May 24

“Sarah bare Abraham a son in his old age, at the set time of which God had spoken to him.” Genesis 21:2

If God had told Abraham in Haran that he must wait for thirty years until he pressed the promised child to his bosom, his heart would have failed him. So, in gracious love, the length of the weary years was hidden, and only as they were nearly spent, and there were only a few more months to wait, God told him that “according to the time of life, Sarah shall have a son.” (Gen. 18:14). The set time came at last; and then the laughter that filled the patriarch’s home made the aged pair forget the long and weary vigil.

Take heart, waiting one, thou waitest for One who cannot disappoint thee; and who will not be five minutes behind the appointed moment: ere long “your sorrow shall be turned into joy.”

Ah, happy soul, when God makes thee laugh! Then sorrow and crying shall flee away forever, as darkness before the dawn. (Streams in the Desert)

“There are not three stages in spiritual life-worship, waiting, and work. Some of us go in jumps like spiritual frogs. We jump from worship to waiting to work. God’s idea is that the three should go together. They were always together in the life of our Lord.” (Oswald Chambers)

My work has required an unusual stretch of days and nights away from home that my wife and I endure, but do not particularly enjoy. The task at hand is meaningful, but the separation difficult. During these periods apart, I occupy myself with thoughts of my wife, bragging to others about her, writing and speaking to her, and generally loving and appreciating her on an increasingly deeper level. I catch myself saying that I cannot wait to see her, when what I mean to say is that she is worth waiting for. Absence makes the heart grow fonder if we invest our waiting rather than merely marking time.

Waiting anticipates an answer. Hanging fire is worship if in doing so we celebrate Sovereign God. Fatalism teaches we are puppets dangling from the hands of impersonal fate; sovereignty establishes us as children and servants of an all-powerful God who acts according to His nature of perfect love. We are free to stand by in faith knowing that God’s vested interest is what is best for us. Hope permeates the silence, and confidence grows in anticipation of His answer.

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May 23

“At their wit’s end, they cry unto the Lord in their trouble, and he bringeth them out.” Psalm 107:27, 28

Are you standing at “Wit’s End Corner,”

Christian, with troubled brow?
Are you thinking of what is before you,
And all you are bearing now?
Does all the world seem against you,
And you in the battle alone?
Remember—at “Wit’s End Corner”
Is just where God’s power is shown.

Are you standing at “Wit’s End Corner,”
Blinded with wearying pain,
Feeling you cannot endure it,
You cannot bear the strain,
Bruised through the constant suffering,
Dizzy, and dazed, and numb?
Remember–at “Wit’s End Corner”
Is where Jesus loves to come.

Are you standing at “Wit’s End Corner”?
Your work before you spread,
All lying begun, unfinished,
And pressing on heart and head,
Longing for strength to do it,
Stretching out trembling hands?
Remember—at “Wit’s End Corner”
The Burden-bearer stands.

Are you standing at “Wit’s End Corner”?
Then you’re just in the very spot
To learn the wondrous resources
Of Him who faileth not:
No doubt to a brighter pathway
Your footsteps will soon be moved,
But only at “Wit’s End Corner”

Is the “God who is able” proved.

__Antoinette Wilson (Streams in the Desert)

I began the journey of preparing daily devotions this year based on Streams in the Desert because it was my mother’s favorite devotional, and in obedience to what I am convinced was a divine nudge that direction. Although Mom read from Streams every morning religiously, she hand wrote relatively few comments in the margins, and underlined even fewer passages. As a result, her repeated comments and references to “Wit’s End Corner” stand out as exceptional. They could refer to any number of challenges were it not for the date written in the flyleaf of her worn copy that holds an honored place in my home. Mom printed “Wit’s End Corner” next to the year that my father was diagnosed with cancer and took a rapid downward turn that took his hair and then his life. My parents loved each other dearly and were enjoying retirement years following Dad’s thirty plus years as a boilermaker at Gulf Oil Refinery (Chevron). They had purchased a motor home and enjoyed RVing around the country with friends. Cancer was not part of the plan.

It is at “Wit’s End Corner” that we come to the end of ourselves and encounter the One true and Living God. Until then, we see the God we want him to be, not for who He is. We are constantly tempted to recreate God according to our own image, making surrender mandatory to overcome the undertow of special interest. Lay down the awful burden of manipulating your own will; lift the cross of an abandoned life and find freedom to honor Christ.

May 22

“He worketh.” Psalm 37:5

The translation that we find in Young of “Commit thy way unto the Lord; trust also in him; and he shall bring it to pass,” reads: “Roll upon Jehovah thy way; trust upon him: and he worketh.” It calls our attention to the immediate action of God when we truly commit, or roll out of our hands into His, the burden of whatever kind it may be; a way of sorrow, of difficulty, of physical need, or of anxiety for the conversion of some dear one.

