Waiting – Day 9

Read: 2 Thessalonians 3 (see 1 Thessalonians 4:1-12 for more context)

People were expecting Jesus to come any day. Some leaders were saying it was the end. But Paul reminds us to not worry when the end will come; we wait while being productive until it does. Work, feed your family, make some money so you can help those who cannot. This is not frantically working to get ahead. We can work hard without worry because God is faithful and our future is secure in Jesus. What are we filling our time with that doesn’t matter? How can we make ourselves more useful to those in need?

“Whoever has ears, let them hear what the Spirit says to the churches.”

I believe that though our current global moment is in so many ways different from the early church’s, this kind of life is the way forward. To live ordinarily and quietly, work with our hands, embrace the rhythms and realities of daily life, is seemingly mundane. However, it is actually how we engage in the great spiritual battle against the flesh and the powers and principalities. One could be fooled by such a quiet life, yet when tuned to a heavenly frequency, such a life resounds with a mighty roar.

Mark Sayers, Strange Days, 166.

Resources: 

  • I just finished reading Mark Sayers’ Strange Days (above quote) and he’s brilliant. He does a great job at both cultural analysis and pushing us for a more biblical, Spirit-fueled life. It helped me make sense of some of what’s going on around us now, how we got here. Plus, his advice on living a scaled-back life landed with me because of where we are right now. Check it out! You can also listen to him on the This Cultural Moment podcast.

Waiting – Day 8

Read: Psalm 4

In the middle of crisis, relying on God—begging him to answer us—relieves our stress. David reminds us here that instead of relying on worthless and deceptive information and techniques (which refers to our propensity for idolatry), he has turned to the living God. Only God has answers. Not only does this empower David to give actual sound advice to others (vv. 4 – 5), he can sleep in peace. Are you able to be angry without lashing out right now? Let’s search our hearts in silence and stop speculating. Let’s bring everything we have before God and trust him by waiting on him to answer.

“Whoever has ears, let them hear what the Spirit says to the churches.”

“Listen, O Lord, to my prayers. Listen to my desire to be with you, to dwell in your house, and to let my whole being be filled with your presence. But none of this is possible without you. When you are not the one who fills me, I am soon filled with endless thoughts and concerns that divide me and tear me away from you. Even thoughts about you, good spiritual thoughts, can be little more than distractions when you are not their author.

O Lord, thinking about you, being fascinated with theological ideas and discussions, being excited about histories of Christian spirituality and stimulated by thoughts and ideas about prayer and meditation, all of this can be as much an expression of greed as the unruly desire for food possessions, or power.

Every day I see again that only you can teach me to pray, only you can set my heart at rest, only you can let me dwell in your presence. No book, no idea, no concept or theory will ever bring me close to you unless you yourself are the one who lets these instruments become the way to you.

But Lord, let me at least remain open to your initiative; let me wait patiently and attentively for that hour when you will come and break through all the walls I have erected. Teach me, O Lord, to pray. Amen.”

 Henri Nouwen, A Guide to Prayer for Ministers and Other Servants.

Waiting – Day 7

Jesus in his solidarity with the marginal ones is moved to compassion. Compassion constitutes a radical form of criticism, for it announces that the hurt is to be taken seriously, that the hurt is not to be accepted as normal and natural but is an abnormal and unacceptable condition for humanness . . .

Empires are never built or maintained on the basis of compassion. The norms of law (social control) are never accommodated to persons, but persons are accommodated to the norms. Otherwise the norms will collapse and with them the whole power arrangement. Thus the compassion of Jesus is to be understood not simply as a personal emotional reaction but as a public concern against the entire numbness of his social context.

Walter Brueggemann, The Prophetic Imagination 

Read: Isaiah 58

God does not care if we fast, pray, and busy ourselves with “religious activity,” all the while ignoring injustice and suffering around us. Do we really care about others? Our efforts now to draw close to God mean nothing if we ignore the needs of those around us. In fact, we see by the end of this chapter, we will not find satisfaction in God until we stop working so hard for our own satisfaction. As we meet as churches, either virtually or face-to-face, how do we need to “pivot” from religious activity to loving God by loving others? In the midst of, or coming out of, this crisis, how can we “fast from injustice and oppression” as God says?

