At Home in the Brokenness

“The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit;
a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise.”
(Psalm 51:17)

At the end of the worship service on Sunday, I couldn’t remember the benediction.

It was just gone. Nada. Nothing.

We all got a chuckle out of it. It was a little humbling, a reminder that I am all too human, and an encouragement to everyone else who has experienced moments of forgetfulness.

Monday brought another reminder of my brokenness, but in an entirely different way. I was down for the day with another headache. Eerily similar to the headache that put me in the hospital for a week last year, this one came out of nowhere, with the feeling that a balloon was being inflated inside my head. Having learned from past experience, I didn’t try to push through the pain, but spent the day down, resting and praying that God would bring relief.

And God demonstrated His mercy.  Fortunately, the headache left as quickly as it came on. It only lasted for a day, but the lingering effects remain:

  • Physically, my head feels like its been beaten, tired and sore.
  • Emotionally, there’s now that lingering worry that another headache is just around the corner.
  • Spiritually, I know what it is to be broken.

I’m only 43.  I should be in my “prime active years.”  In running terms, I’m mid race, and should be striding out and setting the pace for the years to come. And yet, for almost an entire day, it was all I could do to just sit up from the couch for a glass of water.

This came as yet another vivid reminder of my brokenness.  I thought I was strong, and a headache brought me to my knees. I try to take on more and more, convinced that I can balance it all, and then I am reminded of just how delicate that balance really is. When I want to bring God my best, I find that my best is nothing more than a broken and ragged mess.

I am reminded of Paul’s warning in 1 Corinthians 10, “Therefore let anyone who thinks that he stands take heed lest he fall.” I am aware Paul’s dealing with temptation of idolatry here, but is not our tendency to slip into self-reliance and trust in our own ability another form of idolatry?

Psalm 147:10 reminds me that God’s “delight is not in the strength of the horse, nor his pleasure in the legs of a man, but the Lord takes pleasure in those who fear him, in those who hope in his steadfast love.”  Psalm 51:17 reminds us that, “The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise.”

I’ve always considered the phrase “a broken spirit” to be synonymous with “a broken and contrite heart.” I assumed that it meant a humility in light of our sinfulness, an awareness of our desperate need for a savior, a penitent heart that seeks the mercy of God. All of that is true. But I’ve come to realize that “broken spirit” means much more. To be broken in spirit is to broken off from self. It means putting to death all confidence in the flesh, and resting entirely upon his gracious work within me.

But there is a beauty in brokenness; a grace found here that is rare elsewhere. In this weakness His strength is made perfect (2 Cor. 12:19). When we find we cannot hold on to Him any longer for our strength is gone, we find “the eternal God is your dwelling place, and underneath are the everlasting arms” (Deut 33:27).

No one asks to be broken, and yet it is only in our brokenness that we truly come to see and know the extent of God’s grace and mercy towards us. It is only in the acknowledgement of the absolute wreck that I have made of my life that I begin to understand the length to which Christ went to secure my salvation. It is only when I consider the frailty of my faith that I begin to comprehend the wonder of God’s steadfast and unchanging love in which I have been called.  It is only when I realize how small my strength is, how short I can reach, that I can rest secure in His “victorious right hand” (Isa 41:10).

Rich Mullins wrote a song that’s been speaking to me recently, appropriately titled, “We Are Not As Strong As We Think We Are.” The first verse and chorus go:

Well, it took the hand of God Almighty
To part the waters of the sea
But it only took one little lie
To separate you and me
Oh, we are not as strong as we think we are.

We are frail
We are fearfully and wonderfully made
Forged in the fires of human passion
Choking on the fumes of selfish rage
And with these our hells and our heavens
So few inches apart 
We must be awfully small
And not as strong as we think we are.

Here’s the video:

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Thoughts on Suffering

As I continue reading through the Memoirs and Remains of Robert Murry M’Cheyne, I keep finding treasures of wisdom that I want to pass along.  The following is from a letter M’Cheyne wrote to his congregation when he was separated from them because of his poor health.  There were several in his congregation who were sick as well, and they had written to him about the meaning of suffering.  Here is his reply:

You have here, then, in Job 23:8-9, a child of light walking in darkness, an afflicted soul seeking, and seeking in vain, to know why God is contending with him. Dear friends, this is not an uncommon case; even to some of you God’s providences often appear inexplicable. He has tried you in different ways: some of you by the loss of your property, as He tried Job; some of you by the loss of dear friends; some by loss of health, some by the loss of the esteem of friends. Perhaps more than one trouble has come on you at a time, wave upon wave, thorn upon thorn. Before one wound was healed, another came, before the rain was well away, clouds returned. You cannot explain God’s dealings with you, you cannot get God to explain them; you have drawn the Savior’s blood and righteousness over your souls, and you know that the Father himself loves you; you would like to meet Him to ask, “Why do you contend with me?”

