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In Search of Truth

In Search of Truth The need for truth in the 21st century is critical.  So much so that, businesses have been created to  “fact check”  and validate the statements of both institutions and individuals.

Truth is often “relaxed” in order to makes people feel good.  We are more concerned with being inclusive and tolerant of what people believe rather than acknowledge the reality at hand.  Unfortunately,  “a lie believed can still be a lie.”

Therefore, we are compelled to continue our search for truth–a validation of the reality we must eventually face.  (Acceptance is another matter.)

Last week we questioned our ability to handle the truth in 2021.  We now expand that discussion to determine where truth can be found.

Why is Truth Important? [1]

Simply because life has consequences for being wrong. Giving the wrong amount of a medication can kill them; having an investment manager make the wrong monetary decisions can impoverish a family; boarding the wrong plane will take you where you do wish to go; and dealing with an unfaithful marriage partner can result in the destruction of a family potentially, disease.

As Christian apologist Ravi Zacharias puts it, “The fact is, the truth matters—especially when you’re on the receiving end of a lie.” And nowhere is this more important than in the area of faith and religion. Eternity is an awfully long time to be wrong.

A Warning on Truth

The  Apostle Paul warned the young minister Timothy of the dangers that awaited him as new converts would “turn away their ears from the truth, and be turned unto fables” (2 Timothy 4:4).

Unfortunately today, truth is being re-packaged in many forms. It is being shrouded in speculation and creative editorializing, rather than substantive truth; shouting matches for the minds of men.

Because of this trend, it is important that we have a real-time,  reliable, and trustworthy source to help us ferret out truth in the world.  God has provided that source—the Holy Spirit, the Spirit of Truth.

Truth and Reality

Earlier we defined truth as that which agrees with reality. For the believer today, our reality has been defined by what God has placed in His written Word.  For the disciples in our text, however, there was no written Word as they faced a hostile world without Jesus (John 15:18-20).

It was Jesus’ presence that gave them the courage to challenge the error of the political and social systems; to reject the spiritual tyranny of the religious leaders.

Absent Jesus, the disciples would need God’s truth as they turned their focus to witnessing (Acts 1:8), baptizing, and teaching (Matt. 28:19-20).

The Truth Giver

Jesus promised to send the Spirit of Truth that would abide with His disciples forever (John 14:16-17).  It was the Holy Spirit Who would now come to live within them.

We generally think of the Holy Spirit in terms of gifting or empowering believers to accomplish the purposes and ministries of Christ.  However, the attribute Jesus chose to highlight with His disciples in John’s text focused on “truth”.

It would be the Spirit of Truth that would assist the disciples as they were persecuted for their belief in Jesus Christ.  They would be tempted to denounce and deny Him Whom “the world could not receive, because it neither saw Him nor knew Him” (v. 17).  They would need the Spirit of Truth to call “to remembrance” the life and ministry of Jesus Christ—especially His work of salvation for sinners (John 14:26).

Spirit of Truth versus Spirit of Error

Like the disciples of the first century, we have the assistance of the Spirit of Truth to assist us in exposing the spirit of error.

The spirit of error is seen in the immoral practices and life styles of the world.  It can also lead to social injustice and human inequities as truth is replaced with “what works for right now.”

The spirit of error ultimately leads to deception and disobedience to the purposes of God (Ep. 2:2).  It tempts us to doubt God’s truth and draws us away from the leading of the Holy Spirit (2 Thess. 2:15).

The Spirit of Truth stands ready to silence the lies, the myths and the fables of the 21st century.  Our confidence lies in the promise, power, and presence of the Spirit of Truth.  He is our True Guide as we search for truth.

 

[1] Gotquestions.net/what is truth?

 

Can we handle the truth in 2021?

Can we handle the truth in 2021?

What is truth?  What does it look like amid a health pandemic, economic uncertainty, and civil strife?  Does truth look different when placed in the context of the current worldview?  And how does it stack up against the biblical view we, as believers of Christ are to follow?

When Jesus was brought to Pilate for judgment, the curious ruler asked Jesus, “So you are a king?”

