Three good things about Waiting

Bruce Jameson was one course short of graduating from university. He wanted to finish it, but as he said, “life happened.” He got married, found a job, and started a family. There was no time to go back to school. Then, at the age of 93, he was awarded his Bachelor of Engineering degree. And that one course, German 2…he didn’t have to take after all. Bruce had a dream, but he had to wait for it. Life happened and it was all he could do to keep up with everything else. It wasn’t until his grandson investigated the matter that the university agreed to help. Bruce waited 70 years to walk across that stage. Most people today can’t wait while their phone charges. Seriously, we are a very impatient generation. God, however, still uses delays to shape and build us: Waiting reveals what is truly in your heart. People without the right heart desires won’t wait around long enough to make a commitment to something serious. Good things are worth the wait, and we clarify our values as we wait. Waiting helps to build patience in your life. This doesn’t seem to come naturally to anyone. I haven’t met anyone who likes waiting. Yet, as we learn to be patient with small things, we develop muscles to wait for bigger things. If we believe God for great things, he is going to test us to see whether or not we can handle it. In Scripture, we see that his servants had to learn to develop patience. His methods haven’t changed. Waiting increases your dependence upon God. This is the lesson that the saints in the Bible learned. God will always honor his promises, but his timing tested many people. It was during these difficult times of waiting that people drew closer to God and discovered what real dependence on him means. Our ultimate need is to be fully reliant on God. This waiting period before Christmas is called Advent. It is a good time to practice our waiting and reflect on our need for the Lord. James writes, “You also must be patient. Keep your hopes high, for the day of the Lord’s coming is near.” (James 5:8) So whatever you are waiting for today, don’t be discouraged. It just means that when it comes to pass, you will have developed a great relationship with God.

Who likes a parade?

The annual Santa Claus parade was always well attended. There wasn’t much to do in the small town where I grew up and community events were always a big hit. In a rural community, there was no shortage of tractors to pull floats down our short main street. Different farmers or businesses would sponsor the floats. Pretty well everyone, including churches, was represented. The main guest, Santa, was the last visitor who always gave out candy. Mostly, I just remember how cold it can be in late November. My hands still feel frozen just thinking about it. Do you know where the Bible talks about a parade?Historians have found that parades are a very old activity. Some have suggested that parades began with men returning from a hunting trip. They would march through the village showing off the game they had killed. Most often parades were associated with a military victory, proud soldiers returning from a campaign. As part of the spectacle, they marched their captives and slaves in front of the crowds as an act of humiliation. The parade in the Bible? The Apostle Paul uses the imagery of a military parade to describe what Christ has done for us. “When you were dead in your sins and in the uncircumcision of your flesh, God made you alive with Christ. He forgave us all our sins, having cancelled the charge of our legal indebtedness, which stood against us and condemned us; he has taken it away, nailing it to the cross. And having disarmed the powers and authorities, he made a public spectacle of them, triumphing over them by the cross.” (Colossians 2:13-15) The phrase at the end, “he made a public spectacle of them” is a reference to military parades. Jesus went to war with sin and evil, his weapon was the cross and he was victorious. He has defeated the powers of sin and death, parading them in public so that all can see.  The Message Bible puts it this way, “He stripped all the spiritual tyrants in the universe of their sham authority at the Cross and marched them naked through the streets.” As the Christmas season approaches, advertisers work endlessly to get us to spend our money on the secular version of this celebration. There isn’t much to celebrate about Santa Claus bringing presents. Our hope is in Jesus, the one who was victorious. His coming to earth signaled the beginning of the end for his enemy. He alone is the one who defeated the powers of sin and death. We can trust him. Keep your eyes focused on that and don’t be distracted by all the advertising out there.

