Learning To Wait

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OK, pastor, what is the secret of waiting? Two truths are discernible in our wait problem:

First, it is waiting without uncertainty. The day of the Lord will come! It had been 734 years that Israel waited, but God sent His Son. The problem? They wanted a political leader, not a spiritual redeemer. The God who sent His Son the first time will indeed send His Son the second time. It is a certainty that Jesus will return. The question is when? The answer? We don’t know. There are many who try to set the day and time. But those days simply come and go. Beyond the issue of when Jesus will return is the question, “what do we expect in His return?” We wait for a new heaven and a new earth. We wait for all dying to end, pain to cease, evil to be destroyed.

Second, waiting can be beneficial. Waiting upon the Lord is not a pain-in-the-neck waiting, like for a bus or in the line at the supermarket. It is an active waiting, and in the time of waiting the believer works for the kingdom. Sometimes the waiting following prayer is just as beneficial.

Howard Thurman tells the story of going with a young doctor on rounds in Canada. Despite the huge snow drifts, he refused to use chains. There was quite a ceremony every time he started out. First, he would let his clutch out slowly, applying the gas very gently as he said, “Even a little energy applied directly to an object, however large, will move it, if steadily applied and given sufficient time to work.” Not once was his car stalled. God is the God of proper timing. Why did God send His Son when He did? Why not sooner?
Because God sees all things and knows all things. And knows the “proper time” for everything.

Christmas will soon be here and Christmas finds us waiting. It has been over 2,000 years and we are still waiting. We don’t know when Jesus will return. We live as if it will be tomorrow. We work as if it will be a 1,000 more years.

Waiting?

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The Northern and Southern Kingdoms of Israel will divide around 734 B.C. In 587 B.C. both kingdoms will be taken by Babylon. In 333 B.C. the Greeks will take Israel. In 168 B.C. the Romans will take Israel. How long before they become their own kingdom again? Not until 1948 A.D.

The words of the prophecy (Isaiah 40) rung in their ears for over 700 years. …her sin has been paid for, she has received from the Lord’s hand double for all her sins. By the birth of Christ, the Hebrew people felt that they had paid double for their forefathers. A voice of one calling: “In the desert prepare the way for the Lord make straight in the wilderness a highway for our God. Every valley shall be raised up, every mountain and hill made low; the rough ground shall become level, the rugged places a plain. And the glory of the Lord will be revealed, and all mankind together will see it.

It is interesting that this word of prophecy about John the baptizer and Jesus comes in the 40th chapter of Isaiah. It is a chapter dedicated to patience. The chapter ends with these words, Do you not know? Have you not heard? The Lord is the everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth. He will not grow tired or weary, and his understanding no one can fathom. He gives strength to the weary and increases the power of the weak. Even youths grow tired and weary, and young men stumble and fall; but those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint.

Waiting is a difficult pastime. And it occupies so much of life. We can’t wait to grow up. We can’t wait to get married. My wife was not above opening a gift before Christmas. A young husband was caught up short on a Sunday morning prior to getting ready for church when his wife handed him the children’s clothes and said, “Here, you get the kids ready today and I’ll go out and honk the horn.”

Waiting is not easy, but it holds an important aspect of our Christian life. We all need to learn the story of the Chinese bamboo tree. The Chinese plant the seed; they water and fertilize it, but the first year nothing happens. The second year they water and fertilize it, and still nothing happens. The third and fourth year they water and fertilize it, and sometime during the course of the fifth year, in a period of approximately six weeks the Chinese bamboo tree grows roughly ninety feet. The question is, “Did it grow ninety feet in six weeks or did it grow ninety feet in five years?” The obvious answer is that it grew ninety feet in five years, because had they not applied the water and fertilizer each year there would have been no Chinese bamboo tree.

Have You Ever Seen An Angel?

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The British express train raced through the night, its powerful headlamp spearing the black darkness ahead. The train was carrying Queen Victoria. Suddenly the engineer saw a startling sight. Revealed in the beam of the engine’s headlights was a weird figure in a black cloak standing in the middle of the tracks and waving its arms. The engineer grabbed for the brakes and brought the train to a grinding halt. He and his fellow trainmen climbed out to see what had stopped them. But they could find no trace of the strange figure. On a hunch, he walked a few yards further up the tracks. Suddenly he stopped and stared into the fog in horror. The bridge had been washed out in the middle and had toppled into a swollen stream. If he had not heeded the ghostly figure, the train would have plunged into the stream. While the bridge and the tracks were being repaired, the crew made a more intensive search for the strange flagman. But not until they got to London did they solve the mystery. At the base of the engine’s head lamp, the engineer discovered a huge dead moth. He looked at it a moment, then on impulse wet its wings and pasted it to the glass of the lamp. Climbing back into his cab, he switched on the lamp and saw the “flagman” in the beam. He knew the answer now: the moth had flown into the beam, seconds before the train was due to reach the washed-out bridge. In the fog, it appeared to be a phantom figure, waving its arms.