Jesus answered, “You say that I am a king. For this I was born, and for this I came into the world, to testify to the truth. Everyone who belongs to the truth listens to my voice.”  Pilate asked him, “What is truth?” After he had said this, he went out to the Jews again and told them, “I find no case against him.  (John 18:37-38)

The truth question in 2021

Pilate’s response to the question of truth is often repeated today.  With the introduction of relativism, we too may be asking the same question.  We demand fewer rules and more personal freedom.  The answer to the truth question is dependent on who or what has the greatest influence on our life—man or God.

The prophets warned that a time would come when the matter of truth would cause great division among men.   Lack of truth ultimately leads to deception, pride, and injustice (Is. 5:20-23).  So here we stand, in 2021, a divided nation, fighting over, “what is truth?”

With that thought in mind, I’d like to recast an earlier WordBytes entitled, “Can you handle the truth?”  I have changed the title to better fit the social context in which we now find ourselves.  While there are many proposed definitions of the truth there can only be one.  Time to answer the question, “Can we handle the truth in 2021?”

Can we handle the truth?

Especially when that truth is measured against the authority of Scripture and the lordship of Jesus Christ?   We face a major challenge to walk in biblical truth while living in a postmodern world.  Especially as we enter this second decade of the 21st century.

With all the political rhetoric and social bantering, we need truth.  Behind the news bytes and sound bits, there is an intention movement to redefine “what truth is and what it isn’t”.

But can we really handle truth?   What will we do when we receive it?  Will we bury it?  Ignore it? Or kill the person who brings it?  That’s exactly what the Jews did to Jesus.

This inclination to “repackage” the truth is nothing new.  It comes directly from the father of lies, Satan (John 8:44).   We must be careful how we define truth, or we too may fall prey to the subtly of deception.  “Did God really say you must not eat any of the fruit in the garden?” (Gen. 3:1, NLT)

Does truth have a limited “shelf life”?

In decades past, people could depend on the media to communicate the “truth” regarding specific issues of the day.  Newspapers, magazine publications and newscasters were committed to operate at the highest ethical standards.

In addition, we could depend upon our local leaders—civic or religious—to offer us truth. But over time that has changed.

Unfortunately, both media and individuals now offer opinions based on their personal agendas or corporate bias.  Truth is now shaped by social media and image consultants—by the number of “likes”, “retweets” and “followers” one can amass.  This leaves us “in search for truth”.

Truth and Realty

What is truth?  Truth is defined by Webster as that which agrees with reality.  Our reality and meaning are grounded in God.  That reality began in the Garden of Eden.  Created in God’s image, our purpose and destiny are tied to our identity in Him through Christ (Col. 3:3).

This reality was sidetracked by sin and replaced with Satan’s counterfeit that placed self on the throne where only Christ was to be seated and exalted.  Because of Jesus’ atoning work on the Cross, our sins were forgiven, and we are now reconciled back to God (2 Cor. 5:18, 19).

When we affirm our faith, we acknowledge that we have died to our old sin nature (Gal. 5:24) and walk in newness of life (Rom. 6:4).  We no longer follow the worldview—its influence was negated by the Blood.  Our meaning and reality is now realigned with God (2 Cor. 5:15).   “For in Him we live and move and have our being” (Acts 17:28a).

Connecting with Truth

More than ever before, we must connect with the only True Source of Truth, Jesus Christ, our Lord and Savior (John 14:6).  God’s Word and the Spirit of Truth stand ready to silence the lies, myths and fables we might hear (2 Tim. 4:3-4).  It is God’s truth that will guide our behaviors and our responses in this fallen world.

God is the only source of truth for our lives.  Can we handle the truth? Do we dare to speak truth when the world doesn’t want to hear?  In 2021, let us through the Holy Spirit have the courage and commitment to be Truth followers!

 

A Message for Fearful Times

A Message for Fearful Times

Historical trauma

Last week we witnessed in our Capitol something that has left us breathless.  We’ve seen many horrible events in the tapestry of our nation’s history during the past century—wars, assassinations, and terrorist attacks.  January 6th, 2021 can now be added to that infamous list.

There is no need to add to the rhetoric that now fill the airwaves of the world and every corner of cyberspace.  The reality that our nation’s democracy is under siege is evident.  The trauma and fear associated with that day linger on after experiencing the event “real time” on our screens.  I daily ask Jesus to remove those terrifying images from my brain.

But I come today with a message of encouragement and hope from the God who sees and Who is in complete control of what appears to be “out of control.”

