Psalm 130 I wait for the Lord, my whole being waits, and in his word, I put my hope. Verse 5 (NIV)
Do any of us remember when we had to wait for snail mail to arrive? When we were in Tanzania our only communication with family and friends back in Canada was by snail mail. Now when I write an email to friends in Tanzania, I expect a response in a very short period of time. It seems that our ability or tolerance to wait is ever diminishing. In our fast-paced world, waiting is treated as an irritating inconvenience.
As a child, I could hardly wait to open Christmas or birthday presents. As a high school student, I waited with anxious anticipation to see if I made the school football team. As an adult I waited anxiously to see if I passed the carpentry licensing exam. Even while working for our denomination in international ministry I had to learn to wait for travel documents and visas and usually with timelines pressing.
When the psalmist writes that his “whole being waits,” perhaps you – like me – can relate to that feeling. He wanders back and forth between calling out to God and reminding himself of the goodness and faithfulness of God. His heart and soul long for a sign from God, a flicker of light while hanging out in the depths of darkness.
Fear creeps into our waiting when there’s a possibility of bad news – and that can make the situation feel unbearable. As the psalmist keeps his eyes fixed on God, so we must keep our eyes fixed on Jesus the author and finisher of our faith and the source of hope for this life and forever. There is no outcome that God will not help us handle.
Dear Lord, we cautiously pray for patience as we deal with irritating little things and major, life altering, fearful things. Thank you for your infinite mercy. Infuse us with unshakable hope in your Word. Amen.
In him we were also chosen, having been predestined according to the plan of him who works out everything in conformity with the purpose of his will, in order that we, who were the first to put our hope in Christ, might be for the praise of his glory. And you also were included in Christ when you heard the message of truth, the gospel of your salvation. When you believed, you were marked in him with a seal, the promised Holy Spirit, who is a deposit guaranteeing our inheritance until the redemption of those who are God’s possession – to the praise of his glory. (NIV)
As a teenager I was a little less than the perfect child. I did have a very small encounter with the police while in high school. When my dad found out, he made it very clear that I would never again drag the family name through the mud. It was stated in no uncertain terms that all the children in the family would hold to good Christian values and principles “or else.”
While studying in Bible College this phrase that Paul uses in Ephesians 1 really caught my attention; “to the praise of His glory.” To understand that glory is due to God alone and to hear Paul say that we, the redeemed of the Lord, are intended to be to the praise of His glory certainly helps us to know we are valued by God.
It is completely the work of God through Jesus Christ that affords us the opportunity to have salvation and the hope of an eternity with Jesus. At the same time scripture is clear that there is an expectation to walk in the way of Jesus and to be like him. As a matter of fact, we are called to be holy as God is holy (1 Peter 1:16).
As much as we try, we cannot match the holiness of God in our own lives. So how do we possibly meet God’s standard and be “to the praise of His glory.” God’s love is so all encompassing that His grace, His amazing grace covers us. Can you imagine that our sin is forgiven from the past, in the present and even into the future? If we walk in humility and an attitude of repentance, we walk in his grace and we are “to the praise of His Glory.”
God in heaven, let nothing stand between us in praising and worshiping you in your grace and glory. We ask this through the power of the Holy Spirit, in Jesus’ name. Amen.
“I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing.” Verse 5 (NIV)
Growing up in Niagara I was exposed to working the grape vineyards from a pretty early age. I remember most the day that my dad took me to “sucker” the grape vines. It was in the spring and we walked up and down the rows of grape vines and to my astonishment we chopped off every green shoot that was growing up from the base of the vine. In my mind this new growth was green and fresh while the vines that had been tied to the wires and kept in rows seemed old and brittle.
I asked my dad at the end of the evening, “Why did we cut off all the good growth and leave all the old growth?” Dad explained, “The new growth that we cut off are called suckers. They are new and fresh. They look so much better than the old vines, but it is really just a trick. The new growth will take all the food meant for the vine. Then when it is time for the grapes to begin to grow there will be no food left and the grapes will be small and of a very poor quality.”