“He worketh.” When? Now. We are so in danger of postponing our expectation of His acceptance of the trust, and His undertaking to accomplish what we ask Him to do, instead of saying as we commit, “He worketh.” “He worketh” even now; and praise Him that it is so.

But someone may say, “I see no results.” Never mind. “He worketh,” if you have rolled it over and are looking to Jesus to do it. Faith may be tested, but “He worketh”; the Word is sure! (Streams in the Desert)

I did the logical thing and searched online for a florist located where I needed flowers to be sent. The wife of a friend had passed away following an extended battle with cancer, but my work required me to be literally on the other side of the country on the day of her memorial service, so I wanted a tangible expression of my concern. I called the number listed, fully expecting an impersonal business conversation about a very personal matter. To make matters worse, the connection was static-filled, making my difficult task even more so. I did my best to explain my purpose and need, and despite the static on the phone I detected the woman crying on the other end of the line. Providentially, the florist was a member of my friend’s church, and knew my friend’s family well. She took my request to heart, and when I thanked her for her compassion she explained that she sees her business as her ministry. God was at work.

God is never idle. Invoking the Almighty’s Presence is a misnomer; He is working before I arrive on the scene, and will continue long after I depart. We cannot convince God to join what we are doing despite praying until we’re blue in the face. We can, however, request ability to recognize where and how God is working so that we may join Him in the effort.

May 21

“Blessed is he that waiteth.” Daniel 12:12

It may seem an easy thing to wait, but it is one of the postures which a Christian soldier learns not without years of teaching. Marching and quick-marching are much easier to God’s warriors than standing still. There are hours of perplexity when the most willing spirit, anxiously desirous to serve the Lord, knows not what part to take. Then what shall it do? Vex itself by despair? Fly back in cowardice, turn to the right hand in fear, or rush forward in presumption?

No, but simply wait. Wait in prayer, however. Call upon God and spread the case before Him; tell Him your difficulty, and plead His promise of aid. Wait in faith. Express your unstaggering confidence in Him. Believe that if He keep you tarrying even till midnight, yet He will come at the right time; the vision shall come, and shall not tarry. (Streams in the Desert)

Waiting is hard, especially when you don’t understand what in heaven’s name is happening in your universe at any given moment. I stumbled upon a new way of expressing this foreign feeling: “As out of place as a kingfisher on the Interstate.” On leaving New Orleans International Airport and rounding up and onto Interstate 10 East toward the New Orleans business district, I spied a kingfisher sitting on a grey metal guardrail overlooking the highway below. I did a double take, and had I been able to do so without endangering myself, I would have snapped a photo of the unusual sighting with my cell phone. Questions jostled for consideration: Where were the fish? How far away was the water? Was he lost? Had she been confused by traffic, causing it to need to regroup and regain her wits about herself?

I sense a certain kinship with the ill-fitted urban kingfisher. I find myself feeling frequently out-of-place in the land of my birth. Not like when trying to pay my phone bill in Meru, Kenya, or meandering through a Hindu temple in Ahmedabad, India, where unfamiliar customs and language left me more than uneasy and wondering what a peaceable man like me was doing midst a scene of seeming chaos and conflict; but out-of-sync with the currents swirling about in this postmodern world.

Ironically, life down here is supposed to feel this way. The Bible terms us “pilgrims passing through,” transients in a culture gone mad. Believers are earthly vagabonds, cultural hobos. The moment we feel fully at home in this world is the instant we have forsaken our sacred destiny; a divinely orchestrated tension is intended. Christians are called to extend grace that beckons to the One beyond, without holding hands with that which disgraces the name and character of Christ. If you find yourself increasingly restless as you encounter a world you no longer understand, take heart. This is precisely as God intends. Do not wring your hands as one powerless to change the situation, or hang your head in despair. Advance with a sense of destiny. The more at odds you feel with this present age, the more suited you are for the age to come. (Excerpt from Ordinary Glory: Finding Grace in the Commonplace by Dane Fowlkes)

May 20

“Thou, who hast showed us many and sore troubles, wilt quicken us again” Psalm 71:20

God shows us the troubles. Sometimes, as this part of our education is being carried forward, we have to descend into “the lower parts of the earth,” pass through subterranean passages, lie buried amongst the dead, but never for a moment is the cord of fellowship and union between God and us strained to breaking; and from the depths God will bring us again.

