Encouragement From The Word

The importance of waiting

Last weekend, I had the privilege of hearing Pastor Hyeon Soo Lim speak as he was given an honorary doctorate at Tyndale Seminary’s convocation.  Lim, the South Korean-born minister of the Light Korean Presbyterian Church in Mississauga, made news last summer after he was freed after more than two years of detention in a North Korean prison, to which he had been given a life sentence with hard labour…all for having been providing humanitarian aid to the North Korean people.

In his short but poignant speech, Lim spoke about his experience as a prisoner in North Korea – his hard work, his sicknesses, his visions from the Lord, his memorization of Scripture, and the like.  But the one thing he talked about that struck me most was the importance of waiting.

Heaven knows that Pastor Lim had a lot of waiting to do.  When he wasn’t working – often chopping up large boulders of coal into small bits, winter and summer – he was alone.  He knew that his Canadian family, church family and government were doing all that could be done to secure his release.  But the days must surely have been long.

He redeemed the time, though, and found that he grew in the fruit of patience as he waited.  He learned many Bible passages and explanations of Scripture.  His prayer life was rich.  And he waited.

What do you need to wait on God for?  Too often, we like to have everything now. Many things, though, don’t come now.  As we wait, we grow more mature, emotionally and spiritually, and we learn that “those who wait on the Lord shall renew their strength” (Isaiah 40.31a, NRSV).

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Encouragement From The Word

Waiting

I’m glad I have an unlimited internet subscription at home.  My wife is spending a lot of 1777331_630x354time online these days.

It’s nothing to worry about – I hope!  You see, there is this pregnant giraffe in a park in the United States that’s been, apparently, “ready” to give birth for weeks now.  And there’s a “giraffe cam” that is positioned in her stall 24/7, allowing all interested parties to watch the impending birth.

I’ve been hearing for quite a while now that this giraffe’s special delivery is imminent.  Yet the waiting continues.

Perhaps the anticipation of the birth will make it all the more exciting, all the more worthwhile – I don’t know.  But I guess I’ll find out one of these days.

Now this would be the perfect illustration for the season of Advent, wouldn’t it?  A season of waiting for an important birth?  Perfect!

But it’s not Advent; it’s Lent.

However, Lent is also a season of waiting, a season of preparation – not for a birth, but for what will bring about new birth; not for the tears of a baby, but for tears of agony; not for the cry of a newborn, but for the cry of “It is finished!”

And it is a season of waiting for the culmination of all this in the echoes of an empty tomb.

This weekend marks Palm Sunday, the time when Jesus rode a humble donkey from the humble towns of the Mount of Olives, through the Kidron Valley and into Jerusalem, where he was lauded as a victorious king.

The week that follows would demonstrate that Jesus was, indeed, a victorious King – but not in the way people expected.  He would be nailed to a cross like a vile criminal, buried in a borrowed tomb, and on the third day, exit that tomb having paid the price for sin, and defeating death with life.

Lent can seem a long season of waiting, but as with all God-appointed seasons of anticipation, it’s worth the wait.  Take it all in.  Whatever worship gatherings are offered to you, go and worship!  Stand at the foot of the cross.  Poke your head in the empty tomb.  Revel in the fruit of your waiting.

We can be certain of the timing and the outcome of this waiting.  Meanwhile, the “giraffe cam” is still on live feed at my house.

I am confident I will see the Lord’s goodness
    while I am here in the land of the living.

Wait patiently for the Lord.
    Be brave and courageous.
    Yes, wait patiently for the Lord.  (Psalm 27.13-14, NLT)

Encouragement From the Word will return on April 21.  A blessed Easter to all!

 

Encouragement From The Word, Uncategorized

Waiting

Advent is a season of waiting. And we live in a time when we’re not really used to waiting, so it can be very hard for us.

I don’t know if your childhood experience was like mine, but when I was a kid, seeing all the presents under the tree, weeks before Christmas, left me feeling very impatient. Some years, my mother would let me open one gift sometime in the week before Christmas. I don’t know whether that was to get me to shut up or if there was some more noble purpose behind it. Of course, it worked for a while, but not really for long.

As adults in this day and age, the older we get, the less we need or even want for Christmas; when we need or want something, if it’s within budget (hopefully!), we just go out and get it. Instant gratification.