My dear afflicted brethren, this is no strange thing that has happened to you. Almost every believer is at one time or another brought to feel this difficulty: “God makes my heart soft, and the Almighty troubles me.” Is it in anger, or is it in pure love, that He afflicts me? Am I fleeing from the presence of the Lord, as Jonah fled? What change would He have wrought in me? If any of you are thinking thus in your heart, pray over this word in Job. Remember the word in Psalm 46, “Be still, and know that I am God.” God does many things to teach us that He is God, and to make us wait upon Him. And, still further, see in verse 10 what light breaks in upon our darkness: “But He knows the way that I take: when He hath tried me, I shall come forth as gold.”

Observe, first, “He knows the way that I take.” What sweet comfort there is in these words: He that redeemed me, He that pities me as a father, He who is the only wise God, He whose name is love, “He knows the way that I take!”He that is greater than all the world is looking with the intensest interest upon all your steps.

You do not know your own way. God has called you to suffer, and you go, like Abraham, not knowing whither you go. Like Israel going down into the Red Sea, every step is strange to you. Still, be of good cheer, sufferer with Christ! God marks your every step.

He that loves you with an infinite, unchanging love, is leading you by his Spirit and providence. He knows every stone, every thorn in your path. Jesus knows your way. Jesus is afflicted in all your afflictions. “Fear not, for I have redeemed you. I have called you by my name, you art mine. When you pass through the water, I will be with you; and through the rivers, they shall not overflow you. When you walk through the fire, you shall not be burned, neither shall the flame kindle upon you.”

Second, “When He hath tried me, I shall come forth as gold.” This also is precious comfort. There will be an end of your affliction. Christians must have “great tribulation;” but they come out of it. We must carry the cross; but only for a moment, then comes the crown.

There is a set time for putting into the furnace, and a set time for taking out of the furnace. There is a time for pruning the branches of the vine, and there is a time when the husbandman lays aside the pruning-hook. Let us wait his time; “he that believeth shall not make haste.” God’s time is the best time.

But shall we come out the same as we went in? Ah! no; “we shall come out like gold.” It is this that sweetens the bitterest cup; this brings a rainbow of promise over the darkest cloud. Affliction will certainly purify a believer. How boldly he says it: “I shall come out like gold!” Ah, how much dross there is in every one of you, dear believers, and in your pastor!

Oh that all the dross may be left behind in the furnace! What imperfection, what sin, mingles with all we have ever done! But are we really fruit-bearing branches of the true vine! Then it is certain that when we are pruned, we shall bear more fruit. We shall come out like gold. We shall shine more purely as “a diadem in the hand of our God.” We shall become purer vessels to hold the sweet-smelling incense of praise and prayer. We shall become holy golden vessels for the Master’s use in time and in eternity.

May the promise that God knows and shares our suffering, and that God is using it to refine His people, strengthen you and give you hope as you face trials and afflictions.

Grace and peace,

SDG

Quoted from: McCheyne, Robert Murray, and Andrew A. Bonar. Memoir and Remains of the Rev. Robert Murray McCheyne. Edinburgh; London: Oliphant Anderson & Ferrier, 1894. Logos Digital Edition.
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Think Richly Upon Jesus

This morning I came across the video of a question and answer session from the conclusion of a Ligonier Ministries Conference.  Sounds riveting, I know. In fact, it was quite informative, covering a wide variety of questions from the audience with thoughtful and pastoral answers.  One of the final questions to the panel was a powerful one, “What is the greatest threat to the Church today?”  Before reading further, how would you answer the question yourself?

We might be given to answer that it is the cultural conflicts the church is facing today that pose the biggest challenge to the Church.  Or we might answer it is the tendency toward compromise in the basic teachings of the church to become more “relevant” to the world around us. Some might even argue that it is still the “Worship Wars” which threaten the church today, the long argument over the style and content of our worship, particularly the music of worship.

While these are all important challenges that the church faces today, interestingly, that is not where the panelist focused in their answers.

The first response to what the biggest challenge facing the church today was “Not preaching the gospel.”  By this he meant losing a love for and trust in the life changing message of salvation in Jesus Christ.  Becoming tired of the word, looking for worldly means to supplement the preaching of the gospel, this the challenge the church faces.