Keep Your Eye of God

It is important during these troubling times to keep our eyes on the Lord.  As believers, we are aware that in this world we will have tribulation and trials (John 16:33).  But we are also reminded to take heart because Jesus has overcome the world.  One writer reminded me, “it is the tension between ‘overcome’ and ‘taking heart’ that cause us problems.”

Our trust in the Lord is not the result of positive thinking or some new age approach to stress management.   Brian Morykno with Renovaré encourages believers during fearful times to follow King David’s example of magnification.

Imagine David, with the war cry of enemies rising all around, settled of soul and unafraid.  How was that possible?  It’s not that David was out of touch with reality; he was in touch with it.  David understood magnification.  He knew that what we dwell upon becomes large in our spiritual field of vision.  And David dwelled upon God (Ps. 95:3-5).     

Our reality is this.  God is sovereign and is moving forward with His plan of salvation God is not the cause of riots and rebellions like we experienced last week.  Such events come from “heart issue” of sinful men (James 3:16-18) and the work of Satan (Eph. 6:12; John 10:10).

For where there is envy and selfish ambition, there will also be disorder and wickedness of every kind.   But the wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, willing to yield, full of mercy and good fruits, without a trace of partiality or hypocrisy.  And a harvest of righteousness is sown in peace for those who make peace.

A Plan for These Times

To help us move through these times, I offer this, three (3) prong approach to help us navigate through these difficult times.

Prayer.  This should be our first response to the troubles we face.  We are told to pray without ceasing (1 Thess. 5:17).  The reason for this mandate is because our prayers connect us directly to God—the Power Source who can resolve our dilemma.  The “only wise God” (Rom. 16:27) is there to guide and direct our steps, comfort our heart, and ease our stress (Phil. 4:6-7).

Rejoice in hope, be patient in suffering, persevere in prayer.  (Romans 12:12)  

Practice the Presence of God   We are never alone regardless of the situation we face.  He alone can make good on His promise that He will “never leave nor forsake us” (Gen. 28:15).  He is ever-present.  Regardless of external appearances, God is with us even amid our trouble.

Where can I go from your spirit? Or where can I flee from your presence? 

If I ascend to heaven, you are there; if I make my bed in Sheol, you are there. (Ps. 139:7-8)

Praise.  Yes, I said praise.  Why?  Because it is the quickest way to experience the presence of God (Ps. 22:3).    Ruth Meyer, author of the book, 31 Days of Praise, offers this insight on the power of praise.

As you praise and pray, you make your circumstances and your life a test tube that demonstrates the existence of a personal God, a God who is present and involved and who controls the natural Universe. It turns your attention to spiritual and eternal values versus the pleasures and success mentality of our age, which resists all pain and discomfort and delay.

A Message for Fearful Times

As we continue our walk of faith, we will be faced with trials.  Although these may be difficult, we have the blessed assurance that we are not in these things alone.  Neither are we powerless.

Political and social upheaval will continue as long as man leans on his own understanding (Prov. 3:5-7).  I don’t know how these tumultuous times will end but I do know that God has the final word (Ps. 119:89-91).  God is and will continue to be the Creator and Sustainer of all things (Col. 1:16).

What I Learned in 2020

To depict the many challenges we faced in 2020What’s Different

In the past, my annual reflections on “what I learned” were typical for believers in Christ.  They were my experiences and observations as I progressed on my spiritual journey.  They included such things as how I experienced God’s goodness and what I would work harder on in the new year.  I always finished the year hoping I had deepened my relationship with Him.

So what’s different this year?  Everything is different!  Why?  Because 2020 was very different.  As my pastor said a few weeks ago, “There is no such thing as a ‘new normal’.  There is no normal.  Everything is dynamic.”  Life as we knew it has changed.  We now live in a constant state of change.

What I learned in 2020 requires that I go deeper than I normally would in order to fully express the range of emotions and responses to everything that has been happening around us. It’s been said “life will make you bitter or better”.  With 2020, the jury is still out.

2020 Responses:  We Long for Many Things

Most responses to 2020 have ranged from anger (dumpster burnings of 2020 in effigy) to appreciation for the opportunities presented as a result of the pandemic Stay at Home directives.

The variance in these responses may stem from our ability to accept, absorb, or assimilate the changes that are taking place.

Some people respond by retaliating for what they see as a loss of control or threat to their personal freedom.  Remember the initial responses to the pandemic?  The battle over wearing masks?  We are no longer able to “do what we want to do” without considering the impact of our choices on others.

