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Monday, September 16, 2013

When God is silent

Yesterday, we talked about how when we think God is silent it's usually because he's silent on the issue that we want addressed. The example was the disciples who asked Jesus if he was going to restore Israel and how Jesus never answered their question except to tell them it really wasn't their business. Yet, we did see that Jesus did say something, even gave them some very specific directions, the biggest being to wait.

Waiting is one of the hardest things we do.

The Bible gives us lots of examples of people who had to wait. Abraham waited for a son not very patiently. In fact, he got a little ahead of God and tried to make it happen on his own, which caused all kinds of problems. I have enough problems without causing any more, so I'm asking God to give me the strength to wait.

Today I wrote a letter that I believe was God-inspired. I was ready to hit send when it struck me that I should run it by my project partner. When I ran it by her and we prayed we both felt that the letter was good and should be sent...but not yet. I need to wait.

Whew! I almost jumped ahead of God once again.

Joseph was given a dream that he KNEW was from God. Yet he had to wait many many many many long years before the realization of that dream.

David was anointed king over Israel when he was quite young yet he had to ... you guessed it ... wait many many many many long years before that dream came to realization.

This morning I read something about that wait in Psalm 35 and guess what? He felt God was silent.

Verse 13 (NIV) says, "...When my prayers returned to me unanswered, I went about mourning as though for my friend or brother. I bowed my head in grief as though weeping for my mother."

And then he goes on to tell of how his enemies were delighted to see him so cast down.

In verse 22 he says, "LORD, you have seen this; do not be silent. Do not be far from me, Lord."

So, it looks like we're in good company when we think God is silent and we find ourselves waiting for an answer or for some sign of the promise given so long ago.

Lettie Cowman, the author of "Streams in the Desert" went through a terrible time of God's silence and waiting following the death of her husband. In her words...

"Can there be a sorrow that others have borne,
Now breaking my heart--making night of my morn?
Alone in this sorrow, alone in this grief--
'Tis that breaks the spirit and blocks all relief.
Alone, midst the many; alone, when alone
With a loneness so deep that forbids e'en a moan."

With a heart so crushed by grief, Lettie doesn't even feel like doing what God has called her to do, so she doesn't. Instead, she waits. She has no sense of the Lord's presence. "With all her host of friends she feels utterly alone upon the earth. And such aloneness! Alone in the house, alone in the quiet time, alone in the Word, alone in the book shops, alone among friends, alone with the throng!"

There is Abraham sitting alone, an old man waiting for a child to begin a nation...

There is Joseph sitting in prison for a crime he did not commit, waiting for God...

There is David running for his life, waiting for God to come to his rescue...

There is Lettie struggling to find words and purpose, waiting for God...

There is me broken in body and clinging to a thin thread of hope regarding a promise given long ago, waiting for God...

There is you.........

Sunday, September 15, 2013

Still looking up?

Today I'm in the process of healing. I would dearly love to rush the process and get to the next stage, but that is not happening. Instead, I'm discovering that God has important lessons for me to learn through the healing process.

Lessons. I don't know about you, but the word "lessons" doesn't really bring great images to mind. I think of study and more study and drudgery, all the while hoping that the lessons will sink into my mind once and for all. Of course, they rarely do. Most of us feel fortunate to remember at least a portion of our lessons.

So maybe lessons isn't really a great term for what I'm in the midst of. Perhaps it's better to say that I'm learning something about God that I didn't know before, that there is an aspect of Creator Redeemer being revealed to me in a way I would never know without this process.

Okay, that's a bit better, but I'm still not liking the process. The process stops me in my tracks. It truly stopped me dead in the water when pain was in every heartbeat and nausea in every breath. The only word that came to mind was, "Help." And that was a weak plea for some kind of relief.

I knew God could touch me and heal me. Jesus did that often when he walked as a man on this earth. He does it often now, both in my own life and in the lives of others. But this time, he didn't reach out and take away the pain, though I begged him over and over and over.

It would be easy to think he didn't care. He, who said, "Who of you when your child begs for bread will give him a stone?"

I felt like I was getting just that...pun intended...for I had an enormous kidney stone and an infection so bad that it nearly burst my kidney. Of course, I didn't know the cause of the pain at the time, because I was in too much pain to make the hour trip to the doctor.

Satan was trying to take me out. I knew that for sure. But I also knew that he couldn't do any more to me than my Creator Redeemer would allow. So, though Satan meant it for my harm, God meant it for my good. Finding the good, then, seemed the important thing to do. But I couldn't even think about finding the good when all I could do was cry out in agony. I couldn't even recall a single scripture I had memorized. This lasted for ten days before I finally knew I had to get to a doctor.

So, what was the purpose in all that? Why was God so silent?

I'm not the first to ask that question. I'm sure you have asked it yourself about something going on in your own life. Why is God silent?


Is God really silent?

I suspect not. But our ability to hear him is often blocked.

Why do I say that? Because God does speak...all the time...in dreams, in visions, in His Word, through His creation.

This morning I began reading in the book of Acts. In chapter one, Luke is talking about how excited they all were to walk and talk and eat with Jesus for 40 days AFTER He died on the cross and rose again. During those days he talked with his disciples about the kingdom of God.

Wow! They were jazzed. Jesus was who they thought all along. The Messiah! The Warrior King! The One who would at last usher in a kingdom of peace! Their tomorrows were all sunny. They were with their Lord and King. They were on the winning side.

Then Jesus said something odd. He told them to wait.

Wait? Really? But I thought all the waiting was over. They had been waiting hundreds of years as a nation. And now these men and women had been waiting for several years. Jesus had just conquered death. What is this about waiting?

Then Jesus tells them they are waiting for the baptism of the Holy Spirit. Oh, okay. That doesn't sound so bad. They could wait for that. But then, they ask him THE question.

"Lord, are you at this time going to restore the kingdom to Israel?"

Okay...it comes out as a question. But was it really? Kind of. Kind of not. Like many of our questions, I bet the disciples were so sure the answer was yes, that they didn't really expect any other answer.

Jesus does not say, "yes," and he does not say, "no."


But still...he did not say no. So, you know as well as I do that at least some of those guys, maybe all, were absolutely convinced Jesus was going to restore the kingdom to Israel. Yay Jesus!

Now, before we go much further, it's important to note that Jesus DID say something. He told them that it wasn't really any of their business to know the time of restoration. But that kind of gets lost as he goes on to tell them that they're going to receive power when the Holy Spirit comes upon them.

Hey! Power! Now, that's something worth waiting for. And it's not too far a stretch to think that some of the disciples, maybe all, were standing there thinking that the power would enable them to restore the kingdom. Because, you see, that was what was on their minds. The kingdom and its restoration. That was their whole goal in life.

But then Jesus gives them the real goal. The power was going to enable them to be his witnesses. And he even tells them where: in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth. They are to make disciples of all nations.

Now, they were so intent on Jesus restoring the kingdom that they may have missed this great commission except that something very strange happened. Jesus was taken up in the sky before their very eyes!

"They were looking intently up into the sky as he was going..."

Can't you just see this? You're watching him go, up and up and up until you can barely see him and then a cloud hides him from sight and you're still looking, thinking he'll come back at any moment and wondering if you can believe what your eyes saw. And then two men dressed in white say, "Why do you stand here looking into the sky?"

Good question.

Why are we standing here looking into the sky?

Isn't that exactly what we're doing when we say God is silent?