Advent flies in the face of instant gratification. It is properly a season of penitence, of self-examination, as we prepare our hearts for the celebration of Jesus’ birth. One friend of mine suggested that this can even dovetail with our culture’s desire to celebrate Christmas long before the actual feast (by singing carols, etc.) by inviting people to give up the busyness and crazy scheduling that goes with December in favour of celebrating the joy that the season brings. I like the idea, but too often we end up adding “joy” to our calendar, filling it up even more.

Try an experiment: hold you breath as long as you can. When you finally exhale and draw in more air, there is a certain relief, and maybe even exhilaration, that you can breathe again, right? Advent is a bit like holding your breath. When we finally ‘exhale’ at the celebration of the Nativity, there is a real sense of delight – a sense that, I think, is muted when we begin too soon.

Of course, the world’s celebration of the season is not really the church’s celebration. We’re not in it for the dollars and cents (think advertisements, Black Friday and Cyber Monday). But we do have a ‘bottom line’, of a sort, don’t we? We want Jesus to be born in the hearts of people. There are aspects of the world’s celebration that plays into our hands; after all, at what other time of the year do malls pipe good theology through their music systems?

Let Advent be a spiritual discipline for you, as it was intended to be. Wait. Hold your breath. See if it deepens your celebration even more.

All earth is waiting to see the Promised One,

And open furrows await the seed of God.

All the world, bound and struggling, seeks true liberty;

It cries out for justice and searches for the truth.

-Alberto Taulé, tr. Gertrude C. Suppe

Encouragement From The Word

Jesus is worth the wait

Though the radio stations are already playing Christmas music, and Wal-Mart has gifts and tinsel up for sale (heck, Costco had decorations up in October!), it’s not Christmas yet. That doesn’t start until December 25.

This Sunday, we begin the Christian year with the season of Advent. It’s a season of waiting, of anticipation. In years gone by, it has been a season of penitence, though that seems to have gone by the wayside. But I think there’s great value in celebrating Advent, in waiting for Christmas.

I don’t know about you, but I grew up in a household where, if you wanted something, you saved up for it until you could afford to buy it. Credit was unheard of in my parents’ home, unless you count the mortgage. And there was a certain satisfaction in that, wasn’t there? You saved up to buy something you wanted, and there was anticipation in it. If you really needed (or wanted) it, the anticipation only made the acquisition all the more sweet. If it was just an impulse, and you didn’t really want or need it, saving up for it saved you from buyer’s remorse, because the interest waned while you saved.

Nowadays, saving up for something seems like a quaint custom of a bygone era. And I think that has cost us – not only in terms of interest paid on credit cards and lines of credit, but also in terms of the value of waiting.

For many people, what the world calls the Christmas Season is a frenetic time. Celebrating Advent can actually slow us down a little bit. When we focus each Sunday, and perhaps the surrounding week, on hope, peace, joy and love (or whatever other themes your church might want to use beyond the traditional), we are able to savour all the more fully the amazing gift that is the birth of Jesus.

Followers of Jesus know that the birth of the Saviour was no ordinary birth. This was God’s entrance into history in a tangible way, unlike no other time before – a gift beyond measure…a gift worth waiting for.

Let me encourage you, this year, to celebrate Advent. Even if your church doesn’t mark it in any significant way, you can celebrate at home. There are Advent calendars (though most involve chocolate and only recognize the month of December, it can still be a useful tool); you can make and light an Advent wreath in your home; you can (and this is radical!) even consciously decide not to sing Christmas carols until Christmas! If you can’t handle that, you might consider saving one special Christmas carol for Christmas Eve. (I do this with “O come, all ye faithful”.)

Jesus is worth the wait!

Wait patiently for the Lord. Be brave and courageous.   Yes, wait patiently for the Lord” (Psalm 27.14, NLT).

Encouragement From The Word

Waiting, waiting…

Today is a day of waiting, for me.  Granted, it’s not as serious a form of waiting as, say, loved ones waiting for the results of surgery.  And it’s not as exciting a form of waiting as, say, anxious grandparents waiting to hear of the birth of their first grandchild.  No, this waiting is much more (if you’ll pardon the expression) peripheral.