That lesson did not have much spiritual impact on me until I studied this passage in Bible College. My dad’s words came racing back to me and I saw the beauty of what I was taught. There are so many things in life that look good, even beneficial, but if they distract me from staying strongly connected to Jesus, they are just suckers. There are even spiritual distractions in our lives these days. Even if they promise spiritual benefits if they distract me from my connection to Jesus, they are suckers.
If we want to be about God’s business, if we want to be producing fruit to our greatest potential then we must focus on Jesus, we must know his word and the prompting of his Spirit. Apart from him you can do NOTHING!
Lord Jesus, keep me strongly connected to you and your Holy Spirit. Make me free to bear much fruit. Amen.
2 Kings 5:7-19
“Now I know that there is no God in all the world except in Israel. So please accept a gift from your servant.” Verse 15 (NIV)
I am amazed at video evidence that so many people are not willing to wear facemasks during the pandemic. Health experts say it is simple and one of the best ways to reduce the spread of the virus. Yet there are so many excuses as to why people will not wear them. By and large that is all they are, excuses.
Naaman is on a journey to seek healing from leprosy. He first goes to the king of Israel, but that king is not the source of healing. Elisha hears about this visitor from a foreign land and invites the king to send Naaman to him.
Naaman arrives at the house of Elisha, expecting to get a royal welcome and healing from the prophet himself. But instead a servant comes out and tells him to wash seven times in the Jordan River. Naaman’s expectations almost derail his hope filled journey. Military leaders are not given to take orders, especially from the servant of a prophet!
In this critical moment, however, Naaman’s own servants redirect his thinking. These unnamed servants respectfully challenge Naaman not to turn away from an “ordinary task” when he would have willingly done a much more difficult thing. Naaman wisely listens to these servants, humbles himself, and dips into the Jordan River.
Naaman obeys, somewhat haltingly, and he is healed. A journey that began with an unnamed servant girl from Israel ends with Naaman testifying that there is no God in the whole world except the God of Israel. Naaman’s unnamed servants are ordinary people whom God uses for his extraordinary purposes. Because of their words, a follower of God is given new life in the waters of the Jordan.
Gracious heavenly Father, thank you for the healing that comes when we humble ourselves before you. Thank you for the community of faith that can encourage us on our journey to you. Amen.
“If only my master would see the prophet who is in Samaria! He would cure him of his leprosy.”
Verse 3 (NIV)
Kindness and compassion sometimes appear in the most unlikely places or unlikely people. One of our special needs people suffers from fairly regular occasions of discomfort and pain that cause him lots of distress. From time to time when I check on him, I will ask him how he is feeling. Each time he struggles to get in a position that he can look at me and says: “Louis, I am happy.” Talk about melting your heart. I am trying to show compassion and he is telling me that he is not just “OK”, but he is happy.
If anyone had an excuse not to be used by God, the servant girl of Naaman did. She had been captured by the enemy. She had been taken from her family, her people, and her land. She was a stranger and a foreigner, and now she was a slave in the household of Naaman.
If anyone had an excuse not to be compassionate or kind, this servant girl did. Many people in her circumstances might have taken great joy at the suffering of their master. Naaman was afflicted with leprosy, a deforming disease that separated people from their community and eventually caused great suffering and death. And yet. this slave girl was moved to be a servant of the living God. When suffering entered into her household, she wanted to see that suffering relieved and her master healed.
In our passage, the phrase “If only …” is the phrase that turns the story from one of hopelessness to a great God story. When we read this story carefully, we see that it is a story of compassion and hope. This unnamed servant girl’s careful cry to her master’s wife starts Naaman on a journey that will eventually lead him to Elisha and an encounter with the living God. An unnamed servant girl has a heart of compassion and kindness,that leads to a life that is changed by the power and heart of God.
God of healing and hope, there is so much suffering in our world, in our neighborhoods, and perhaps even in our families. Lord make us instruments of your compassion, healing, and hope. Amen.