Becoming Simple Again

Have you ever been arrested?  Not by the police,  but by the Word of God.  It happened to me the other day.  I was reading through Matthew’s Gospel, my usual chapter a day.  But when I got to Chapter 18,  I was “arrested” by Jesus’s warning to His disciples:  Unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven (Matthew 18:3 NIV).

The word used in this verse for change means to turn in a different direction, or “to repent.” What keeps me from becoming like a little child?  In what ways do I need to repent?  I pondered the question.

The next verse gave me a clue. Whoever becomes simple and elemental again, like this child, will rank high in God’s kingdom (Matthew 18:4 MSG).  If I truly want to see the kingdom of heaven and if I want to have kingdom impact here on Earth, I have to become simple.

I can think of a lot of words to describe my life, but simple isn’t one of them. Can you relate?  We live in an incredibly complicated world.  It’s busy and noisy with to do lists and deadlines.  But simple?  Who can afford to be simple?  Jesus knew His words would hit hard.

I decided to do a little “research” of my own.  I was sharing a cup of tea one afternoon with my four-year-old granddaughter, who was feeling quite grown up as she carefully balanced the delicate china cup and saucer on her lap.  “Guess what Jesus tells grownups,” I said to her.  “We have to be like little kids if we want to know Him better.  Why do you suppose Jesus likes kids so much?”  She just looked at me for a minute as if to say, You should know that answer.  And then she said matter-of-factly, “Because they are so fun to play with.”  It was that simple. Period.

In the eyes of a child, Jesus is not only God of the Universe and Savior of  souls.  He is also their friend. He actually likes children. They know it.  My granddaughter’s natural assumption?  Jesus likes her, not because she’s wise, or rich, or in control.  He likes her just because she’s who she is.  He likes her simple faith in Him.  And probably because she’s fun to play with.

In this busy, complex world, I must repent if I want to become simple.  Yes, it’s simple to believe in Jesus.  To depend on Him.  To trust Him like a child.  Simple, but not simplistic.  It takes courage to believe.  Humility to admit my need for His forgiveness. And I have to wrestle to the ground all the doubts and fears that attack my mind.  All the clutter that robs me of clarity.  So I can see Jesus.  I have to get back to simply believing in Him.  Like a child.

 

 


Brain Tumor a Blessing?

He has made all things beautiful in His time (Ecclesiastes 3:11).

Sometimes, when the answers to our prayers are slow in coming, we wonder if we can truly trust God.  Could there be an unseen purpose behind His delay?  My friend Bethany learned that God may have reasons which we don’t understand until later.  She also came to realize that His timing is for our good and His glory.  Above all, He can be trusted.

GUEST BLOG: By Bethany Kortekas

“A brain tumor? I have a brain tumor? Lord, we have been going through tests and doctor appointments for the last two years for unexplained infertility, and now a brain tumor?”

Adam and I have been married for five years and were excited about having a family. When we were not able to have our own, we started exploring our options: adoption, foster care, kidnapping, or even not having children. We talked to several families about their journey and discovered embryo adoption. When a couple has gone through In Vitro Fertilization, the doctor uses the couple’s eggs and sperm to create babies for them to carry. Sometimes a couple is not able to carry all of the children created by the doctor in this process. Currently there are 600,000 embryos in medical storage waiting to be implanted or donated to science.

When we realized that we could adopt embryos and still experience childbirth ourselves, we were excited to start the process. We put our profile on Miracleswaiting.org and told friends on Facebook to pray with us. A friend out of state contacted us and suggested she talk to her co-worker. This lady had four embryos left and had recently been asked by her medical storage to donate them to science. She had agreed and had all the paperwork notarized, ready to mail that day, when she got the call from our friend that we wanted her embryos. It felt like a sign that God had saved those babies for us!