We now more fully understand “our connectedness” and dependence on each other.  We will need each other to successfully navigate the world as it is in “a state of becoming”.  There is a saying that, “You can’t be a winner in a losing organization.”  That statement is never more true than right now.

A Year of Grieving

2020 has also given us much to grieve over.  The loss of life due to the pandemic is unbelievable.  I pray that we never become comfortable with the rising number of deaths within our nation and the world.  So complacent that we forget that each “number” represents a person, a family, a life no longer present with us.

Let us also continue to pray and support those who serve during these horrific times.  The medical professionals, public employees, and service providers who daily risk their lives for us.

A Year without Relationship

I think we grieve the most over our “disrupted relationships”.  We desperately miss being with our families and friends.   No hugs.  No kisses.  We’re left with Zoom calls, online worship, and elbow bumps, if we’re lucky.

This longing to be with others is evidenced by our nation’s inability to deal effectively with the coronavirus.  We desire to be with one another so much that we are willing to literally die for it (or cause someone else to die).

While we desire to be with family and friends, our relationship with others has suffered in 2020.  We have separated ourselves into tribes based on our political views and class distinctions.  We have set aside the basics we learned in kindergarten–play nice and share.  We are at war with each other!  But why?  Over what?  There will be no winners in the end—-only pain, anger, and resentment.

This is unfortunate especially since we so desperately need each other during these tumultuous times.  It is now that we need “to put on bowels of mercy, kindness, humbleness of mind, meekness, longsuffering…and love” (Col. 3:12-14).

So what have I learned?

God is faithful (Deut. 7:9; Heb. 10:23)  and is able to see us through whatever problems we face.  Actually that isn’t something new I’ve learned.  However, 2020 revealed God’s faithfulness in a new context.

That context included a deadly pandemic, social injustice, economic upheaval, and civil unrest.  2020 was like a dystopia movie.  A dystoria is an imagined place or state in which everything is bad, typically a totalitarian or environmentally degraded one.

But God was everything He said He would be.  He was my provider (Phil. 4:19).  He was my  protector (Ps. 46:1-3).  Jesus was my peace–something we still need in 2021.  God’s presence was my comfort and assurance through all the madness of 2020.

You and I are living proof of God’s faithfulness in that we now stand on the other side of 2020.  And how did we get here?  How did we get to the other side?  God brought us through (Is. 43:2).

God’s Plan of Salvation 

There is so much I have learned (and continue to learn from 2020).  But the most important thing I’ve learned is to see life through the reality of God and His plan of salvation.  

God is purposefully executing His plan of salvation for mankind.   Eternal God is sovereignly exercising His purpose in the midst of our history.  Regardless of today’s  current events or who is currently in leadership, they must all defer to the rule and reign of God (Daniel 2:21).

God’s plan for mankind didn’t end with the arrival of Jesus Christ.  God is still manifesting His plan and we are part of that plan right now.  It is our privilege to join God as He manifests His purpose in the world.

So what have you learned in 2020?  I can’t wait to hear from you.

After Christmas 2020

After Christmas 2020

For many of us, Christmas is our favorite time of the year.   We exchange cards that reflect our feelings about this very special  season.  Many cards speak of the love, joy, and peace of Christmas.  Others extend season’s greetings and happy holidays.

With Christmas comes the hope of “peace on earth and good will toward men.”  We need both after 2020.

However,  after the cards are sent, the tree comes down, and gift giving ceases, what will we do with Christmas? What happens to the spirit of Christmas?

The Spirit of Christmas

What exactly is  “this spirit” we talk about so much this time of year? It is a shift in our usual behavior that is extended to others, especially to people we may not know personally.

It is exhibited in more generosity and kindness than normally seen.  This includes but is not limited to the following.

    • Unmerited forgiveness and grace extended to irritable neighbors and estranged relationships
    • Abundant care and concern seen in special collections, gifts and other acts of human philanthropy
    • Indiscriminate displays of kindness and brotherly love for others

Unfortunately, many people confuse the spirit of Christmas with   commercialism we see in advertising  and media.  This spirit often leads to dissatisfaction, materialism, and greed.  The Apostle John described this as the “lusts of the eye” (1 John 2:16).