Never doubt God! Never say that He has forsaken or forgotten. Never think that He is unsympathetic. He will quicken again. There is always a smooth piece in every skein, however tangled. The longest day at last rings out the evensong. The winter snow lies long, but it goes at last. (Streams in the Desert)

Great joy resides in relationship; joy on the highest plane bursts forth from rightly relating to the Lord Jesus Christ. A true disciple never pushes to the periphery what deserves priority. Communion cannot be incidental, else it never measures up. We need not seek three wounds to identify with Christ as did Julian of Norwich, but we must turn to Him rather than away when pain and sorrow descend like unwelcome fog that muddles our way. The dark night of the soul strips away all competing desire, leaving us naked before the cross. It is there, in earthly disillusionment, that we find our way again.

“Our Lord points out the utter unreasonableness from His standpoint of being so anxious over the means of living. Jesus is not saying that the man who takes thought for nothing is blessed — that man is a fool. Jesus taught that a disciple has to make his relationship to God the dominating concentration of his life, and to be carefully careless about every thing else in comparison to that. Jesus is saying — Don’t make the ruling factor of your life what you shall eat and what you shall drink, but be concentrated absolutely on God. Some people are careless over what they eat and drink, and they suffer for it; they are careless about what they wear, and they look as they have no business to look; they are careless about their earthly affairs, and God holds them responsible. Jesus is saying that the great care of the life is to put the relationship to God first, and everything else second.” (Oswald Chambers)

May 19

“Blessed is he, whosoever shall not be offended in me.” Luke 7:23

It is sometimes very difficult not to be offended in Jesus Christ. The offenses may be circumstantial. I find myself in a prison-house—a narrow sphere, a sick chamber, an unpopular position—when I had hoped for wide opportunities. Yes, but He knows what is best for me. My environment is of His determining. He means it to intensify my faith, to draw me into nearer communion with Himself, to ripen my power. In the dungeon my soul should prosper. The offense may be mental. I am haunted by perplexities, questions, which I cannot solve. I had hoped that, when I gave myself to Him, my sky would always be clear; but often it is overspread by mist and cloud. Yet let me believe that, if difficulties remain, it is that I may learn to trust Him all the more implicitly—to trust and not be afraid. Yes, and by my intellectual conflicts, I am trained to be a tutor to other storm-driven men. (Streams in the Desert)

For reasons completely outside my control, my flight from New York to Dallas-Ft. Worth was delayed more than an hour, which meant I would likely miss the connection to my final homeward flight. Without intending to eavesdrop, I detected growing anxiety in the voices of those seated nearby as the time drew close to land. It seemed that everyone was in the same boat, or plane, as it were—no one would have an easy go of it. A stewardess walked the narrow center aisle and attempted to calm one distraught passenger by explaining that 85% of those onboard were in jeopardy of missing connecting flights, but that did little to lessen the palpable anxiety on the plane. As we landed, a mad scramble ensued, with most grabbing their belongings and jostling position for the quickest exit possible. The malaise may best be describe as chaotic, but the self-centeredness-on-display was equally offensive. Although I, too, had a narrow window to make my flight, I decided to sit and wait my turn rather than join the angry lava flow.

Choosing to wait on the Lord and submit to His way and will is not fatalism, nor is it the coward’s way out. Great courage is required in order to lay down the urge toward preference, prejudice, and self-preservation. Selflessness is the order of the Kingdom. Choose you this do whom you will serve, and make certain that it is not yourself.

May 18

“I was crushed…so much so that I despaired even of life, but that was to make me rely not on myself, but on the God who raises the dead.” 2 Corinthians 1:8, 9

The pressure of hard places makes us value life. Every time our life is given back to us from such a trial, it is like a new beginning, and we learn better how much it is worth, and make more of it for God and man. The pressure helps us to understand the trials of others, and fits us to help and sympathize with them.

There is a shallow, superficial nature, that gets hold of a theory or a promise lightly, and talks very glibly about the distrust of those who shrink from every trial; but the man or woman who has suffered much never does this, but is very tender and gentle, and knows what suffering really means. This is what Paul meant when he said, “Death worketh in you.”

Trials and hard places are needed to press us forward, even as the furnace fires in the hold of that mighty ship give force that moves the piston, drives the engine, and propels that great vessel across the sea in the face of the winds and waves. (Streams in the Desert)

I have been shaped more by difficulty than comfort. There is something unique about hardship that creates opportunity for intimacy that nothing else does. Perhaps this is because crises leave no room for independence; each disaster or disappointment peels away self-reliance like old paint when stripper and putty knife are applied. I do not want to end this life looking and acting as I did twenty years ago, or even five days ago. I want to grow into the man God has had in mind from the creation of the world, and ease will never move me there. Father, grant grace to do more than endure; permit me hard places that keep my heart pliable and bent toward You.