However the normal legal work and medical approvals dragged from weeks to months. The implant we had hoped for in December pushed to January to April and then finally in June, I went to the doctor about something unrelated and they discovered something. The doctor found that I had a tumor on my pituitary gland, which is right between my eyes. The doctor explained that this tumor grows off of the hormones that increase during pregnancy. If we had become pregnant on our own or if we had been able to implant our embryos when we had hoped to, the tumor could have grown to impair my vision and I could have gone blind!

Now, I am not sure how you view prayer, but it can be easy to assume that if you have a good enough request, God will give you whatever you want when you want it. Sadly as Christians, we can become so self focused that we forget about the sovereignty of God. Our God has the whole picture.  All  of the past, every angle of the present and all of the future. Isaiah 55:8 says, “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways,” declares the Lord.

Did God know that I had tumor that could have blinded me if I had conceived a child? Absolutely! Was any of this a surprise to Him?  Did it mess up His plans for us to adopt four embryos? No! If He says wait to my prayers, I can trust that He knows best.  He is orchestrating things for our benefit or for the benefit of others. As I look over my life, there is no doubt that I would rather have God’s best for me than whatever I originally picked out. My vision is too small and my choices are too self-serving.

Currently my tumor is under control with medication.  We’ll find out the results of our implant in May, and I have to be honest. I am hoping for twins! However, we know that whether these first two embryos will finally rest in our arms or in the arms of Jesus, that prayer is a power tool to remind us that God is in control. We do not have to worry about the future because God is using His timing for our benefit that ultimately gives Him the glory. What an incredible security that gives us as we pray!


Trained by our Trials

Trials are the food of faith. –George Mueller

I’ve been thinking a lot about how hard it is to wait for answers to my prayers. God’s delays can be frustrating. For an impatient person like me, waiting can be one of life’s more difficult trials. When God seems silent, I can fall into the trap of thinking that if I just pray harder, memorize more Scripture, or pound harder on the gates of heaven, I can move God’s hands.  And I have to admit. I do love those times when God gives an immediate “yes” to my prayer. But more often, I find the answers are painfully slow in coming.

I’m not always a good sport when God says “Go slow,” or “grow,” or even “no” in response to my prayer request.  Sorry to say it, but I can sound a bit like my friend’s three-year-old daughter who, in the middle of a tantrum, howled, “But Mommy, all I want is what I want when I want it!” Isn’t that how we all feel at times? What’s so wrong with wanting what we want when we want it…especially when what we are praying for is a good thing?

I’ve come to learn that even though my prayer may be within God’s will for my life,  I may still have to endure lots of waiting before the answer comes.  I look at our three grown children and remember how fervently I prayed for them. The long years of infertility sometimes left me wondering if we would ever have babies. I persevered in prayer for a total of about 108 months. And though God did heal me and I finally got my “answers,” the journey required much endurance and many tears on my part.

So why didn’t God just give me those babies when I wanted them? I probably won’t know all the reasons for His timing until our first conversation in heaven. But I will tell you this. I don’t think a drop of the waiting was wasted. From a purely practical standpoint, He knew just which children He wanted to give us and the precise moment each of them needed to be born. But beyond that, I truly believe He used those long months to prepare me to be a mother.  That season of my faith journey also drew me much closer to Him.

I believe that “wait training ultimately prepares us for our dream.  God knows exactly how to use the times of waiting for our good and for His glory.  Someone once said, “We grow great by our dreams.” That may be true, but we are trained by our trials.  So stand firm, dear friend.  Let’s draw encouragement from God’s Word as we wait for the answer to our prayer.

Consider it sheer joy, my brothers, when you encounter various kinds of trials, because you know that the testing of your faith produces endurance. And let endurance carry out its intended purpose, so that you may be mature and complete, lacking in nothing (James 1:2-4 MOUNCE).

 

 

 

 


Waiting for Hope

If we hope for what we do not see, we wait for it with patience (Romans 8:25 ESV).

