Why wait? (Nehemiah 2 Preview)

January 21, 2011 by cloften  
Filed under Bible, Church and Leadership, Teaching

As we are getting ready for this Sunday, there is something that I want us all to think about–waiting.  Waiting patiently is, shall we say, not a strength of the modern American culture. No judgment here, few things irk me more than pulling up to a gas station only to discover that they don’t have pay at the pump.  What? You want me to walk all the way inside and pay someone.  What is that going to take, like 90 seconds or something?

Nonetheless, whether we like it or not, we always have to wait. If you live with three women, you know what I’m talking about. (Probably shouldn’t have said that) Let’s put this in a spiritual context.  What if God were to tell you that he wanted you to do something, how soon do you expect it to happen?  My guess is the honest answer is immediately, or at least as soon as possible.

What about our man Nehemiah?  It was four months.  They may not seem like a long time. Well, it doesn’t seem like a long time, if it’s someone else.  However, 120 days of waiting for God to do what you believe he said he would do is a long time.  We have no idea how many “crises of faith” he had.  We would probably have a lot.  We would question ourselves as to whether or not we “heard” right and question God as to whether or not he really would do what he said.

What is the point of waiting? Why doesn’t God just do it already?  What is God doing and why?

Welcome to Nehemiah chapter 2.  See you Sunday (or listen online after Sunday night here)

Selling Houses and the Will of God

June 10, 2010 by cloften  
Filed under Family and Parenting

My history with selling houses is well-known.  For those who don’t know, we have moved twice when needing to sell a house, once from Conway, AR to Colorado for seminary.  The second was from St. Louis here to Cabot, AR.  When moving to Colorado, our house sat empty for almost 6 months before it sold.  When moving to Cabot, we did a little bit better.  The house only sat empty for a little less than 5 months before it sold.

I don’t know if you have ever been in that kind of a situation before.  You may be one of those people with those stories of how you sold your house in an hour for a more than full price offer.  If you are, I’m not sure this post is for you. You can wait for the “People That Annoy Me” post (just kidding…mostly).  If you’ve been in this situation before, you know that it can become quite a serious time of theological reflection.  Our house is on the market for the third time as we prepare to make a move.  We are far from the theological crisis time, but this topic is just on my mind now as we try to sell our house again.

Here are the choices that most people have:

1) I must be making the wrong decision.  If this move were God’s will, my house would have sold.

2) God is punishing me because I am in some kind of sin.

3) God is trying to teach me something.  As soon as I learn it, the house will sell.

Let’s see if we can break these down and still keep this to the size of a blog post.  The first option, I believe, is a very dangerous theological perspective to have.  I evaluate whether or not I am making, or made,  the right decision based on if my circumstances are working out well, i.e. the way I want them to.  There are many times that Paul followed God’s call on his life and ended up beaten, shipwrecked, emprisoned, etc.  Following God is not a guarantee that everything is going to go smoothly.  In fact, often the opposite is true.  The path that God calls us to is often riddled with trials.  You have to do the work of prayer and discernment on the front end, asking God if this is the right move, change, etc.  Then you have to move forward with confidence, because very often difficult circumstances await.

The second option is a little difficult.  I certainly am not going to say that there is no way that you are experiencing a trial because of sin in your life (I’m not going to say you are, either).  Evaluating yourself and your sin is a great idea.  Asking God if there is any sin that is damaging your relationship and keeping him from blessing you–also a good idea.  One note of caution, if God can only bless us if we have no sin in our life, you know who is in trouble?  That’s right.  All of us.  Sometimes our sin can bring judgment in our lives.  Deal with it, if that is the case.  However, don’t assume that every obstacle in your life is connected to sin.

The third option, I have ranted on before.  It in fact, kicked off the Stuff Christians Should Stop Saying series (see here).  What I was not saying then and don’t what to say here is that trials, don’t exist (at least in part) so that God can teach us something.  God was definitely teaching Paul dependence on Him.  Joseph learned a lot about humility in a pit, as a slave, in prison.  Here is the thing, God is always teaching us and refining our character.  However, most of the things that God is teaching and shaping in us, aren’t things that we “learn” as if it were Algebra.  When do you “learn humility?”  I am learning about humility.  I will never “learn” it as if I have completly conquered that issue, just as I will never learn patience and dependence on God.  God will be refining me in that area for the next 50 years of my life.  God is teaching us during trials.  The danger comes when we believe we can learn our way out of a trial, as if we are in control.

Maybe you have made a wrong decision and that’s why things are going badly.  Maybe your sin has caught up with you.  Maybe God is using this as an opportunity to refine a major area of character in your life to prepare you for something great.  But, it may just be that we live in a fallen world where bad stuff happens.  I believe that we, read I, spend way too much time worrying about why and not near enough time listening to God and learning to trust and depend on Him. 

What if we took all of the energy that we wasted stressing about “why” and turned that into prayer, reading and studying about Joseph and Paul who went through worse trials than most of us?  What if we took that time to connect with God’s Son, Jesus who endured the worst of trials so that we could have life in him?

Don’t Pray for Patience

I have said this in different contexts, so I feel obligated to mention here on the new blog.  I was talking to our men’s group Wednesday morning.  We are still working our way through the Fruit of the Spirit.  That morning we talked about patience, kindness and goodness.

Here is the trap that we fall into.  We think that we want to be more patient, and we recognize that we need God’s help.  So we pray for God to help us become more patient.  Here is the problem.  The way that God teaches us patience is to put us into situations that call for patience.  Who wants that?  Who wants to be put in frustrating situations?

Here’s the reality.  Life is full of such situations whether or not you are praying for patience or not.  We just become more aware of them as God is putting our need for patience in the front of our minds and hearts.  (All it takes for me is missing a stop light or someone in front of met to go 2 miles under the speed limit in front of me.)  Honestly, there are few traits I need more in my life than patience. I wish that my first responses to what life throws out was grace, kindness and calm. What a difference that would make in my life, my family, my church, etc.  So despite all of the advice that I have given over the years, I am now praying for patience. I’ll keep you all posted.