The second response was “That I lose my love or passion for Jesus.”  The panelist clarified by saying it is not that he would deny his faith, but that he would grow cold and indifferent in his affections toward Christ. This, he said, is the greatest challenge the church faces.

The third panelist said the biggest challenge the church faces is that we would have a “shallow perception of who God is; that we would take God casually.”

Notice the common thread in all of these responses?  They are all internal, not external threats to the church.  The greatest threat to the life of the church today is not the existential, philosophical, or political climate in which the church finds itself today.  It is the threat of losing our love for Jesus.

This is the charge that the Lord brought against the church in Ephesus in Revelation 2:1-7. “But I have this against you, that you have abandoned the love you had at first.”  Losing this love for Christ is disastrous for the church, and threatens her witness and very life. Jesus even said, “Remember therefore from where you have fallen; repent, and do the works you did at first. If not, I will come to you and remove your lamp stand from its place, unless you repent.”

How do we maintain a love for Christ?

I think it begins by thinking richly upon Christ and all that He is.

Think of His glory

Consider the glory of Christ the Lord:

(John 1:1–3) In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things were made through him, and without him was not any thing made that was made.

(Colossians 1:15–20) He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation. For by him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things were created through him and for him. And he is before all things, and in him all things hold together. And he is the head of the body, the church. He is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, that in everything he might be preeminent. For in him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell, and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, making peace by the blood of his cross.

(Hebrews 1:3–4)He is the radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of his nature, and he upholds the universe by the word of his power. After making purification for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high, having become as much superior to angels as the name he has inherited is more excellent than theirs.

That’s just a few of the passages of Scripture that make much of the glory and splendor of Christ.  If there is any deficiency in our love and adoration of Christ, it is not because he lacks any worth, but because we think too little of his worth.  Consider the wonder of who Christ is, and let His glory fuel your affection.

Think of His love

Another way to maintain our love for Christ is to consider Christ’s love

He loved the Father.  In John 14:31 Jesus says, “I do as the Father has commanded me, so that the world may know that I love the Father.”  He lived in perfect obedience to the Father, accomplishing the work of salvation for which the Father had sent him.

Not only did Jesus love the Father perfectly, he also loved his people perfectly.  Jesus said, “I am the good shepherd. I know my own and my own know me, just as the Father knows me and I know the Father; and I lay down my life for the sheep” (John 10:14–15).

Considering Christ’s life for us brings us into richer fellowship with hm. Ephesians 3:17–19 prays for us, “that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith—that you, being rooted and grounded in love, may have strength to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled with all the fullness of God.”

Think of His sacrifice/suffering

If we consider his love, we must also consider the depth to which he came to demonstrate or prove that love for us.

(John 3:16)“For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.

(2 Corinthians 5:21)For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.

(Romans 3:23–25)for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, whom God put forward as a propitiation by his blood, to be received by faith. This was to show God’s righteousness, because in his divine forbearance he had passed over former sins.

(1 Peter 3:18)For Christ also suffered once for sins, the righteous for the unrighteous, that he might bring us to God, being put to death in the flesh but made alive in the spirit,

In the powerful hymn of Isaac Watts we sing

Love so amazing, so divine,
demands my soul, my life, my all.

Think of His coming in power

Thinking richly on the glory of Christ, his love and his sacrifice, are sufficient enough to fan the flames of our love for Christ.  But consider also his coming for the church in power.  He has not left us or abandoned us, but has poured our his Spirit upon the Church.  He has not ceased from his work for the Church, but continues to intercede for the Church at the right hand of God.  One day, he will return for his bride, and bring all the faithful unto himself, that where he is, we shall be also.

(John 14:3) And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, that where I am you may be also.

(Revelation 22:12–13) “Behold, I am coming soon, bringing my recompense with me, to repay each one for what he has done. I am the Alpha and the Omega, the first and the last, the beginning and the end.”

(1 Thessalonians 4:16–17) For the Lord himself will descend from heaven with a cry of command, with the voice of an archangel, and with the sound of the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first. Then we who are alive, who are left, will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and so we will always be with the Lord.

Think richly upon Christ. Look to him who is the author and finisher of your faith.  Think of Christ in his glory, in his love, in his suffering, and in his soon-coming for the church. May your consideration of Christ renew and keep your love for him!