 Are you waiting for something? Maybe it’s the fulfillment of a dream or the resolution of a long-standing problem.  You’re waiting for a spouse, or a baby, or a wayward child to come home.  Or you’re anxiously awaiting a medical diagnosis, waiting for healing, waiting for hope.  Whatever you’re waiting for, I’m sure you’d agree that waiting is hard work.

When we wait, our hearts hope for something we can’t see.  There’s no earthly guarantee that what we hope for will ever come to pass.  We risk disappointment.  That’s why hope can be scary.  It requires both faith and courage.

Many of us decide that hope is too dangerous, so we play it safe. Better to lower our expectations. Adjust to life without dreams. Be a good sport. The problem with playing it safe is that we close ourselves off to the life giving beauty of hope and the rewards of patience.

The Bible encourages us to wait for hope “with patience” (Romans 8:25).  Instead of patience, some translations use the word endurance. What does it mean to wait with endurance?  We discover an interesting secret by looking at the Greek word for endure, hypomeno.  It actually comes from two words:  hypo or “under” and meno or “abide.”  Meno is the same word Jesus uses when He encourages us to abide in him (John 15:7).  So hypomeno, or endure is to “abide under” a time of trial as we wait for hope.

Bottom line?  We learn to stand our ground as we “abide under” our circumstances and “abide in” Christ during our times of waiting.   Abiding will help us hold onto hope as we wait with endurance.

Will you be able to stand your ground as you wait for hope?  It’s a muscular journey and you can’t endure apart from Jesus.  Resolve to abide in Him daily.  Rely on the Holy Spirit. Stay filled up with God’s Word.  Wait for hope with endurance. 

Ponder this thought: Abiding in Jesus helps you endure as you wait for hope. 


Watch for His Return!

Look Up! The personalized license plate on the car in front of me caught my eye. Look up!  Two simple words right out of Luke’s Gospel. Jesus was reminding His followers to pay close attention to the signs of the times.  “So when all these things begin to happen,” He explained to them, “stand and look up, for your salvation is near!” (Luke 21:28 NLT).

Today is Easter, a time when believers all over the world celebrate a risen Savior.  The Resurrection of Jesus changed everything. But there’s more to the story. He is coming back.  How fitting that Easter Sunday is the final day of our 21 Day Watch. We’ve been watching for signs of God through His Word and His work all around us. And we’ve been alert to His perspective of world events—God’s big picture.

Jesus also wants us to be watching for His return.  But I’ve noticed that some people become so fascinated with the “end times” that they retreat into a form of  spiritual escapism. Is this the best we can hope for?  Clinging by a thread of sanity while we wait for Jesus to rescue us from this messy world? Surely we were made for more.

What does it look like to be ready for Jesus’s return?  I like Paul’s instructions to the church in 1 Peter.  These believers were fiercely persecuted.  They were always in danger of getting killed so they had plenty to worry about.  Early Christians lived  in continual readiness for Jesus’s soon return.  So Paul reminds them to live with the end in mind.  But he doesn’t tell them to become obsessed with signs, retreat to a survivalist community, stockpile their goods or take up arms. He simply tells them to be ready by living as faithful believers:

The end of all things is near. Therefore be alert and of sober mind so that you may pray. Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins. Offer hospitality to one another without grumbling. Each of you should use whatever gift you have received to serve others, as faithful stewards of God’s grace in its various forms (1 Peter 4:7-10 NIV).

Dear friends, we are Easter People! We’re to remain alert and watchful so we can pray, for prayer helps us stay connected to God. We’re to love each other in community, forgiving one another, inviting others into our homes. We’re to serve each other and share God’s grace using the gifts and resources He’s given to us. We’re to share His Good News with the least and the lost at home and around the world.

We keep watch for Jesus’s return by being faithful.  We remain ready by doing the same things  we should be doing every day. We keep watch by doing God’s will. Then when Jesus comes, He’ll find us ready for His return.

Come soon, Lord Jesus. Keep us alert and watchful. And while we wait, may we be faithful to answer Your call to a hurting and broken world.  Because of Easter!