuge, the God who loves me.

When my heart is overwhelmed like the Psalmist’s, I have learned to look to the Rock, Who is higher than I. He is not surprised by our weakness or the new storm swirling about us. He is waiting to hear and answer, for He is glorified in our weaknesses when we recognize our need of Him.

In the past, I sought God for strength but did not understand that I needed to wait on Him. This required more patience than I wanted to give in the moment, but when I have truly rested before Him and sought His strength, I have been empowered on high.

The admission of our inability is the beginning of our ability in Christ.

Whatever the strength we need – strength to walk faithfully with God, strength to handle emotional upheaval, hardships or the greatest sorrows – in all these, how amazing to consider that the Almighty God of the universe – stronger than anyone else, notices us. Even more amazing – this God loves us and Scripture says He WILL enable us. It is a promise for those who wait on Him. We, small creations of the Most High God, who were once His enemies, can call on Him at any time and get strength!

How do we access this strength? Singing and waiting. As a worship leader, I really like the singing part. 🙂 There is a component of faith as we approach God and ask Him to take what is too big for us. But even where we lack faith, we can ask and He will give liberally.

Lord, thank You for being our source of strength. Help us to always run to You when we are weary and weak. You are enough and we worship You, our strong God!

Worshipful Wednesday: The Fruit of Patience in God Alone

Patience

Psalm 62:1-2, 5-9

1b  “For God alone I patiently wait; he is the one who delivers me. 2 He alone is my protector and deliverer. He is my refuge; I will not be upended. 5 Patiently wait for God alone, my soul! For he is the one who gives me confidence. 6 He alone is my protector and deliverer. He is my refuge; I will not be upended. 7 God delivers me and exalts me; God is my strong protector and my shelter. 8 Trust in him at all times, you people! Pour out your hearts before him! God is our shelter! (Selah) 9 Men are nothing but a mere breath; human beings are unreliable. When they are weighed in the scales, all of them together are lighter than air.”

Our flesh does not want to wait.  It does not want to be inconvenienced.  It wants what it wants, when it wants it.  It is a well known phrase that we should not pray for patience, but pray or not, we will all be tested to see if we possess this attribute. Patience is hard, but truly a trait of a virtuous person. It is the ability to endure hardship or suffering with humility.  It is the setting of our will to look to God alone.  It is not merely surviving.  It is not thinking that we deserve better, but recognizing that we all suffer in this life and that our dependence on God is what will strengthen us and enable us through whatever life brings.

The Psalmist knew that waiting on God alone was where His deliverance lay.  David knew where his help came from – only One.  How often we run to other sources for comfort or an escape, only to find we are worse off than we were before. Vices and substitutes can never fulfill us like God can.  They can temporarily provide relief, but deep down our soul cries out for more.

Patience is needed during the trials of life but the reward for patience is well worth it.  Eternal rewards are certain, but God also grants us encouragements on this earth.  To be able to have confidence despite our circumstances is supernatural. To have peace when everything around us ignites fear is nothing short of astounding.  That is the heritage of those who patiently run to God for the answer to every dilemma.

Our hope is not found in an entity or a person, which both fail.  The sovereign God Who knows all is the only real hope we have.  How amazing that the God Who we insulted and sinned against delivers us and exalts us when we come to Him.  We are not worthy of such a reward, and yet He lavishes His love and kindness upon us.

The fruit of patience is beautiful in its full bloom.  It is not patience for patience sake.  It is a deep trust in God and gratitude in the face of harsh reality.  It is rest in the wake of any storm.  Considering what we truly deserve, we learn contentment through suffering.  We can acknowledge that the ugly side of life has usefulness for patiently producing righteousness in all who do not harden their heart with bitterness, but instead look to God in faith – waiting on Him alone.

Lord, help us to go to You alone while we are in the waiting room of life.  You are our hope, our ever-present joy.  In a sea of uncertainty, You are our firm anchor.  Help us to see where we are impatient.  Grant us patience in all walks of life and a quiet trust in You.

Division’s Conquest

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Photo Credits:
http://www.kkcj.org

1 Corinthian 12:25

“So that there may be no division in the body, but the members may have mutual concern for one another!”

1 Corinthian 13:4-5

“Love is patient, love is kind, it is not envious.  Love does not brag, it is not puffed up. 5 It is not rude, it is not self-serving, it is not easily angered or resentful.”