SDG

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Dealing with Questions and Doubts

Sometimes Pastoral Ministry means going out and seeking the sheep who have gone astray, and leading them back to the green pastures.

Sometimes in Pastoral Ministry, the sheep just sort of wander into your office and ask to be fed.

The latter has happened a couple of times this past week.  New faces come into the church,  sometimes asking for help, other times just to talk; but always with questions.  If I can be patient, the questions start flowing, and relationships start forming.  It’s awesome.

Why do we discourage questions?

I can’t tell you how many times people have come to me afraid to ask questions.  Somewhere along the way someone has told them that asking questions is the same thing as questioning God, and if they can’t just accept what they are told, then they cannot be saved.

I want to encourage questions.  I think it was Anselm who said, “Theology is faith seeking understanding.”  You cannot seek understanding unless you first recognize what you do not already know.  And what you don’t already know is usually expressed in the form of questions.

People have said there are no stupid questions.  I don’t know if I’d always agree.  I had one student in confirmation class who kept asking me if goats will fly in heaven.  That was a stupid question.

Honest, heart-felt questions that try to get to a deeper richer understanding of who God is, who we are, and how we get right with him – those can never be stupid questions.  Ask away. Jesus said no one may enter the kingdom of heaven unless he comes like a child, and if you’ve ever spent any time with a child, you know they ask a lot of questions.  It is the only way we ever really learn.

But that’s the flip side of the invitation to asking, you have to be ready and willing to find the answer.  Simply asking for questions but never listening for the answer is the formula for folly.  If you are going to ask questions of faith, then you must also look to the Scriptures, which are the only rule for life and faith.  Take up and read, pursue wisdom at all costs, stay deeply rooted in the Word of God.  Only there will you find the answers you seek.

Related to questions is doubt.  Doubt is that painful, nagging gap between our experience and our faith.  We know God has promised X, but our experience has been Y, can we really trust and rest in what He has said?

Our confession reminds us:

True believers may have the assurance of their salvation divers ways shaken, diminished, and intermitted; as, by negligence in preserving of it, by falling into some special sin which wounded the conscience and grieveth the Spirit; by some sudden or vehement temptation, but God’s withdrawing the light of his countenance, and suffering even such as fear him to walk in darkness and to have no light: yet are they never utterly destitute of that seed of God, and life of faith, that love of Christ and the brethren, that sincerity of heart, and conscience of duty, out of which, by the operation of the Spirit, this assurance may, in due time, be revived; and by the which, in the meantime, they are supported from utter despair.

Ether through quiet spiritual neglect, or by willful rebellion in sin; we have our faith shaken, and we can be overcome with doubt.  Yet we are reminded in God’s Word, that even when our hearts condemn us, God is greater than our heart, he knows everything (1 John 3:20).

So come to God with your questions, come to Him with your doubts and worries.  Come as you are, not as you think you should be. Come to Him.  Let His Word speak to you, teach you, and bring life to you through faith in Jesus Christ.

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Do This

“This is my body, which is given for you. Do this in remembrance of me.”
Luke 22:19

I’ve been thinking a lot about this phrase lately.  Whenever we gather at the Table in worship, the bread is broken, the cup is poured out, and we hear the words of our Savior saying, “Do this in remembrance of me.”  We hear these words, we see the signs, and we are reminded of Christ’s sacrifice for our Salvation.  His body was broken, his blood poured out, in order to bear the wrath of God against our sins which He bore on the cross, that we should be reconciled to God and born again unto new and eternal life.

At the Table we are reminded that Christ is the only source of life, and that there is no life without Him.  In John 6 we read, “Unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in you. Whoever feeds on my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day. For my flesh is true food, and my blood is true drink. Whoever feeds on my flesh and drinks my mood abides in me, and I in Him.”  Of course, this isn’t a call to cannibalism.  Rather, Jesus is telling us that we make take Him in by trusting and believing in Him and in His atoning death.  Neither is Jesus teaching that merely pulling up to the table and eating the bread and drinking the cup will give you life.  Instead, it is through abiding in Christ, and trusting and resting in Him alone that we find life, forgiveness, strength, and peace.

So we gather at the Table. Christ commands us to “Do this in remembrance,” and so we break bread together and remember Christ’s sacrifice for our Salvation. We see the grace of God evidenced in our communion with Him and with one another. We “do this in remembrance” of Him.

But is that all that is meant by that phrase? Is that instruction tied only to the Table? Is it possible that “do this” could also mean “be broken, yourselves”?