However, we who are in Christ have crucified the flesh with its affections and lusts (Gal 5:24).  As believers, we have exchanged the spirit of Christmas for the “Spirit of Christ” (Luke 4:18).

The True Source

It is also important that we understand the “True Source” of the spirit of Christmas—Jesus Christ.

For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten son that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but shall have everlasting life (John 3:16).

Christ came that our joy might be full (John 15:11).  He is our peace (Eph. 2:14).

After Christmas 2020

The COVID-19 experience has generated unbelievable acts of charity and kindness.  For these, we are grateful.  Extension of such graces will be critical as we move into 2021.

Financial uncertainty  and loss of jobs will increase hunger and homelessness in our communities.  Increases in COVID-19 deaths will require us to extend “comfort and mercies” to those in need ( 2 Cor. 1:3-4).

Organizations who are on the front line of this pandemic will need our special prayers AND financial support to provide assistance and relief.

The Spirit of Christ

The spirit of Christmas can only temporarily address the challenges we face in 2021.  We need a long-term, effectual solution.

As Christ’s ambassadors (2 Cor. 5:20) we can extend  “the Spirit of Christ”–His grace and love–throughout the year.    This includes sharing His good news  to those experiencing hopelessness and despair.

After Christmas 2020,  how can we extend the spirit of Christ?

The Discipline of Waiting: Advent 2020

The Discipline of Waiting

Waiting

This Advent season, we’ve been discussing the subject of waiting—its psychology, its challenges, and its frustrations.

How well we wait lies not only in what we are waiting for but also who we trust to provide our desired outcome.   That trust is based on the provider’s ability to deliver the outcome.

Our willingness to wait varies.  It may be based on generational differences, expectations, and/or the attraction of the desired outcome.  Regardless, we hate to wait.

Advent and Waiting

The first Advent was a time of waiting.  Israel waited with hope for the promised redeemer who would deliver them from the tyranny of the Roman Empire.  The Three Wise Men (Magi) waited for a sign (the star) that would lead them to the King of the Jews.

Those who studied the law and the prophets, such as Simeon and Anna, daily waited for the arrival of the Promised Savior.  “There was a man in Jerusalem, whose name was Simeon:  and the same man was just and devout, waiting for the consolation of Israel; and the Holy Spirit was upon Him.” (Luke 2:25).

Waiting is a spiritual discipline.  

Godly waiting is a spiritual discipline that every believer should cultivate.  As with any discipline, practice makes “progress” (perfection is not always the goal).  Advent is a time in which we should make every effort to expand our capacity to wait.  That increased capacity will strengthen us for the days ahead.

While waiting, we exercise our patience “muscles” and bolster our endurance until we receive what we are waiting for (Heb.10:36).  In our waiting, faith is activated and strengthened.  It is in the waiting that our hope becomes an expectation.  While waiting, our belief and trust become rooted and grounded in the Lord (Ps. 27:13-14).

What are you waiting for?  Provision, healing, or deliverance?  The believer who waits on the Lord will not be disappointed!  (Is. 40:31)

Learning to wait in 2020

2020 has taught us to wait.  What have you learned about waiting this year? We learn from our experiences to the extent we are willing to be shaped by them (Heb. 12:11).  This includes our experiences with waiting.

Waiting is an important discipline for believers to learn.  As I stated earlier, how well we wait is based on who we trust to provide our desired outcome.  We are more willing to wait when we trust the one who can and will deliver the outcome we need.

As believers our response to waiting is different because we know Who can deliver everything we may be waiting for.  It is the Creator and Sustainer of all things—seen and unseen; past, present, and future; Alpha and Omega.  It is Eternal God (Jer. 10:10, 12).

Also watch: “Courageous Waiting”, metrombc.org, 12/20/20

Rev. Wallace S. Hartsfield II, Metropolitan MBC

 The Gift in Waiting

We have been given great and precious promises (2 Pet. 1:4) as well as spiritual gifts (Eph. 1:3-17) that enable us to live victoriously.  These also enable us to wait patiently and hopefully on the Lord.

As we live in this period between Jesus’ first arrival (as Savior) and His second return (as Judge), let us remain faithful to that which God has given us to do (Titus 2:14).  Use this time of waiting to experience the fullness of God and to serve Him until His return.

May you and your family experience a joyous and blessed Christmas.