Proverbs 18:19

“A brother offended is harder to be won than a strong city, And contentions are like the bars of a citadel.”

Dividing and conquering can be a great strategy when trying to accomplish a difficult task, but in the case of relationships and the body of Christ, divisiveness accomplishes destruction.  We are stronger when we are united.

One of the saddest things for me to see is when members within a church begin to devour one another.  When hard times hit a church is when true character is displayed in its members – it is also when we need one another the most.

An offended brother is like an unyielding city.  Forget whether or not their offense is legitimate or founded on truth.  Sometimes you can try to be a peacemaker and still receive abusive treatment from a bitter soul.  What then?

Love.  Recently someone spoke bitterly to me right before I was to lead worship.  I had a choice.  I chose love.  When I contemplated the actions later in prayer to God, He gave me compassion for this individual and the knowledge that their perception was misplaced.  I could leave it in God’s loving hands.  I could trade concern over my own hurt to concern over what really created the bitterness in this person’s soul.

I have been crushed in the past by words spoken with an intent to harm, but not this time.  By the grace of God alone, I did not think of self, but instead of the other person and gave it to my God, Who is fully capable of dealing with all hearts, including mine.  The result?  Peace.  Joy.  No anxiety.  This was a major victory and the evil one must have been bummed.

There is no case for self-righteousness, because we are all guilty.  We all hurt from time to time and all want affirmation, but our neediness is best filled by God, not looking to man to justify or accept us.  People will get mad from time to time.  That’s ok.  We cannot please everyone, and our ultimate audience is God alone.

More than being right is the need for the body of Christ to care for one another.  Brothers and sisters shepherding one another’s souls.  No agendas other than God’s glory.  Wouldn’t it be amazing if we all tried for that goal?  Division would quickly turn to multiplication instead . . . multiplied members, gratitude and joy.

Lord, help us to buildup one another and to put to death our hurt feelings which are birthed in pride.  May You be glorified in all circumstances in our lives and in Your church.

Thoughtful Thursday: When Dreams Are Shattered

Photo Credits johnkrohn.blogspot.com

Photo Credits
johnkrohn.blogspot.com

Job 17:11

“My days have passed, my plans are shattered, even the desires of my heart.”

Proverbs 13:13

“Hope deferred makes the heart sick, but a longing fulfilled is like a tree of life.”

Joel 2:25

“I will repay you for the years the locusts have eaten.” 

Psalm 27:13-14

13 “I would have despaired unless I had believed that I would see the goodness of the LORD In the land of the living. 14 Wait for the LORD; Be strong and let your heart take courage; Yes, wait for the LORD.”

Perhaps nothing stings more than the reality of a hope that is dashed or a dream that is unfulfilled.  You were so close to your goal, and then suddenly it is gone.  Or the plans you had for your life have seriously been altered, completely shattered because of circumstances beyond your control.

Why is it so disheartening?  What is it about a dream crushed that causes disillusionment?  I use a GPS most of the time I am driving.  My husband does not.  If he gets lost, he just works to figure it out.  I, on the other hand, begin to wonder if the world will end – I am lost – what do I do?  I want to be certain where I am going and the uncertainty causes concern and insecurity.  That is where faith comes in.

The great heroes of the faith did not always get in their time-frame what they were promised.  They desperately wanted to see their dreams or promises fulfilled, but they learned precious lessons while waiting.  Patience and trust cannot be earned by merely being taught, they are instead caught through endurance.

Perhaps the terrain looks a lot different than you thought it would.  Maybe you are on the correct path, but in God’s sovereignty, your destination is going to take longer to get to.  The character or tools needed for that assignment need to become part of you, before you can handle the plans God has for you.

But our souls cry out, how can destruction or pain be God’s best?  I honestly do not know or fully comprehend how God does it, but He does use every part of our pain for good.  Perhaps your hope or delight was in that dream, and seeing it as your end or goal, rather than in God and seeing it everything as part of God’s plan and surrendering our way to God’s best.

When it seems like there is no more joy, no more hope, that is where faith comes in.  Placing our hope in God rather than on the temporary fulfillment of this earth is perhaps the greatest treasure learned when our longings are not fulfilled in the timing or way we wanted.

