Not Now, But Soon
My every footstep sank into a mound of sand, making my early morning beach stroll feel more like a mountain climb. The sun was already hot enough to bake cookies. By the time I reached the boardwalk that led back to the air-conditioned condo, I was panting with exertion. I looked forward to a tall glass of icy water.
As I passed the pond, squawking geese greeted me; I scowled at them as if they were to blame for fall’s absence. It was late September, after all. Determined to cling to my bad mood, I walked on. But when I saw the beautiful cattails lining the edge of the pond, I was drawn into the scene. The cattails stood at ease in utter stillness. Instead of fretting about the heat, they appeared cool and calm.
What I noticed next lifted my heart. A few of the cattails were covered with whitish-gray fuzz. When the summer life cycle of this plant is ending, new seeds are produced. Each is connected to a bit of white fluff so it can travel on the wind to grow in another place come spring. This was a sign of fall.
My grumbling spirit changed to one of gratitude. I bowed my head to thank God for His powerful reminder. Although the temperatures were still summertime-hot, God’s plan was in place and would continue. Through the promise I found in the marsh, I remembered God’s love is steadfast. He walks with us through all seasons of life, no matter how long they last.
“But if we hope for what we do not see, we wait for it with patience.” Romans 8:25 ESV
To hope for in this verse means to expect and trust, while patience means cheerful endurance. How many blessings have I missed out on as I’ve rushed through life, being neither trusting nor cheerful? In my impatience for fall, I could have easily overlooked the fuzzy cattails, which, to me, signified His promise of eternal life.
Today God used His gift of creation to shift my focus from myself to His love for me as He whispered, “Not now, but soon.”
The longing to bypass God’s timing is useless.
“Wait for the Lord; be strong, and let your heart take courage; wait for the Lord!” Psalm 27:14 ESV
What is God asking you to wait for during this season of life?
What is the greatest challenge you face as you wait?
Pushing the Red Button
By: John UpChurch
Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God. – Matthew 5:9, ESV
Up till then, we’d crushed the competition. Granted, this wasn’t a sporting event. In fact, the most physically taxing aspect involved pressing a red button. But we had other skills—scholars’ bowl skills. We could answer questions, rack up points, and bury other teams with our wit and finely honed memorization. In fact, we’d rarely been challenged.
Then came the county tournament. I grew up in a sparsely populated county. As far as scholars’ bowl competitions, this was it. Sure, we traveled outside the area and competed for exhibition prizes, but the county tourney meant validation at home. And we knew we could win.
In the two-bracket competition, each team in the county usually played every other team. That only worked because it amounted to playing around three games apiece (as I said, a small county). At the end, the last team standing in the winners’ bracket played the last team standing in the losers’ bracket.
Match one involved our team pressing those little red buttons into submission. We outscored the other guys by something close to a two-to-one margin. In other words, we cleaned house in our nerdy way.
And then came match two against Maury Middle School. We went in glowing; we came out stunned. Let’s just say that they completely trounced us—wasn’t even close. Afterwards, we rebounded to an easy win in the last match, but that only meant we had to play Maury again in the championship.
What happened? If you guessed the underdogs roared back to take the trophy, then I would love to confirm that. But, no. In front of our families and teachers, we got beaten even worse than before. In fact, I remember the match being out of reach soon after it started and all of us feeling powerless to do something.
We’d practiced, studied, and prepared ourselves. We’d won match after match prior to the tourney. But still, we couldn’t overcome this one team—even when given two shots. Our superiority turned into inferiority in a single day.
Intersecting Faith & Life: If there’s one thing I’ve learned about human effort and human ability, it’s that there’s always someone better. Someone can always write better, think more creatively, or hit the ball farther. Someone can always outscore, outplay, or outcompete. And, yet, we humans spend so much effort trying to overcome, overwhelm, or just plain win. We compete, and we fight to prove ourselves.
Jesus brushes all that aside in a single sentence: Blessed and happy and satisfied are those who seek peace with God and peace with others. This isn’t a condemnation of competition, but it is a blunt reminder of the point of our lives. We’re not here to see who’s the best at sword swallowing or chicken juggling. God calls us children when we seek the good of other people above our own good.
If we win or if we lose (or if we get completely whipped twice by the same team), God’s blessing on our life doesn’t increase or decrease based on the score. Instead, He expects us to love Him and other people—even the ones who are better than us at something.
Have you ever read about sacrifice in the Old Testament and wondered what it was for? The only payment for sin is death (Rom. 6:23), and the Lord graciously allowed animals to be offered as a substitute for human lives. So people regularly brought sacrifices to God as atonement. However, it was only a temporary solution and had to be repeated often.
In order for mankind to be eternally freed from the guilt of sin, God required that the once-for-all sacrifice had to be completely pure (Lev. 22:20). What’s more, it could not be an animal. After all, the guilt belonged to man; therefore, the world was in need of a perfect and sinless person to be offered.
What an impossible situation: Man was responsible to pay the price, but God alone was capable of sinlessness. The only possible solution was for Jesus Christ—who was wholly God and wholly man—to offer His life on our behalf. Unlike the blood of bulls and lambs, Christ’s blood was a fully sufficient one-time payment for all sin.
This is why we say that we’re saved by the blood of Christ. Jesus did what we could not—He set us free from our sins. Consider the immensity of the sacrifice He made on your behalf. Have you thanked Him lately?
“Contend, Lord, with those who contend with me … May those who seek my life be disgraced and put to shame; may those who plot my ruin be turned back in dismay.” – Psalm 35:1, 4 NIV
David was brutally honest with God. Confident in their relationship, David openly shared his emotions. He asked that those who sought his life “be disgraced and put to shame.” He asked that God would send His angel to pursue them, that ruin would “overtake them by surprise,” and that they would “fall into the pit, to their ruin” (v. 8).
David felt misused, unjustly accused, taken advantage of, and hurt. But instead of burying or denying those feelings, he vented them all with unrelenting honesty with God.
The honesty of these words may surprise us. But this is a reminder that God knows our hearts. We can tell Him anything without fear. He will not punish us for speaking candidly with Him.
We all have feelings and private thoughts. We need to be discerning and appropriate with what we share with others. But God can be a real confidante. We can trust Him to keep our secrets and to be a true friend.
While being honest with God about the pain that he felt, David also showed genuine concern for those persecuting him. “When they were ill, I put on sackcloth and humbled myself with fasting” (v. 13). He “went about mourning as though for my friend or brother. I bowed my head in grief as though weeping for my mother” (v. 14).
What are the deep issues in your heart? Share them honestly with God.