“God’s Perfect Timing…”

Jesus replied, “You don’t understand now what I am doing, but someday you will.” – John 13:7

Have you ever looked back at a situation in your life and realized how perfect God’s timing was?  Maybe it was a time or season of wonderful success.  Maybe it was a time of agonizing waiting and stress.  Or, maybe you didn’t see God’s presence then, but in retrospect, can see His hand at work very clearly.

I find myself in that situation quite a lot.  It seems that when I am neck deep in the activities of life (good or challenging,) I rarely see God in them.  It is only when I take time to reflect on the situations and their outcomes do I see the Master at work.

Why is that?  I don’t know about you, but for me, I am so ruled by my emotions in some cases that I can’t see clearly.  Especially in the distressing instances, I am unable to see all that is going on around me because I am so focused on what is going on inside me.  And I lose sight of God very quickly.

I also find it very difficult to see God at work if He isn’t doing what I want Him to.  It’s true!  So often I find myself seeking and praying for God to perform a mighty act or even a miracle for my circumstances – and He doesn’t.  But I become so focused on what He isn’t doing that I am blinded to what He is doing.  And it isn’t until months (or sometimes years,) later that I can see that His plan was so much better than mine.

Whenever I am in bad places, I am always looking forward to the future, when things will get better.  I am never looking for God in the bad.  After all, if God were there, it would not continue to be bad would it??  Surely if He was engaged in my troubles, He would fix them wouldn’t He?  So I choose to look ahead and be hopeful for what is to come.

God spoke to me last night and showed me how wrong I am to think this way.  I had an amazing dream, that I believe to be from Him.  And I awoke with the resounding message in my head:

“Don’t rush what I am doing.  You may not understand it.  But trust me and live in this moment.  I am here and will bless you in it.”

Seriously, that is what I heard.  Can it be that God wants to bless me in all situations and not just “the good ones?”  How much have I missed in this life rushing through the uncomfortableness just to get to the “good times?”  Wow!  That is a revelation to me.  And I hope it helps you too.  We serve an awesome God don’t we?

The fact is, life is full of good and bad.  And we have very little control over it.  But Our Father in heaven is impressing upon me that I will miss so much by only living for the good.  Difficulties are never easy.  But I believe there are still places to be thankful in those seasons.  And there are still places to experience the wondrous provision of God in those places.  We just have to calm our hearts and look for them.  We have to stop being so inwardly focused and look for what is going on around us to see Him at work.

Be blessed my friends, no matter what circumstance you find yourself in today.  Our Lord and Savior is with you.

Oh Holy One,

Thank You for never leaving nor forsaking us.  We are your people, the sheep of your pasture.  Forgive us for those times that we cannot see You; for worries cloud our vision.  Be generous and merciful to us.  Allow us to see You in all circumstances and to experience Your grace at all times.  For these things we give You all the honor, all the praise, and all the glory this world can offer.

In the name of our Rock and our Fortress we pray,

Amen

 

“Methodist Blood Runs Deep…”

“Jesus asked, “Who is my mother? Who are my brothers?”  Then he pointed to his disciples and said, “Look, these are my mother and brothers.  Anyone who does the will of my Father in heaven is my brother and sister and mother!” – Matthew 12:48-50

 

Each year at this time, United Methodist Pastors and Lay Representatives gather for an event called Annual Conference.  This happens all over the world, wherever there is a Methodist Church, you can be sure the leaders are gathering. The conference normally lasts for 3 days and contains all sorts of activities from worship to missions to the commissioning of the next generation of pastors.

It has been this way for 300 years or so.  It is a way for the leaders of our churches to stay on the same page, to encourage each other, and make decisions about how to be a better, more God-glorifying church.  There is a long tradition and heritage there for those of us who call ourselves United Methodists.

See, the unique thing about our church is that it is a global entity.  There are UMC’s all over the world, yet we are all connected in a deep way through our structure and traditions.  We help each other with our needs, our resources, our prayers and our experiences.  We stay in contact with each other, so that when we all come together, we know each other by name – we are family.

I attended the North Alabama Annual Conference yesterday and I was deeply blessed by my time there.  See, like any global organization, we have our challenges.  And we don’t all see things the same way.  I will admit, in the past few months, I have been wondering if there is even a place for me in this denomination.  It has seemed to me that as our church has been living into and wrestling with new challenges – that I might not fit here anymore (or be welcomed.)

But the grace of God was showered upon me as I strolled up the sidewalk yesterday morning to the gathering place.  I saw a dear friend that wanted to pray for me.  I saw, on the community altar, a prayer request for my family – the faithful author unknown.