Lord, help us to trust you when things look vastly different than we thought they should.  You know best.

Patience in Affliction

Photo Credits amodernreformation.blogspot.com

Photo Credits
amodernreformation.blogspot.com

Lamentations 3:21-28, 31-33

3:21 But this I call to mindtherefore I have hope22 The Lord’s loyal kindness never ceases; his compassions never end. 23 They are fresh every morningyour faithfulness is abundant!  24My portion is the Lord,” I have said to myself, so I will put my hope in him.  25 The Lord is good to those who trust in him, to the one who seeks him. 26 It is good to wait patiently for deliverance from the Lord. 27 It is good for a man to bear the yoke while he is young.  28 Let a person sit alone in silence when the LORD is disciplining him.  31 For the Lord will not reject us forever. 32 Though he causes us grief, he then has compassion on us according to the abundance of his loyal kindness33 For he is not predisposed to afflict or to grieve people.

Lamentations 5:21

5:21 Bring us back to yourself, O Lord, so that we may return to you; renew our life as in days before.

James 1:12-18

12 Happy is the one who endures testing, because when he has proven to be genuine, he will receive the crown of life that God promised to those who love him. 13 Let no one say when he is tempted, “I am tempted by God,” for God cannot be tempted by evil, and he himself tempts no one. 14 But each one is tempted when he is lured and enticed by his own desires. 15 Then when desire conceives, it gives birth to sin, and when sin is full grown, it gives birth to death. 16 Do not be led astray, my dear brothers and sisters. 17 All generous giving and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or the slightest hint of change. 18 By his sovereign plan he gave us birth through the message of truth, that we would be a kind of first fruits of all he created.

This moment of worship in Lamentations by Jeremiah is preceded by a vivid description of complete and utter devastation for himself and his people.  The suffering that is depicted is severe and seemingly hopeless.  Infants eaten by their mothers, priests and prophets killed in the LORD’s sanctuary, young men and women falling by the sword, children slowly starving to death in their mother’s arms.  Such wicked atrocities permitted can give us a sense of betrayal.  How could someone who loves us so much allow it? But Jeremiah did not blame God.  He knew it was punishment for their sins and patiently endured, placing his hope in the living God.  Instead of an embittered hopelessness, Jeremiah modeled that suffering produces a surprising fruit for those who are patient in the midst.  He was even thankful for it, for it opened his eyes to the truth and to how faithful God is and ultimately brought him to the place where God alone was his portion.

The honeymoon period after first accepting the LORD as my personal Savior was sweet.  The excitement of knowing my God more was incomparable to any other joy.  Getting off work from T.G.I. Friday’s at 3:00 am, I could not wait to get home and seek God, despite classes at 9:00 in the morning.  I have never wanted to lose my fervor for the LORD, but admittedly there have been seasons where I have felt dry, forgotten and almost gave up hope.  Praise God that He carries us through such times as we place our hope in Him.  While suffering admittedly is not something people typically yearn for, the hidden treasures it bestows ironically make it a blessing for those who walk through the suffering and not around it.  No pain, no gain.  And what does the suffering achieve?

An inner joy when circumstances surrounding us are less than desirable.  A peace that surpasses understanding.   A sweet fellowship with our LORD.   An enduring hope when there is seemingly nothing to hope in.  Most importantly, those who have tasted suffering and glorified God in the midst no longer worship Him for what He can give them, but for Who He is.  He is our portion.  Discipline never seems pleasant at the time, but the harvest of righteousness is the sweetest reward.

Lord, help us to submit to You in the processes in this life which are not desirable to our flesh.  Give strength and perseverance to those suffering now.  Help us to see what really matters – knowing You.  Be glorified in our lives, LORD.

The Progressive Slippery Slope in a Vaccuum

Exodus 24:3

“Moses came and told the people all the LORD’s words and all the decisions.  All the people answered together, ‘We are willing to do all the words that the LORD has said.'”

Exodus 24:9-11

“Moses and Aaron, Nadab and Abihu, and the seventy elders of Israel went up, and they saw the God of Israel.  Under his feet there was something like a pavement made of sapphire, clear like the sky itself.  But he did not lay a hand on the leaders of the Israelites, so they saw God, and they ate and drank.”