I don’t mean to suggest in any way that Christ is calling us to try to repeat His atoning work. If that were possible, why would he have had to die in the first place.  His death accomplished our salvation, His resurrection secured our justification.  Nothing more could be added to this perfect and complete work.

But are we not also called to a certain brokenness?  The apostle Paul describes his own life as being “poured out as a drink offering upon the sacrificial offering of your faith” (Phil 2:17), and even “filling up what is lacking in Christ’s afflictions for the sake of his body, that is, the church” (Col 1:24).  Now Paul couldn’t be saying that Christ’s suffering was deficient in any way for our salvation, for he had just written of Christ saying, “in him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell, and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, making peace by the blood of his cross” (Col 1:19-20).  What was “lacking” in Christ’s afflictions was the ongoing manifestation, the sharing in the sufferings of Christ, “carrying in the body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be manifested in our bodies” (2 Cor 4:10).  We share in Christ’s sufferings, we lay down our lives daily and take up the cross, we “do this in remembrance” so that His goodness, His love, His grace may be made known in us.

How then are we broken for others?  It is certainly seen in the persecution of the faithful; but it is not limited to such extremes.  Could not our brokenness in remembrance also be seen as we give sacrificially to support missions and the ongoing ministry of the church?  I’m not talking about giving up that extra latte each week – the luxury items you could live without – but genuinely giving sacrificially for the benefit of others. This is the type of giving that Paul honors when writing about the Macedonian churches who gave “beyond their means, of their own accord, begging … earnestly for the favor of taking part in the relief of the saints” (2 Cor 8:3-4).

But let’s get beyond money. Are not our lives to be broken, poured out, for the sake of others around us?  Are you investing in, pouring yourself out to, another person?  Are you sharing your faith with those who do not know God, and encouraging the faith of other believers?  The old hymn goes

Did Christ over sinners weep,
and shall our cheeks be dry?

If Christ was broken for the salvation of his people, and we are called to follow Him, shall we not be broken also in remembrance of Him?

The next time you gather at the Table, eat and drink in remembrance of Him. But don’t leave it there.  When you walk from that table into the world around you, be broken with Him, that all may see and wonder at the amazing grace of His redeeming love.

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Haiti Update Day 6

The Lord’s DayExodus 20:8-11 “Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy. Six days you shall labor, and do all your work, but the seventh day is a Sabbath to the Lord your God. On it you shall not do any work, you, or your son, or your daughter, your male servant, or your female servant, or your livestock, or the sojourner who is within your gates. For in six days the Lord made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that is in them, and rested on the seventh day. Therefore the Lord blessed the Sabbath day and made it holy.”

A blessed day of rest in the Lord today in Haiti. We rose early to make it to the Consolation Center for worship at 7:00. To hear the children singing at the top of their voices songs of praise to our God in the name of Christ the Savior was just awesome. We sat in a packed church with beautiful children of God from Haiti and the US, in Creole and English, with hearts and hands raised to the Lord in praise and adoration. We heard a powerful message, with translation, on the importance of following the movement of the Holy Spirit, preached from Acts 2. The songs were amazing, some we knew, many we didn’t, but the singing was heartfelt and worshipful.

Service at the Consolation Center ended just before 9:00 – we had no idea the time had gone so quickly. From there we drove to the Village of Hope for their worship service. We were welcomed warmly, and blessed by powerful prayer, a wonderful children’s choir, and a sermon form Hosea 2 on the Faithfulness of God toward unfaithful Israel, and a call to turn from idolatry. There was no interpreter for this sermon, so it was difficult to follow, but I knew enough of the text and could pick up some key words to try to make sense of it – and Les filled us in on the finer details after the service.

It is an understatement to say that the worship services in Haiti are different than those in the US. Where we are more reserved, quiet, and reflective, the Haitian services are experiential, responsive, and very active services. The music has a free flow to it, bringing their cultural styles and rhythms to songs we may sing very differently in our services. Prayers are longer, considerably, but passionate and free. I was particularly moved by the prayers. I didn’t understand much of them, but the Spirit of prayer was clearly seen. These prayers were prayed by people of prayer. Some Puritan somewhere once wrote that it was better to have prayer without words but full of heart than prayer full of words but without heart. I am convicted that sometimes I have prayed and my heart has been a mile away. This was not the case today. Also, their prayers were full of thanksgiving. The one phrase you could not help but pick up in the prayer was “Mesi Senior,” “Thank you Lord!” Repeated over and over again. Repeated with those things they were thankful for. Surrounded by such poverty and devastation, to hear prayers of thanksgiving causes me to repent of my lack of thankfulness for the abundance I have been given. I may not have understood much of what was said in worship this morning, but I believe the Spirit was speaking to me through the Word and in our time of worship. I am thankful for this Lord’s Day.

