The Waiting Room

“So Christ, having been offered once to bear the sins of many, will appear a second time, not to deal with sin but to save those who are eagerly waiting for him.” (Hebrews 9:28, ESV)

“It will be said on that day, “Behold, this is our God; we have waited for him, that he might save us. This is the Lord; we have waited for him; let us be glad and rejoice in his salvation.” (Isaiah 25:9, ESV)

“I believe that I shall look upon the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living! Wait for the Lord; be strong, and let your heart take courage; wait for the Lord!” (Psalm 27:13–14, ESV)

I hate to wait. Patience is not one of my virtues. Perhaps that’fashion-person-woman-hands why the Lord continues to leave me in the waiting room. He intends to bring me to a healthy dependence on Him. He’s hooked up my heart to a slow-dripping dose of unfulfilled longings. I’m afraid the late Manfred George Gutzke got it right, “In order to be long-suffering, you must first be long-bothered.” In order to become patient, I must first be one.

Recently, the Lord has used His Word as an X-ray to expose my broken longings, so that He might reset them. I’ve been self-medicating on the wrong hope; a hope for circumstances I believe would suit me better, soothe my soul, and stimulate new growth. But these verses set the sights of my heart on a vision of health worthier of my waiting.

Am I “eagerly waiting for Him,” and on Him, and in Him, and with Him, no matter what (Hebrews 9:28)? Do I long for Him to save me, to continue the work of healing He began in me so many years ago (Isaiah 25:9)? Will I submit to the prescribed regimen of disciplines He will use for working out my salvation? Could it be that waiting is spiritual therapy to strengthen my trust muscle? Am I willing to trust that the Great Physician is mercifully making me whole right here and now? I so easily hope in circumstances I believe will “save” me, rather than in the One who has promised to transform me no matter where I am or what’s going on. Do I believe my eyes will see the Lord’s goodness at work in the land in which I’m living (Psalm 27:13-14)? I need the corrective lenses of His Story to clearly see that He will even use where I am and what’s going on to work out what He wants for me.

I am accustomed to sitting in waiting rooms, eager to see the one I hope will heal me. But this Physician is already out here in the waiting room with me. The waiting room is part of His prescription. The healing is happening; He is curing my cares now, lovingly realigning my longings. By the suffering of longing He strengthens my long-suffering. He has made me His patient to make me patient. He is healing my broken hopes by setting them on Him.

The cure my heart craves is not in better places, positions, possessions, or people, but in His conforming my heart to the likeness of His Son. This Heart Surgeon works in the waiting room, in the places and positions He’s put me with the possessions and people He has given me. Waiting makes room in me for more of Him.

The Emmaus Model of Ministry

What can we learn from that “walk to Emmaus” about ministering to the people God has placed in our path? In Luke 24, Jesus gives us a ministry model worth imitating. Four ministries served two hopeless travelers on one road in a single day, yet they show us the history-shaping life and ministry of Jesus on a small scale. He walked with us, talked with us, taught us, and brought us to himself through the taking, breaking, and giving of his body for us. These are the ministries of incarnation, inquiry, interpretation, and ignition.

Read the rest of my latest article at Gospel Centered Discipleship . . . 

While you are there be sure to check out the many helpful resources GCD has produced to help the Church make, mature, and multiply gospel centered disciples of Jesus.

Losing My Power

As I’ve reflected on John’s record of Holy Week, I’ve wondered: What will I have to lose if I submit to King Jesus?  What will have to die if I am to live in the Kingdom He bought for me with His blood? 

Several clues in the context of this story have convinced me that I may have to lose my PLACE, my POWER, and my PRESTIGE. Today we’ll consider what it might mean to lose our power in order to live in Christ’s Kingdom.

When the large crowd of the Jews learned that Jesus was there, they came, not only on account of him but also to see Lazarus, whom he had raised from the dead. So the chief priests made plans to put Lazarus to death as well, because on account of him many of the Jews were going away and believing in Jesus.  (John 12:9–11, ESV)

The crowd that had been with him when he called Lazarus out of the tomb and raised him from the dead continued to bear witness. The reason why the crowd went to meet him was that they heard he had done this sign.  So the Pharisees said to one another, “You see that you are gaining nothing. Look, the world has gone after him.”  (John 12:17-19, ESV)

The Pharisees were losing their crowds and their control, and they knew it. They were getting desperate. They couldn’t shut Jesus up or shut Him down. They knew that Jesus had a reputation for astonishing the crowds with His teaching because His words carried an authority that was unlike that of their teachers (Matthew 7:28-29). The religious power brokers feared the scales of control would soon tip in Jesus’ favor, so they sought to destroy Him (Mark 11:18). And indeed, they were right.  Jesus didn’t come to get in cahoots with the current religious powers that be. No, He came to overthrow their authority and establish His own.

The king has come for his kingdom and has issued a clear and direct challenge to the reigning structures of political, economic, and religious power.  The drama can only end in one of two ways.  Either Jesus will topple the reigning powers and establish his messianic kingdom — or he will be killed.

Justin Taylor and Andreas Kostenberger, The Final Days of Jesus, page 44.

I can relate to Pharisees’ anxiety. If Jesus is King, then I’m not. If I’m not King, then I’m not in charge. If Jesus is King, then He gets to tell me what to do, but I kind of like the idea of telling Him what He should and shouldn’t do.

When I became a believer in Jesus I expected Him to build my kingdom not bulldoze it!  But this is what a loving King does for the people He loves, the people He bought with His own blood. He bulldozes our little bitty, ME-FIRST kingdoms so that He can build His great big, GOD-AND-OTHERS-FIRST kingdom in its place.  This is actually good news, I know, but I’ll admit, the demolition process can be messy and painful.