As in years past, I had my children with me.  But instead of leaving them in the children’s camp, I brought them with me to lunch.  And for a couple of hours my young ones were blessed with the presence of people that have loved and cared for them all their lives (most of whom they did not even know.)

“Come Hope, meet the pastor that visited the hospital the day you were born and pronounced a blessing over you.”

“Come Daniel, meet the man that built your swing set for you when you were two.”

“Look children, come and meet the woman that rocked you as babies in the church nursery and sang you to sleep with “Jesus Loves Me.”

And on and on.  So many people.  So different from each other, and yet – all family.  And all reminding me that I do belong here.  And my children belong here and are valued.

Many people lament that the Methodist Church as we know it may not survive into the next generation.

But after this wonderful gift of God in the shape of faces and open arms, I am renewed in my spirit and my resolve to faithfully serve this church and to share it with the next generation.  There is too much at stake to lose.  I want my kids to understand the value of being a part of this wonderful body of Christ.  More importantly, I want them to learn that the very heart of being a Christian can be found here – no matter where in the world they end up.

Lord Jesus,

I pray today for my church, and United Methodists all over the world.  We come from every nation and culture.  We seek to worship and serve You in ways more numerous to count.  We don’t even all speak the same language – and yet we are family.

Lord, our church has challenges.  Let Your Spirit rage like a river through our congregations.  Let Your fire rekindle in the hearts of our people.  Give us, every one, a vision of what You want us to be for the next generation and those to come.  And teach us to be the witnesses this world needs.

Thank You, my King, for the deep and daily blessings that flow over me through your people.

In Your Sweet Name I pray,

Amen

 

“Empty…”

“The Lord is close to all who call on him,
    yes, to all who call on him in truth.”

Psalm 145:18

Have you ever felt empty?  Devoid of any emotion, strength, or will?  Have you ever felt as if you have nothing left?  Nothing physically, mentally, emotionally, relationally, or spiritually?  Just empty?

It really is a struggle, isn’t friends, to make it through each day in such a state.  Unfortunately, the world doesn’t stop for us either, does it?  There are still jobs to do, families to care for, – even when all we want to do is lie down and just stop.

And I believe it could be worse for those of us that call ourselves followers of Christ.  After all, we are supposed to be filled with joy each day.  We are supposed to be strengthened by the Lord in all circumstances.  We are the beloved ones, with callings, and grace, and the supernatural on our side. Sure, we might get down sometimes, but if we call on the Lord, He is supposed to lift us back up again and we are to keep going.

However, if we are really honest, maybe we can all admit that when we encounter times of struggle and hopelessness – that the last thing we want to do is pray.  It’s true (for me anyway.)

When I find myself on empty, and I have nothing left, I don’t care about praying either.  It just seems too…hard.  So I don’t and I continue to flounder around doing my best under my own downward spiraling power.

I found myself in such a place in these last few weeks.  A place in which I was so tired, that I just didn’t care about anything any more.

But, in the beginning, I fought the valiant fight.  I spent a couple of weeks on the outset (when I could see what was coming at me,) spending more and more time in prayer.  I kept asking God to restore my joy, to cover me in peace, to relieve my anxiety.  But nothing worked.  I just kept tumbling toward the abyss.

Then, two weeks ago, my pastor gave an invitation at the end of our Sunday service. He said that anyone that needed something from God should come and pray.  So I did.  And something amazing happened.

As I approached the altar, God whispered in my ear, “All you need is me.”  And that was such a profound word for me.  For months I had been praying for all the things I needed for Him to GIVE me:  peace, joy, relief, etc.  But I on this day, the only thing I asked for was His presence.  I finally got it.  All I needed was Him, and not what He could give me.

Every day since then I have been praying for God to just be with me through the day.  Nothing more.  And, strangely enough, I have been feeling so much better.  I have more energy.  I have a better outlook.  I have some of my joy back.  And I believe it is because I am focused on the One walking with me rather than what He can do for me.

We all come to periods of distress and brokeness sometimes in our lives.  And the need to rush through them is intrinsic in all of us.  We ask our faithful Father to take our problems away.  But, maybe if we, for just a moment, considered His presence as the gift we need the most – maybe we would experience something so much greater than a temporary relief of an earth-bound problem.  Maybe if we just sought Him more often, we would get a true glimpse of the Divine.  That is a piece of heaven that we can treasure and be transformed by.  His presence is the only thing that can restore our souls.  And sometimes, it takes a long time in the valley for Him to complete His work in us.  So be patient.  Commit every day good or bad to His plan.  And be assured that He is with you and for you every step of the way.

Peace friends.