Today, I’m waiting for the Bell technician to come to the church to install a new Internet connection.

I was told that the technician would arrive sometime between 8:00 a.m. and, well, next Thursday.  (Not really.  He’s supposed to arrive before 5:00 today.)  And it’s not like I don’t have plenty to keep me busy around the church.  But when you are waiting for someone to arrive, and you don’t know when it will occur, there is a certain impatience, a certain anxiety, that goes with that waiting.

God’s people have been in just that sort of waiting mode since the ascension of Jesus.  Time and again, the Lord Jesus told us that he would return to earth to consummate time as we know it and to receive his faithful, dead and living, to himself.

When we look at world events, it’s tempting to expect that Jesus is coming back soon.  Of course, he said as much, revealed to John, in the penultimate verse in the Bible:  “Yes, I am coming soon” (Revelation 22.20, NIV).  So if he has been coming “soon” since the end of the first century, when Revelation was penned, how long is “soon”?  Of course, Peter reminds us that for God, a day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years like a day (2 Peter 3.8), so if that tells us anything, it’s that making predictions is a dangerous thing to do.  Even Jesus himself said that only the Father knows when that time will come (Mark 13.32).

At least with the Bell technician, I have a day, and a window in which to expect his arrival.  In the meantime, I carry on my normal activities – but confined to the church building for the day.

As we await the return of the Lord Jesus, we ought likewise to carry on our normal activities – not confined to a building, but confined to the world in which we live, constrained by the will of God to wait with patience and endurance for our safe redemption, whatever that may look like.

Waiting can be hard.  But, as the apostle Paul reminds us, the fruit of the Spirit is patience (Galatians 5.22).  It’s good to wait expectantly for the Lord, because eternity in his presence is going to be amazing.  But it’s also good to wait patiently, because “No one knows about that day or hour” (Mark 13.32, NIV).

There will be no sure sign of the Bell technician’s arrival until I see that familiar blue and white van.  Likewise, there will be no sure sign of Jesus’ return until we see him face to face.  There are those who will claim to be him, but if I understand Scripture correctly, there will be no mistaking his return.  You won’t have to wait for Jesus to introduce himself, or to read about it in the newspaper.

Dear friends, now we are children of God, and what we will be has not yet been made known.  But we know that when he appears, we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is” (1 John 3.2, NIV).

Want a little inspiration for your day?  Listen to Sandi Patty sing what it will be like to meet the Lord.

That’ll be worth the wait.  Blessings for your weekend!

Encouragement From The Word

Patience!

I hadn’t had time to deposit my stipend cheque until this morning, so I took a minute and went to the bank on my way to the church office. The bank I use has one ATM – we live in a small community! – and there was a fellow ahead of me at the machine. It appeared he had several things to do, including deposits and passbook updates.

In the meantime, another fellow came in, a few minutes after I did. He queued up behind me, and started sighing loudly immediately. It was obvious he was in a hurry, and after making his displeasure known through body movements and deep sighs, he decided he couldn’t wait. He walked back to his truck and rushed out of the parking lot.

It was only perhaps a minute after he left that the fellow in front of me was finished his transactions, and mine took under two minutes. If that other chap had been patient enough to wait, he could have done his banking. But he was not.

Of course, we don’t know what awaited him at his next stop; perhaps he had a boss who was fussy about a sharp arrival time at work. Nevertheless, his movements and noises indicated that waiting just wasn’t his thing.

We spend a lot of time waiting in this life that is filled with technological advances. It used to be that we waited in line at the grocery store or the bank or the movie theatre. There’s more to it today; think about how much cumulative time you have spent waiting for debit or credit card transactions to be approved.

I’ve said it before, but time that is spent waiting is time that can be redeemed. While you wait, you can engage in friendly conversation, if appropriate; or you can pray for people for whom you have committed to do so. You can even pray for the people around you in line; you have no idea what burdens they may carry.

We all have places to be and deadlines to meet. If you can build enough margin into your schedule to allow you to use the time spent in line for communion with God, and Kingdom-building purposes, there is much good that God can do through you, beyond what he’s already doing now!

But the Holy Spirit produces this kind of fruit in our lives: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self control. There is no law against these things!” (Galatians 5.22-23, NLT).