In Jesus’ Kingdom there is no “Jesus take the wheel!” Rather, Jesus says, “I’ve already got the wheel. You LET GO.”

Jesus calls me to lose, to die to, my power and control, and to love and live in His.  Do I trust the heart of Jesus enough to rest under His rule, to loosen my grip and lose my griping, to follow Him rather than fight Him?

Truly, truly, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit. Whoever loves his life loses it, and whoever hates his life in this world will keep it for eternal life. If anyone serves me, he must follow me; and where I am, there will my servant be also. If anyone serves me, the Father will honor him. – Jesus (John 12:24-26, ESV)

And he withdrew from them about a stone’s throw, and knelt down and prayed, saying, “Father, if you are willing, remove this cup from me. Nevertheless, not my will, but yours, be done. (Luke 22:41–42, ESV)

He did it first. Jesus trusted the heart of His Father and submitted to His Father’s will. He did that for me even when I was still His enemy. Why would I not trust Him?

“The sin underneath all sins is the lie that we cannot trust the love and grace of Jesus and that we must take matters into our own hands.”  – Martin Luther

Tomorrow: “Losing My Prestige”

Losing My Place

On that first Palm Sunday Jesus’ disciples and crowds of fans cheered His triumphal entry into Jerusalem. As they raised palm branches and shouted “Hosanna!” to their soon-to-be King, their expectations for a restored Kingdom of David rose in their hearts.

Hoping to hear Jesus say “We’re tired of not winning. From now on we’re going to win, and I mean, win big,” instead the disciples heard Jesus talking about dying and losing. And to make matters worse, He invited them to die and lose with Him.

As I’ve reflected on John’s record of Holy Week, I’ve wondered: What will I have to lose if I submit to King Jesus?  What will have to die if I am to live in the Kingdom He bought for me with His blood? 

Several clues in the context of this story have convinced me that I may have to lose my PLACE, my POWER, and my PRESTIGE. Today we’ll consider what it might mean to lose our place in order to live in Christ’s Kingdom.

If we let him [Jesus] go on like this, everyone will believe in him, and the Romans will come and take away both our place and our nation.” (John 11:48, ESV)  

The power brokers feared Jesus. If this insurgent irritates the Romans enough, the Jews might lose their current place and nation.  The poor and broken cheered Jesus. These common folk waved palm branches for one they hoped would help them gain a better place and nation. One hoped to guard their “good life” while the other hoped to get one.

Do you ever struggle with the place in which God has put you? Sometimes I do. Not that I don’t love the people in this place, but sometimes I long to live back home closer to my parents and extended family. You see, I grew up in “God’s Country” . . . North Carolina. (Of course it’s God’s Country, why else did He make the sky Carolina Blue?) Sometimes I grumble like those tent dwelling Hebrews, Why did the Lord lead us into this desert (I live in Texas)? (Don’t get me wrong, I’m half Texan. My mom is from Austin.) But Texas has represented some desert-like times in our life, too . . . difficult, dry, draining times.

I don’t think it’s necessarily wrong to desire to live close to family, especially when I desire to serve and care for aging parents who invested their lives into me and my little family. But when that desire becomes a demand that God do what I want, when I want it, then something I believe might be ideal might become an idol.

I’m convicted by Psalm 16:6, “The lines have fallen for me in pleasant places; indeed, I have a beautiful inheritance.” What if God’s Country is not defined by the boundaries I dream to draw but by the inheritance He’s called me to inhabit? Do I believe that the lines He’s drawn for me have fallen in pleasant places? Do I trust Him enough to see beauty in the desert?

The great Master Gardener, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, in a wonderful providence, with his own hand, planted me here, where by his grace, in this part of his vineyard, I grow; and here I will abide till the great Master of the vineyard think fit to transplant me. – Samuel Rutherford

Psalm 16 goes on to say, You make known to me the path of life; in your presence there is fullness of joy; at your right hand are pleasures forevermore.” (Psalm 16:11, ESV)

Ah, I get it now. God’s Country is wherever God is present, and that’s what makes a place pleasant.  After all, we’re talking about the God who promises to make a way in the wilderness and cause rivers to flow in the desert for the people of His praise (Isaiah 43:19-21).

A Note about Losing our Nation . . .

The Jewish leaders were also concerned that the arrival of King Jesus might cause them to lose their nation. We can relate, can we not? As D. A. Carson noted: “The world still seeks political saviors.”

I wonder how much of my angst over what’s happening in our country is more about losing my comfort than it is about loving my country.   If I loved this country as much as I claim to, wouldn’t I love the people more than I love my political party or persuasion?  Someone recently quipped, “The results of Super Tuesday are nothing compared to the results of Good Friday and Resurrection Sunday.” What am I going to do with Jesus if I lose the America I’ve come to enjoy?

I love my country, but do I love the people who live here? Perhaps I don’t want my neighbors to seek Jesus any more than the Pharisees wanted their countrymen to seek the true Messiah. How anxious do I get about seeing my neighbors, the nations, and the next generation submit their hearts to the crucified King? Maybe, like the Pharisees, I’m more anxious to preserve what I think is “God’s Country.” Maybe I’m more concerned about my  pursuit of happiness in my country than about joining God in His pursuit of my countrymen for the sake of their full and forever happiness.

Lord, have mercy on my me-first heart.

 

Tomorrow:  “Losing My Power”