I Hate to Wait: Advent 2020

I Hate to Wait-Advent 2020What goes on in our mind while we are waiting?  Why are we so anxious?  Why is waiting so difficult?   What is waiting really about?

Waiting is the action of staying where one is or delaying action until a particular time or until something happens.  It is the act of staying in one place or remaining inactive in expectation for something.

There are many views with regard to our “waiting tolerance.”  Some are unique to specific generational differences while others are common to all people regardless of age, socio-economic factors, or gender.

Much of our anxiety can be eased based on the quality of the item one is waiting for.  However, we still can feel a level of frustration that cannot be eliminated.

Psychology of Waiting

In a paper written by David Maister, The Psychology of Waiting Lines, he provides some insight into the psychology of waiting.  The main point is that the actual time spent waiting may have little to do with how long the wait feels.  What appears common is the whole issue of what to do with the time a person spends while waiting—the “unoccupied time”.

Unoccupied time is the window where the anxiety of waiting is the greatest.  It is the time we spend in the present until the desired outcome occurs. Give people something to occupy their time, and the wait will feel shorter.  How do you spend the unoccupied time while waiting?

“And now, Lord, for what do I wait? My hope is in thee.”

On a spiritual level, when one is waiting for healing, a word from the Lord, or emotional/financial release, the psychology of waiting takes on a distinctive difference.   Our normal perspective on waiting changes in lights of who we’re waiting for (God) and our level of confidence in the final outcome (also God’s).

In today’s text (Ps. 39:7), David is crying out to God in a time of trouble.  His initial frustration in waiting is later transformed into “hope” by declaring his trust in God, who has always shown Himself faithful to his people and His Covenant.   David knows God will continue to do so, even when God’s specific plan for the future might not be fully understood.  Comfort in waiting is based on an overwhelming confidence or hope in God personally.

Hope in the Waiting

While researching the topic of waiting ,  I was re-directed to the word “hope”.  Hope is one of the four principles we explore during Advent season in which we commemorate mankind’s waiting for Emmanuel, the promised Messiah.  Hope focuses attention on both “what awaits us” (Lam. 3:26; Ps. 37:34) and “the object of our wait” (Ps. 130:5-6).

In both the Old and New Testament the connection to hope and waiting is built on both a personal relationship and reliance on God.

Waiting in the secular world often causes frustration and anxiety.  However, when we are anchored to God, waiting is filled with patience, encouragement, and enthusiasm (Acts 1:4).

Those who wait on God have the assurance that their waiting is for a specific purpose, which God is orchestrating.
Why do I hate to wait?

There are many reasons we have a problem with waiting.  Do any of these characteristics impact your waiting on God?

  • Impatience. We want what we want now.  Impatience is the inability to control one’s desire for action (Numbers 20:10-12).
  • Pride. We operate with an inflated opinion of what’s the best answer or solution to our problem or situation.  Pride is the conceited sense of one’s superiority (Hosea 7:8-10)
  • Independence.  “I am the master of my fate: I am the captain of my soul.”  Independence is the need to control one’s affairs apart from outside influences (Luke 15:12-16), even God.
  • Stubbornness. Who can talk a fool out of his folly? Stubbornness entails the trait of being difficult to handle or overcome (Proverbs 26:3-5)
Experiencing God in the Wait

As believers, we are not exempt from suffering and experiencing tragedy, yet we can face the future expectantly, waiting for the movement of God in our life.

We may have to wait a while for the full experience of the good that God intends for is, but be assured, God is fully committed to everyone who makes a faith commitment to him.

“Therefore the LORD waits to be gracious to you; therefore he exalts himself to show mercy to you.  For the LORD is a God of justice; blessed are all those who wait for him”.  Isaiah 30:18 

God, Time, and Waiting: Advent 2020

God, Time, and Waiting Scripture teaches us that, “a thousand years in God’s sight are but as yesterday” (Ps.90:4, RSV).  Therefore, in waiting for God, we may as well throw our watches away.  It is both frustrating and silly, to try to hold the Creator of the universe to our schedules and timelines. If we want to move “with” God in our life, we must learn to wait.

Man’s Time

What is the socially acceptable time to wait?  In college, if the  professor was delayed, we were instructed to wait for fifteen minutes before leaving.  In most restaurants, you most likely can expect to wait before being seated.  The time wait is generally dependent on time of day, the popularity of the restaurant and the quality of the food. Regardless of “acceptability”, we still, at one time or another, are required to wait.

