Living Together in God's Time
Written by Fr. Dale Minor - The Reclaim Ministry
My current favorite appliance in our house is a digital clock which not only shows me the time of day, but also tells me the day of the week, the date, and if it is morning or afternoon. In fact, if I get up in the middle of the night, it includes notations such as “after midnight” or “before dawn.” I am not really sure why this is necessary because if I am awake enough to read the clock, I ought to be able to look out the window to see if it is dark or light.
In any regard, I find myself increasingly dependent upon this gadget because, not only am I old, addled, and easily confused, but my current mostly stay-at-home existence allows one day to run into the next. Where I used to be able to count on our Sunday church gatherings to bring into correction any drift in my sense of time and space, I now sit in front of my computer watching the live streaming of the Sunday worship, an activity which isn’t all that different from what I do the other six days of the week. Now, I am not complaining about these broadcasts. I appreciate the efforts these folks have made to provide spiritual nourishment during our time of social distancing; aka “house arrest.”
I clearly remember the days when I worked in an office and often traveled from city to city in my employment. I found I was constantly aware of the clock, mentally calculating the time required for me to travel to a given appointment. I got used to defining distance in terms of hours and minutes instead of miles. And often I became weary of that sense of “being controlled by the clock.”
Now, the measure of time is not a bad thing. It was invented by God. He placed the sun and moon and planets in the heavens and set them in motion. He assigned regularity to their courses and taught us to observe their movement. In this way we were given a sense for time. Our year is a measurement of the time required for one orbit of the earth around the sun, the orbiting of the moon around the earth limits the months, and a day identifies a single revolution of the earth. Even the seasons are the result of the tilted axis of the earth as it makes its journey around the sun. God created time, it was up to man to devise instruments for measuring it and learning to use such devices to define and control their activities.
God’s word speaks a lot about time, primarily for the purpose of directing our thoughts and actions toward its perfect use according to His will. There is, of course, the oft-quoted line from Ecclesiastes 3, “To everything there is a season, a time for every purpose under heaven.” This is followed by a series of opposing thoughts, “A time to be born, and a time to die, a time to plant, and a time to pluck what is planted, etc.” This and similar passages of scripture speak to living in the will of God such as James 4:13-16 which includes the line, “You ought to say, “If the Lord wills, we shall live and do this or that.” For, ignoring the will of the Lord is living in ignorance of his timing and is likely to lead to failure and stress.
The Lord also warns against the wasting of our time. This is also expressed in the context of Eccl. 3, but perhaps best in Hebrews 12 which includes the encouragement, “Let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith.” The clear message here is that we are to seek the Lord and steadfastly follow Him.
Now, it is true that the Lord has not asked us to ignore the effects of sin in the world and the fact that we will experience unforeseen circumstances as well as times of uncertainty like those we are now living. But St. Paul has adequately addressed these in Phil. 4:6-7 “Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be known to God, and the peace which surpasses understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.”
Time is important, the Lord’s time. Let us not push ours ahead of His.
How Can We Know the Way?
Written by Kathryn Kircher - Heartland Church of Fort Wayne
“Thomas said to him, ‘Lord, we do not know where you are going. How can we know the way?’ Jesus said to him, ‘I am the way . . .’” (John 14:5-6a )
Thomas’ question could just as easily be ours today as we continue to face the upheaval and uncertainty that COVID-19 has brought to our lives. Even though the stay-at-home orders are being lifted in some locations, and a few steps are being taken to allow certain businesses to be reopened, we still have lots of unanswered questions—possibly even more than before. Some of us are asking things like:
Like us, Thomas and the other disciples were confused about which way to go. They wanted to follow Jesus, but there didn’t seem to be a clear path before them. Jesus’ striking answer is just as apropos today as it was when Thomas asked his question. But it’s an answer with a twist: Jesus doesn’t answer Thomas’ “How?” question. Instead He answers a “Who?” question and points Thomas—and us—to Himself!
So here we are with all of our questions. None of us has ever experienced a worldwide pandemic before; it’s not easy to follow Jesus through this uncharted territory. But He’s welcoming us to engage in conversations with Him about all of our quandaries and conundrums. He has answers for all of our questions, and He knows the path we each should take. He understands our unique needs, and He’ll point us in the right direction. He is more than happy to reveal to any one of us what our next step should be.
And one of the rich beauties of this all is that Jesus’ answer to each one of us might be different. It’s not a one-size-fits-all road: He provides a tailor-made path for each individual. He knows your unique way and mine because He is the way.
So as we face each new question that arises from this pandemic confusion, let’s keep turning to Jesus, who is offering Himself as the way forward.
I’ve never been down this path before, Lord. I don’t know what to do, and it’s often difficult to know how to follow You. Be the Way for me today.