Exodus 32:1

“When the people saw that Moses delayed in coming down from the mountain, they gathered around Aaron and said to him, ‘Get up, make us gods that will go before us.  As for this fellow Moses, the man who brought us up from the land of Egypt, we do not know what has become of him!”

Exodus 32:4

So Aaron “accepted the gold from them, fashioned it with an engraving tool, and made a molten calf.  They they said, ‘These are your gods, O Israel, who brought you up out of Egypt.'”

Forty days.  The number forty is a common duration for a time of testing many times in the bible.  Forty days of rain on the ark, forty years wandering in the desert, Jesus was tempted fourty days in the desert and Moses was on the mountain forty days, two separate times, hearing the commandments of God, to name a few.  Forty days goes by in a flash in our home.  Months come and go, years fly by.  But I guess to the Israelites, it seemed never-ending.  Certainly if one was suffering significantly, time would drag on.  But to God’s people at the bottom of the mountain, one would think there was great anticipation.  One would think that the meal with God that Aaron witnessed, coupled with thundering on top of the mountain would serve as vivid reminders that Almighty God was very near, indeed.

But somehow in that vacuum, in that moment of dearth, not hearing from God, the people of God longed to fill that void with something.  They wanted to worship, but impatiently accepted a counterfeit.  I wonder if there was a plethora of rationalizing going on – how did they ever arrive at it being acceptable to worship a golden calf in such a short amount of time?  Particularly troubling to me is that Aaron suggested the people donate golden objects and made the calf himself.  He had just encountered the living God.  How could he so quickly be deceived?  Was it peer pressure?  The sheep pressing in on him and he feared them more than God at that moment?  And the sheep – they had just stated that they were willing to do all the words that God had said.

This hypocrisy and seemingly blatant rebellion seems odd until I contemplate my own walk.  Evidence of lukewarmedness and blindness to our own faults can be seen if we are willing to let down our guard of self righteousness and self-protection.  I well recall the early days of my salvation, standing and sharing the gospel to a small crowd at the University of Maryland, being persecuted in class for being a Christian.  I recall many moments of victory in the past twenty-six years through various trials, where God grew my faith exponentially.  Candidly, I also recall being tested severely and beginning to lose my way, save the grace of God.  I started strong – though I was crushed, I would run to His word.  But in the lengthiness of the trial, I began to get confused and wondered when God was going to deliver me.  I began to compromise and look for a counterfeit to relieve my pain.  I am no better than the Israelites.  My trial was seven years of hardship, pressed on every side, not forty days, but I emphathize with the Israelites.  They wanted to follow God, but quickly chose an alternative god to appease their spiritual paucity.  In their moment of being deceived, they could not see clearly and needed a leader to guide them.  Their leader failed.

Humbling to us leaders, it is terrifying to think that we bear the responsibility of leading someone astray.  Shockingly, Aaron lied when confronted with his waywardness.  Somehow a golden calf popped out of the fire.  Wow, really?  As hard as it is to admit that we, too, have gone off the path, it is far better to confess and renounce our shortcomings and move forward in the new humility gained from our failure.  The former pride at imperceived righteousness that was our own, has been replaced with the knowledge of our own failure, which reminds us that it has never been our own righteousness, after all.

If you are a leader or a believer who has fallen short, you stand in a great cloud of witnesses who have also gone before us and failed.  David, too, a man after God’s own heart, murdered and committed adultery, yet later he would cry out to God in Psalm 51, for God to “restore unto me the joy of my salvation and renew a right spirit within me”.  It is easy to get lost in the vacuum or in severe trials and forget our mission and purpose in Christ.  But those mistakes, those blemishes we wish could be removed from our record are actually a means of grace to humble us and can make us more useful for the kingdom of God.  Thank God for second chances and His grace.

Maybe you have not yet endured a severe time of testing.  If not, count yourself blessed, but be ready.  Times of dryness, of not hearing from God can be around the next corner – will you cave in to comfort around you, or wait as long as it takes until you encounter the living God?  We might not have a warning sign cautioning us that the potential to slip is ahead, but we do have the Holy Spirit guiding us, if we listen.

Lord, I want to be near to You always.  I never want to drift away and walk in a manner that displeases you.  Please grant us grace to be aware of spiritual dangers that lie ahead and to walk humbly before you.  Help us to remember all You have done and to not forget when the heat is turned up or You seem far away.