“Whoever has ears, let them hear what the Spirit says to the churches.”

Resources:

For more information on the idea of “Sabbath” check out this Sabbath video from Bible Project.

“God of hope, whose spirit gives light and power to your people, empower us to witness to your name in all the nations, to struggle for your own justice against all principalities and powers and to persevere with faith and humor in the tasks that you have given to us. Without you we are powerless. Therefore we cry together: Maranatha [O Lord, come].”

Thomas G. Pettepiece, A Guide to Prayer for Ministers and Other Servants, 193.

Waiting – Day 6

“When we want to be something other than the thing God wants us to be, we must be wanting what, in fact, will not make us happy. . .

[God says to us] ‘You must be strong with my strength and blessed with my blessedness, for I have no other to give you.’ That is the conclusion of the whole matter. God gives what He has, no what He has not: He gives the happiness that there is, not the happiness that is not. To be God—to be like God and to share His goodness in creaturely response—to be miserable—these are the only three alternatives. If we will not learn to eat the only food that the universe grows—the only food that any possible universe ever can grow—then we must starve eternally.”

C. S. Lewis, “The Problem of Pain,” The Complete C. S. Lewis Signature Classics, 578.

Read: Isaiah 55

Do you feel empty? In a time of exile, when if anything people feel farther away from God, God reminds them that he still makes himself available. We spend our resources on so many things that don’t bring us any more life. God is offering full satisfaction of ultimate value that is given, not bought. His economy, his modus operandi, is fundamentally different (i.e. better) than ours. And just like at creation, what he speaks is what will happen. Bend your ear to God. Come to him. “Listen, that you may live.”

“Whoever has ears, let them hear what the Spirit says to the churches.”

Waiting – Day 5

Read: Psalm 131

There is endless speculation. We all want to know how to move forward. But this is really beyond all of us. David was a king; he was used to complex decisions. Still, he knew there were some things too difficult for him. He trained himself to be like a child before his mother, resting close to God. He rested in God’s competency and control. How are you trying to regain control? Are you content just being with God. Let’s take some time to rest in God, instead of figuring it all out.

“Whoever has ears, let them hear what the Spirit says to the churches.”

“There can be an inordinate desire for greatness and accomplishment (verse 1) . . . This self-seeking creates great restlessness and discontent—but the psalmist has left all that behind . . . A child who has been “weaned” (verse 2), however, and no longer nurses, is content just to be with its mother, enjoying her closeness and love without wanting anything else. We so often approach God only for what he can give, rather than simply to rest in his presence. Do that now, through the Word and prayer in Jesus’s name.”

Tim Keller, The Songs of Jesus, 337.

Resources:

 

Waiting – Day 4

It is surely understandable, therefore, that frequently we tend to judge an idea not on its merits, but according to how we judge the person putting it forward. We fail to separate the idea being communicated in a message from the person or entity conveying it. This commonly overlooked insight – one that is frequently missed by audiences, and results in them ignoring the expert in the room – illuminates a fundamental feature of the effective messenger.

They become the message.

Stephen Martin and Jospeh Marks, Messengers: who we listen to and why we don’t, 8.

Read: Jeremiah 23:16-18 (for more context read the whole chapter)

Some say, “It’s all good! We’re gonna be fine.” But what if it’s not all good? Jeremiah was surrounded by the pastors and speakers of our day, priests and prophets in exile telling people what they wanted to hear—that exile was a short-term deal. Many around us are only telling us what we want to hear. Some may even do it as if they’re speaking for God. Are we being fed empty promises? What voices should we stop listening to? Let’s pay attention to God’s Word and listen to him.

“Whoever has ears, let them hear what the Spirit says to the churches.”