One of the biggest frustrations for individuals living in the 21st century is waiting.  Americans spend roughly 37 billion hours each year waiting in line. The dominant cost of waiting is an emotional one: stress, boredom, that nagging sensation that one’s life is slipping away.

Generations wait differently

Our willingness to wait varies.  This “waiting tolerance” may be based on generational differences, expectations, and the attraction of the desired outcome.

Baby Boomers, who tend to be more intentional in planning, are fairly comfortable with waiting based on the value of the outcome—waiting is tied to worth.  This is seen in their loyalty to career/employers and investment in relationship building.

For Generation X and Y, waiting is generally acceptable when it is connected to the availability of the desired item, vis-à-vis waiting for the latest IPhone or designer tennis shoe.

For Generation Z, born into a world that screams “instant gratification”, waiting is viewed as a negative—denoting that something is “broken” or “wrong” therefore interfering with receipt of their desired outcome.

All generations hate to wait—the difference lies in “what” or “who” is causing the delay—that even includes God.

Spiritual waiting:  Timeless

What is the “spiritually” acceptable time to wait? Are the rules different?

If we are waiting for God—His intervention or direction—let me answer the second question first.  Yes, the “rules” are different because God is spirit—everlasting, eternal and immortal (John 4:24).

God exists not in the confines of human time but in eternity where there is no time (Is. 57:15).  Time simply put is duration.  Our earthly time pieces mark change in duration that indicate the passage of time.  Eternity, in contrast, expresses the concept of something that has no end and/or no beginning.  God has no beginning or end. He is outside the realm of time (2 Pet. 3:8).

Moses’ simple yet profound analogy (Ps. 90:4) helps us better understand the timelessness of God.  “For a thousand years in Your sight are like a day that has just gone by, or like a watch in the night.” A second is no different from an eon; a billion years pass like seconds to the eternal God.

Waiting for God

In answer to the second question,“What is the “spiritually” acceptable time to wait?”  My answer is simple—as long as God tells you to wait.  The thing about waiting for God is that there is no set or agreed upon time when an answer might be forthcoming.  You can move ahead of God, but you risk missing or delaying the desired purpose God has for your life (Eph. 2:10).

Waiting for God is where our faith comes into play.  We must believe and trust that God loves us and will always do what is best for us.  What we see as a delay is really God’s “best timing” for our life.

What makes the waiting for God “acceptable” (I struggle for a better word) is that God is always worth the wait (Lam. 3:26).  This Advent pray for more patience and knowledge on how to wait for God.

Waiting: Advent 2020

Advent waiting Advent has begun.  For the secular world, this season will be spent  waiting for Christmas.  And how will the world wait for its arrival?  By catching all the sales, looking for the best deals, and insuring their credit limit will survive the endless gift lists for friends and family.  However, this year’s waiting will look and feel different.  

The coronavirus with its financial impacts will make Christmas look a little less “glitzy” and a lot more basic.   Add to that the public health mandates, opportunities to share Christmas cheer will be less frequent if not at all.

Advent 2020

For believers Advent marks a different kind of waiting.  While it is a time of celebrating Christ’s first arrival, it is also a time “to reset Jesus Christ as the center of our lives and at the center of our church.”

In the Renovare podcast, “Waiting in the Darkness:  Why we Need Advent this Year,  this time is also described as “making room” in our lives for Jesus.

Waiting for Christ

Advent is a time when we not only wait to celebrate and commemorate the birth of Jesus Christ but we also joyfully anticipate Christ’s “imminent” return for His Church (2 Tim. 4:8).

Imminent comes from the Latin word meaning “to overhang”.  To say that something is imminent is to say that it is hanging over you and about to fall, in a metaphorical way.  Christ will return but we don’t know when.  So we wait for his return.

Remember what the angels told the disciples at the ascension of Christ:

You Galileans!—why do you just stand here looking up at an empty sky?  This very Jesus who was taken up from among you to heaven will come as certainly—and mysteriously—as he left.  (Acts 1:11, The Message)

In the Gospels, Jesus spoke with certainty about His Second Coming or the Second Advent (Matt. 16:27; 24:44; John 14:1-3; Luke 21:34-36).

How are we to wait?

In James 5:7,  the brother of Jesus gives us our first hint as to how we are to wait.