Hard to admit

The story is told of a woman who had finished shopping and returned to her car. She found four men sitting inside the car. She dropped her shopping bags, drew a handgun, and screamed, “I have a gun, and I know how to use it! Get out of the car.” The men did not wait for a second invitation – they got out and ran like crazy. The woman, somewhat shaken, loaded her shopping bags and then got into the car. But no matter how hard she tried, she could not get her key into the ignition. Finally, it dawned on her: her car was parked four or five spaces away! She loaded her grocery bags into her own car and then drove to the police station to turn herself in. The desk sergeant to whom she told the story nearly fell off his chair laughing. He pointed to the other end of the counter, where four men were reporting a carjacking by an old woman with thick glasses and curly white hair, less than five feet tall, and carrying a large handgun. No charges were filed. (Story from Making mistakes in life is a given. We all do it. Not everyone is so quick to admit to making an error. Our pride often keeps us from confessing our wrongs even when we know we need to. The Living Bible puts Proverbs 28:13 this way, “A person who refuses to admit his mistakes can never be successful. But if that person confesses and forsakes those mistakes, another chance is given.” Part of our Christian discipleship is learning to admit our mistakes and our sins. We can often gain wisdom from our failures. But we have to face up to it. Confession is good for the soul, and it keeps us growing.

Turning the other cheek

Embarrassing yourself in public can really take you down a notch or two. As someone who does a lot of public speaking, I have had my fair share of mistakes that have left me red-faced with no one to blame but myself. But the feelings are different when someone else embarrasses you in public. Your pride and sense of honour are at stake. The need for revenge or retaliation seems to be an instant reaction. I wonder how many fights and wars have been started because of someone’s wounded pride. We too easily pay lip service to the teachings of Jesus. When everything is going well and we are feeling great, we believe in all of Jesus’ teaching. When we are insulted, ignored, or deceived, our old fleshly nature can reappear.  We look for ways to justify our reaction and response. A slap on the cheek is an act of disrespect in most cultures and it is expected that the victim should defend themselves. But Jesus teaches, “You have heard that it was said, ‘Eye for eye, and tooth for tooth.’ But I tell you, do not resist an evil person. If anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to them the other cheek also.’” (Matthew 5:38-39) Our immediate desire is to place qualifications around such words. We start to say, “What Jesus really meant was…” because to not defend ourselves or to accept the insult without remark is far too painful. What is Jesus really saying in a passage like this? Is he asking us to be a doormat? Not likely. But he is telling us to check ourselves and our attitude. He is teaching us that negative reactions and revenge aren’t the best way to solve problems.  In fact, seeking revenge is a surefire way to keep things escalating. Christian love calls for a different response. When we look at some of the conflicts in our world, we wonder why cooler heads can’t seem to prevail. It’s easy to look at situations we aren’t directly involved in and call for peace. But turning the other cheek is difficult. Being a follower of Jesus means that we seek peace in our daily interactions, even when we are insulted and disrespected. That’s hard to do and requires us to be yielded to the control of the Holy Spirit. Start each morning with a prayer that your temper and tongue will be guided by the Spirit and not the flesh. It just might start to change some of your relationships for the better.

Looking forward to peace

One of the privileges of living in Europe is exploring many old cities. I find it fascinating to see the old walls that once defined the limits of a city. Even if the walls are gone it is common to see an old city gate still standing. Some gates were real works of art while others were simpler and focused on function. In medieval times, the walls were built for protection and security. But they could also be used to control the population and collect taxes and custom duties. The bigger and thicker the walls, the wealthier and supposedly safer the city was. A city with broken walls and gates was considered a tragedy in biblical times. It signified that something terrible had happened. The people were no longer safe and free but now exposed to danger and subject to the enemy. The prophets in the Old Testament looked forward to a time of peace when there would be no need for walls. With the advent of airplanes and modern technologies, city walls no longer keep people safe. This year we are again witnessing the horrors of war and how cities can so easily be destroyed. It is beyond our comprehension to understand what people in war must be going through. Yet war has been a part of all human history. It is the visible appearance of evil at work. We long for that time of peace that the prophets spoke of. Isaiah describes it like this:No longer will violence be heard in your land,    nor ruin or destruction within your borders,but you will call your walls Salvation    and your gates Praise.The sun will no more be your light by day,    nor will the brightness of the moon shine on you,for the Lord will be your everlasting light,    and your God will be your glory. (Isaiah 60:18-19) As Christians, our hope for this day rests with the return of Christ. We are closer than ever. Yet while we wait, we need to be caring for those who suffer, crying with those who mourn and weeping for those who have lost everything. Let’s continue to work and pray for peace until ‘no longer will violence be heard in your land.’