Coincidences are God’s way of remaining anonymous.

Many people don’t even know about the role of angels in our lives and many don’t even realize their involvement in our everyday life. Angels are so common that Hebrew tradition demanded that we entertain strangers because they may be angels. Paul writes to the Hebrew Church, Do not forget to entertain strangers, for by so doing some people have entertained angels without knowing it.

One night the king of Syria sent a great army with many chariots and horses to surround the city.
When the prophet’s servant got up early the next morning and went outside, there were troops, horses, and chariots everywhere. “Alas, my master, what shall we do now?” he cried out to Elisha. “Don’t be afraid!” Elisha told him. “For our army is bigger than theirs.” Then Elisha prayed, “Lord, open his eyes and let him see!” And the Lord opened the young man’s eyes so that he could see horses of fire and chariots of fire everywhere upon the mountain!

Only through the eyes of faith can we see what the world around us can never see!

Do You Believe In Angels?

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The Christmas story opens with a visit of an angel. In the sixth month, God sent the angel Gabriel to Nazareth, a town in Galilee, to a virgin pledged to be married to a man named Joseph, a descendant of David. Angels have always been important in bringing the good news to God’s people. Angels are but one way by which God brings the answers to our prayers. In the great vision or revelation that God gives to John, the revelation comes by way of an angel. The revelation of Jesus Christ, which God gave him to show his servants what must soon take place. He made it known by sending his angel to his servant John…. In fact the very word for angel means messenger.

An angel said to Daniel, “Do not be afraid, Daniel. Since the first day that you set your mind to gain understanding and to humble yourself before your God, your words were heard, and I have come in response to them. But the prince of the Persian kingdom resisted me twenty-one days. Then Michael, one of the chief princes, came to help me, because I was detained there with the king of Persia. The messenger is never as important as the message. The important aspect is that God loves me enough that He responds. It doesn’t matter how, even if it is sending the news by an angel.

Angels have appeared to humanity in a variety of ways. Remember Hagar and her son Ishmael, when Abraham sent them away? God heard the boy crying, and the angel of God called to Hagar from heaven and said to her, “What is the matter, Hagar? Do not be afraid; God has heard the boy crying as he lies there. The angel becomes Hagar’s and Ishmael’s link with Heaven.

When Jacob must flee his home, he had a dream in which he saw a stairway resting on the earth, with its top reaching to heaven, and the angels of God were ascending and descending on it. Angels were Jacob’s link to Heaven.

When God first created the angelic host, the Seraphs, the Cherubs, the Archangel and the angels, God did so to worship Himself. After the creation of humanity, the role of the angel became that of protector of God’s people; what we often times call a “guardian angel.” As John sees the vision, he hears the message of the seven churches in Asia Minor. The seven stars are the angels of the seven churches, and the seven lampstands are the seven churches. There is an angel assigned to each Church! Why? Jesus said to Peter: I tell you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not overcome it.

These angels have incredible power and are handicapped only by our faith and our willingness to allow God to intervene in our lives. But even the archangel Michael, when he was disputing with the devil about the body of Moses, did not dare to bring a slanderous accusation against him, but said, “The Lord rebuke you!” The angels have the power of God on their side.

It will be the angels that announce the Second Coming of Jesus. How can we not believe in Angels?

When God Opens A Window

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John says that the disciples gathered that night the first day of the week. The events of the past week have plunged them all into darkness and now they are cowering together, filled with fear. The same authorities who had killed Jesus may now be after Jesus’ followers. And the doors are shut. John says that the doors were shut and locked “from fear.” And they had much for which to be fearful. But some of them may have been also filled with grief.

We also gather behind locked doors. There are the doors of our hearts that have locked down in the prison that consists of despair…. “God has disappointed me before, I won’t trust God again” “He is hopeless. He will never get over this addiction” “I’m dying and I’m dying alone.”

Somehow God is moving us from behind the closed locked door that we don’t want to move from, to the new wide open door of new opportunities. As God opens and closes doors, I want us to remember four important things: God is in full control of both sides of those doors. God takes full responsibility for the results of the closed door and the open one. When God closes one opportunity, it seems to leads us to a better opportunity. It is only when we walk through the open door that we can look back and see why God closed the one door and opened the new one.

This is the word that came to Jeremiah from the Lord: “Go down to the potter’s house, and there I will give you my message.” So I went down to the potter’s house, and I saw him working at the wheel. But the pot he was shaping from the clay was marred in his hands; so the potter formed it into another pot, shaping it as seemed best to him. Then the word of the Lord came to me: “O house of Israel, can I not do with you as this potter does?” declares the Lord. “Like clay in the hand of the potter, so are you in my hand, O house of Israel. (Jer 18:1)

This is not just our struggle, all believers have had this struggle. God is ever changing us. With every opportunity that is closed, God opens a window just for us.