Behold, the farmer waits for the precious fruit of the earth, being patient over it until it receives the early and the late rain.  (NRS)

We are to wait with patience.  James uses the illustration of the farmer and his need to wait on that which he has no control and yet is  critical for his future provision—rain.

It is the same with believers as we await Christ’s return.  We don’t know when it will happen, but we know we desperately need Him both now and through eternity.

While you wait read:   2020 ADVENT DEVOTIONAL READINGS 

Learning to wait

And so we wait.  We wait for the hope of One whose return is imminent yet unknown specifically when.  We hope in the midst of what appears hopeless, because God alone can resolve what ails the world.  So we patiently wait for his return (Prov. 20:22). 

I contend that waiting—godly waiting–is a spiritual discipline that every believer should cultivate and embrace versus accept with great resignation.   Advent season is the perfect time to practice what will result in a priceless gift from God.  The joy of waiting.

Holiday Season 2020

Holiday season reflects God's purpose

Symbols of the holiday season are everywhere.  We are ready for that golden-brown turkey, giblet dressing and cranberry sauce.  Christmas decorations appear at the mall, at our favorite grocery store, and in our neighborhoods.

Most importantly, the holidays are about enjoying relationships.  Friends and family gather to share stories and to “love on each other.”  Everyone is invited to come and enjoy time together.  However, this year relationships will feel different.  Holiday season 2020, specifically, will be very different in the midst of the pandemic.

This season will be different

As the number of people infected with the virus increase, our nation struggles to find ways to “fatten the curve”.  How do you do that during the holidays?  We are warned to wear our masks, practice social isolation—”stay at home” and exercise social distancing—”stay apart”.

The holiday season is most often depicted by images of merriment and joy.  However, this year those images have been replaced with news broadcasts showing long lines to food pantries and food giveaways.  The financial impact of the pandemic has become the face of poverty.  Joblessness, hunger, and homelessness are new experiences for many who have previously lived comfortably.  To our shame, it is far too familiar for others.

My favorite representation of Thanksgiving is the plenteous cornucopia, bursting forth with ripened fruit from its wide and ample opening.  It is this image that has caused me to evaluate my own personal fruitfulness.  Especially during this “season of COVID-19”.   If I am “rooted and built up in Him” (Col. 2:7), am I bringing forth fruit pleasing to Him?  Am I fruitful?

A season for reflection

Fruit is the product of fruitfulness.  It is used metaphorically of work or deeds (Eph. 2:10; Phil. 1:11; 2 Pet. 1:8).  While works are evidence of Christian activity, it does not always tell the whole story.  Jesus’ teachings often encouraged listeners to look beyond what they could see with their physical eyes and to examine the motives and intentions behind the deeds (Matthew 7:16-20).

You will know them by their fruits. Do men gather grapes from thorn bushes or figs from thistles?  Even so, every good tree bears good fruit, but a bad tree bears bad fruit.  A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, nor can a bad tree bear good fruit.  Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire.  Therefore, by their fruits you will know them.

Fruitfulness is not “busyness for the Lord” but “transformed living” resulting in the mind of Christ (Phil. 2:5).  Fruitfulness reflects the heart and mind of our beloved Lord and Savior, in whose image we are to be daily conformed (2 Cor. 3:18).

A season for fruitfulness

God has placed us in this historic moment to reflect the heart and mind of Christ.  We were created for such a time as this (Esther 4:14).   It is our responsibility to align ourselves with God’s purpose and perform that which He has given us to do.

    • Am I doing all I can to share the grace and love of Jesus with those in need?
    • How can I demonstrate Jesus’ compassion during this season of COVID?
    • How can I personally help others who are “weary and hopeless”?

We can be Jesus’ eyes that see the needs of others.  We can be Jesus’ hands that move beyond sympathy to action.  As Jesus’ disciples, let us no longer live for ourselves but live for Him who saved us (2 Cor. 5:15).   God has “seeded” us into history to be fruitful.  It is here we are to take root, grow, and be fruitful.

Discovering our fruitfulness

This holiday season will look and feel very different in the midst of the pandemic.  Let us do our part to make it the beginning of something better.  Something that lasts beyond the holiday season.  Let it be the beginning of REAL LOVE for God and for others, even our enemies.  Amid the pandemic, let us create a world that honors God, that celebrates Jesus, and that brings real “comfort and joy”.