In examining a teacher’s credentials, then, we have to examine both his character and his message. Bishop Ryle summed it up well: ‘Sound doctrine and holy living are the marks of true prophets.’ Then I think there is a third test which we must apply to teachers, and this concerns their influence. We have to ask ourselves what effect their teaching has on their followers. Sometimes the falsity of false teaching is not immediately apparent when we look at a teacher’s behaviour and system, but becomes apparent only in its disastrous results.

 John Stott, The message of the Sermon on the mount (Matthew 5-7): Christian counter-culture, 202.

Resources:

  • I’ve found the book Messengers intriguing. It exposes the biblical principle of how humans give more weight to status and appearance when choosing whose advice to follow. Here’s an excerpt from the book, as well as a short video, and also a podcast exploring the ideas in the book.
  • I ran across an article from the Seattle TimesI’m not advocating this guy, just thought it was sound advice in multiple sectors of our life right now, as seen in Jeremiah.

Waiting – Day 3

Read: Psalm 13

For years, David lived ostracized in the wilderness. Later, this song would have been sung by those exiled in Babylon. How long, O Lord? That is the question David, exiles, and all of us are asking. How long will this last? How long until it’s over? How long will I or the ones I care about be sick? Let’s ask God, and listen to what he might be saying.

“Whoever has ears, let them hear what the Spirit says to the churches.”

“David is in agony and can’t feel the presence of God. He cries out that God has ignored his pain and his sorrow. It is almost a howl, and the fact that it is included in the Bible tells us that God wants to hear our genuine feelings, even if they are anger at him. David never stops prayering, however, and that is the key. As long as we howl toward God and remember his salvation is by grace (verse 5), we will end at a place of peace.”

Tim Keller, The Songs of Jesus, 19.

Waiting – Day 2

I ask no dream, no prophet ecstasies

No sudden rending of the veil of clay

No angel visitant, no opening skies;

But take the dimness of my soul away.

George Croly, Spirit of God Descend Upon my Heart

Read: Ezekiel 37:1-14

In exile, after the obliteration of their former way of life, God shows Ezekiel how he will reanimate his people by breathing his Spirit into them. Let’s ask God to breathe into us again. In a time of sickness and death, how is God reinvigorating his Church?

“Whoever has ears, let them hear what the Spirit says to the churches.”

Waiting – Day 1

“ . . . theology is not enough, formulas are not enough to explain the Unity and Trinity of God . . . It is a personal communication which God alone can give, and the task of giving it belongs to the Holy Spirit, who is the same love which unites the Father and the Son.

The Holy Spirit is the fulness and the joy of God.

It is so difficult to speak of these things. We have to babble like children, but at least, like children, we can say over and over again, tirelessly, ‘Spirit of God, reveal yourself to me, your child.’”

Carlo Carretto, A Guide to Prayer for Ministers and Other Servants, 193.

Read: Acts 1:1-14

Without Jesus for the first time, his community of biological and spiritual family gathered in a room together for focused prayer, waiting for Jesus to send the Spirit. Whoever we are with, whether church or nuclear family, let’s pray like we desperately need the Spirit to energize and move us out of the room. Because we do.

“Whoever has ears, let them hear what the Spirit says to the churches.”

Resources: 

Holy Spirit video

 

Starting to Wait

By the time we get to these 10 days, there no telling what things will look like. Maybe for some of us stay-at-home orders have been lifted. Maybe some of us have gone back to work. Maybe it’s all still the same.

Whatever it looks like, let’s put ourselves back in that Jerusalem upper room praying for God’s Spirit to come and change everything. If you’re like me, this is going to be a challenge. I’m horrible at two things: listening and concentrating. But whether it’s taking 5 minutes before you get out of the car at the grocery store, getting quiet during the kids’ nap time, getting up earlier, or just stepping outside for a few minutes of concentration, how can we focus on crying out to God and taking the time to wait and listen for an answer?

I keep hearing Jesus’ call in Revelation, “Whoever has ears, let them hear what the Spirit says to the churches” (Rev. 2:7). As much as it depends on us, let’s give our ears the time and space they need to do their job. Let’s see if we can hear what the Spirit is saying to his churches.

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