I know the way: it’s Jesus Himself.
Written by Janet Mueller - Heartland Church of Fort Wayne
“He will cover you with His feathers; you will take refuge under His wings. His faithfulness will be a protective shield.” (Psalm 91:4 HCSB)
“Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.” (Matthew 5:4 NIV)
They were busy. The pair were fluttering in and out of the evergreen bush just outside our front door. More twigs, more grasses, and more mud were needed to line the nest, molded by the female to the shape of her breast. Soon the mourning dove couple had completed their nest and were ready for their first clutch of eggs for the season.
“Wooo-oo-ooo-oo-oo-oo,” they cried their haunting, sad song over and over evoking the feeling of grief for which they were named. This spring as I have heard them, I am reminded of the sense of national and worldwide grief, sorrow, and lament over the coronavirus and the multiple lives it has disrupted and taken. Repetitively, my heart joined in with the doves’ soulful sounds. “Oh, God, oh, God, oh God!” my spirit moaned searching for words but coming up empty.
Shortly, two white eggs appeared in the doves’ nest. Momma bird didn’t leave the nest often but brooded softly and silently, her tiny, black eyes watching me as I walked past the bush on my daily rendezvous with the mailbox.
One day during my dove observations, I became aware that the Holy Spirit is our national Mourning Dove brooding over us in expectation of birthing something new. Just as the momma bird cannot force the eggs to hatch but can only patiently wait, so we, too, cannot hasten this season too quickly. We must wait, under the wings of the emblematic Mourning Dove, for the full work of incubation to take place.
My prayers matched this awareness as I prayed for a spirit of godly sorrow and repentance to come to our nation. Repentance for how we have forsaken God, gone our own way, and lived independently of Him. I was reminded of this Scripture from Jeremiah, the weeping prophet, “For My people have committed a double evil: They have abandoned Me, the fountain of living water, and dug cisterns for themselves, cracked cisterns that cannot hold water.” (Jeremiah 2:12 HCSB)
Day after day, I became increasingly aware how God was faithfully covering our nation under His wings. He had not abandoned us but was carefully brooding over us in this season of abrupt cessation of activity and “sheltering in place.” Will our eyes open? Will there be a new birth from this time? Will there be a Third Great Awakening for our nation?
Key Thought: As we grieve our losses, may we stay under the wings of the Holy Spirit, our Mourning Dove, as we turn our lament into trust and our waywardness into surrender.
Photo credit - Janet Mueller
The God Who Sees...
Written by Laura Strack - Heartland Church of Fort Wayne
She answered God by name, praying to the God who spoke to her, “You’re the God who sees me!”
“Yes! He saw me; and then I saw him!” (Genesis 16:13 MSG)
Her name was Zara. She was small in stature, usually quiet, and not very friendly, and was often rather cantankerous when she was out and about. She mostly kept to herself but would wander out once in a while to roam the halls on the Alzheimer’s unit where I had recently started not only a new job but a new chapter in my life. Zara also had a little bit of a reputation with the staff, who warned, “Watch out for her; she’s a little mean!”
One day Zara had come out of her room and was sitting in a chair in the common area by the nurse’s desk. I was on my way to fulfill some task, in a hurry as usual, and as I rounded the corner where she was sitting, she grabbed me by the hand as I passed by. I remember thinking, “Oh Lord, now what?” but I stopped and stooped down to see what she needed.
Zara placed both of her cold, wrinkled hands on my face, looked me square in the eye, and with complete clarity and compassion said, “Honey, God wants you to know how special you are and that you’re doing a good job. He loves you so much.” She dropped her hands from my face, and turned away, once again in her own little world. I was completely undone! I thanked her and searched for a quiet corner where I could collect myself so I didn’t start bawling like a baby!
Right there in the middle of an Alzheimer’s unit, I came face to face with God. He saw where I was, knew what I needed, and cared enough to communicate His love and understanding through the most unexpected of sources. He has a way of finding us in our low places, our fearful places, places we would least expect to see Him.
I began to ask questions about Zara’s history and background. I found out her name, Zara, means “princess,” and she had been very actively involved in church leadership before this disease took over her mind. God didn’t just see me, He also saw Zara. He saw the eternal part of her that belonged to Him, and it certainly changed the way I saw Zara. I took time to read the Psalms or sing hymns and choruses to her on occasion, but I don’t recall ever seeing her do anything again like she did that day.
Life today is such a challenge! We find ourselves isolated from one another because of the pandemic. Fear and frustration have been rampant, but God is not hindered by disease or isolation or fear or frustration. He SEES us. My prayer is that we will encounter God during these times and respond, “You’re the God who sees me!” Yes! He saw me; and then I saw him!
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