In the afternoon we rested at the beach. What a refreshing balm to sore and tired bodies after a week of tenuous travel and strenuous work. Wading in the water, letting the tide roll over you, visiting with friends about matters of faith and the Word of God – it was a perfect rest for the day. I am thankful for this also on this Lord’s Day.

We drove into the city of Les Cayes for supper tonight, a real treat – Pepperoni Pizza. We sat at the table together, telling stories of God’s provision, making plans for the coming day, and enjoying the fellowship of the table. A group of Haitian teens sat behind us, having a great time – as they left, they circled up and prayed with one another. As we left the restaurant, the car was being difficult, and we got to watch a parade of bands pass by. We have no idea what the parade was for, but it was absolute chaos. Bands of drums and large horns, surrounded by crowds dressed in masks and costumes filled the streets, and cars and motor cycles still pushed their way through. We got caught in the traffic, and are grateful that Les was driving tonight – I never would have got us out of that mess. If this had been in the brochure for the trip, I don’t know if anyone would have come, but it was a once in a life time experience.

We ended the evening as we always do, sitting in a circle by the pool, bats swooping overhead, as we discuss our day and the devotion. This is a sweet time of prayer and fellowship, continuing the worship of our God under His stars – truly a blessing!

So that was the day, this Lord’s Day. I don’t know when this will get posted; my ability to get WIFI is limited, and my phone is kaput. We have a full day of work lined out for tomorrow, and we say goodbye to the children before heading back to Port Au Prince on Tuesday. It will be a difficult day, but we pray that God will bind our hearts together in love, as we have been already bound together as the body of Christ.

We are grateful for your prayers – keep praying for our work and travel home!

Grace and peace…

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Hurry Up and Wait

Day 1 of our Haiti Mission Trip is winding down, and here we are making our home in the luggage claim area of the Ft. Lauderdale International Airport.  We’re playing the waiting game.

That seem to sum up the whole day, really.  We arrived, as recommended, 3 hours early for our international flight from Sioux Falls, SD, only to have to wait to even check in for our first flight.  

The first was a great flight, and it was a first in several ways.  For Zach and Caleb, it was their first flight ever.  For the rest of us, it was the first of several flights for our round trip journey to and from Haiti. On top of that, we also landed in Chicago 30 minutes earlier than expected, so that was an added bonus.

Except… it meant more waiting.  We waited in the Chicago. O’Hare airport for about 4 hours, which really isn’t a terrible wait – unless you’re flying with very active teenage boys.  It’s so hard to be patient.

Our flight to Florida was another smooth and unremarkable flight – the best kind in my opinion.  The downside (and I’m really not looking for the dark cloud behind the silver lining) is that now we wait, again, for our next flight.  Ft. Lauderdale doesn’t have an “International Section,” and the entire terminal has to be cleared at night for security screening.  So our waiting tonight will be with the other overnight travelers in the baggage claim section of the airport.  We can check back in at 4:00 in the morning; which is only 4 hours away. So, yea!, more waiting.

I don’t think I’m really good at waiting.  I can’t blame the boys for being impatient – I’m really no better. I like to see results, I like to get where I’m going; I like to be on the move.  Waiting takes patience, trust, and faith.

And so we wait.

I’ve been thinking quite a bit lately about the description of the Godly Man in Palm 1:

He is like a tree planted by stream of water that yeilds its fruit in its season…

Tree take time.  They don’t grow overnight, and what grow does come is measured in decades not just years.  It takes time for the fruitful season to come – and growing from seedling to fruit bearing might seem an eternity.

But the Godly man is like this tree planted by the streams of water.  I could talk here about this being the action of God – the tree doesn’t plant itself.  I could show how the permanence of being planted by streams of water is a contrast to the life ever-digressing life of the wicked. But what strikes me tonight, as I wait, is the patience of the man of God.

What is it that Treebeard the Ent says to young Pippen and Merry, “Don’t be so hasty!”

And so we wait.  We wait; expecting more travels and adventures tomorrow.  We wait; praying that God has great things in store for us as we serve Him and His people this coming week. We wait; realizing that none of us are really going to get a good night’s rest, but also remembering that they who “wait for the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings like eagles; they shall run and not be weary; they shall walk and not faint.”

Until tomorrow!

SDG

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