Don’t Waste the Waiting

Scripture Focus: Luke 2.36-38
36 There was also a prophet, Anna, the daughter of Penuel, of the tribe of Asher. She was very old; she had lived with her husband seven years after her marriage, 37 and then was a widow until she was eighty-four. She never left the temple but worshiped night and day, fasting and praying. 38 Coming up to them at that very moment, she gave thanks to God and spoke about the child to all who were looking forward to the redemption of Jerusalem.

Reflection: Don’t Waste the Waiting
By Dena Dyer

The prophetess Anna was widowed after only seven years of marriage. But instead of wallowing in grief, Anna dedicated herself to the service of the Lord and trusted that she would see the Messiah before she died. Upon seeing Jesus at his temple dedication, she gave thanks to God and spoke about Him to all who were looking forward to the redemption of Jerusalem. How good of God to allow Anna to see our Savior before she left this earth!
 
Anna recognized Jesus as the Promised One, thanking God for Him. She exemplifies Romans 5.2-5 (NIV): “And we boast in the hope of the glory of God. Not only so, but we also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us.”

Anna’s suffering did not lead to bitterness, but to perseverance. That perseverance formed her character. And her character, forged in the fires of waiting and worshipping, led this prophetess to a fervent hope of seeing God’s glory.

Do you and I have this kind of hope, one that isn’t fixated on what the world might give but what will most glorify God? Do our prayers focus on us and our problems, or on what will draw us closer to the heart of Jesus? Or does weariness win over worship?

Most days, my prayers are for financial provision or health for me and my loved ones, instead of for God’s glory to be shown and His purposes fulfilled.

Anna’s faithful love for the Savior convicts and challenges me. It breaks apart my excuses for not worshipping more (protests of “I’m too old/too tired/too weak/too busy” seem silly when I hold them up to her example) and points me towards a life of persistent, faithful surrender. Instead of waiting out her last years with worry, Anna stayed connected to God and His people. She was fruitful, and God multiplied her act of obedience.

During one particularly long waiting season, after running ahead of God in various ways, I confessed my impatience and frustration. During that moment, I distinctly felt the Holy Spirit say, “Don’t waste the waiting.” I understood this to mean that I was to submit and trust, instead of running ahead of my Heavenly Father. And after a time of repentance, I did just that. And though my situation remained the same, my next few months felt a lot more peaceful and joyful.

I wish I had allowed the season of unanswered prayer to turn me towards God and not away from Him. What if, like Anna, I had worshipped God instead of fretting? Instead, I wasted months when God could have been holding me close to His heart, teaching me His truths and growing my relationship with Him. It was my loss. I hope you’ll learn from my mistakes; don’t waste the waiting.

About Dena: Dena Dyer is an author of eleven books, including Wounded Women of the Bible: Finding Hope When Life Hurts with Tina Samples. She’s also a speaker, worship leader, Anglophile, and movie lover who lives with her husband, youngest son, and rescue pup near Fort Worth, Texas. In her day job, she serves as Executive Assistant to Jamie Aten, founder of Wheaton’s Humanitarian Disaster Institute. Find out more about Dena’s books and resources at her website or follow her on Instagram or Facebook.

Divine Hours Prayer: The Request for Presence
Show us the light of your countenance, O God, and come to us. — Psalm 67.1

– From The Divine Hours: Prayers for Summertime by Phyllis Tickle.

Today’s Readings
2 Samuel 10 (Listen – 3:19)
2 Corinthians 3 (Listen -2:25)

Read more about Waiting at the Beautiful Gate
The man Peter and John heal in this passage is a man who waited.

Read more about How Are You Waiting?
When we do the joyful work of anticipation and preparation for Christ’s Advent, we may find that it is actually we who are coming home.

Not So Random Acts of Kindness

Scripture Focus: 2 Samuel 9:8
8 Mephibosheth bowed down and said, “What is your servant, that you should notice a dead dog like me?” 

Reflection: Not So Random Acts of Kindness
By Erin Newton

I enjoy looking at posts tagged #RAOK. Random Acts of Kindness. It has become popular to capture these moments and highlight the goodness of humanity. For most, these actions are seen as going above and beyond what is required in social interactions. As Christians, extreme kindness should be part of our everyday life.

When David settled into his role as the king of Israel, he turned his attention to honoring the friendship he had with Jonathan. The conflict between the house of David and the house of Saul nearly wiped out an entire extended family. David asked to find any living heir of Saul. The sole survivor was Mephibosheth, a son of Jonathan who was now lame because of the conflict.

The disabled community suffered greatly in the ancient world, often expelled as outcasts. Lameness required the disabled person to rely entirely upon fellow citizens. Mephibosheth, the heir of a former king, was one of these minorities. His lineage threatened David’s claim to the throne, but David did not treat him as an enemy. David was focused on creating peace and showing kindness.

Mephibosheth knew his limitations and came to David with humility. David did not have divine power to cure the man’s lameness, but he had the power to bring stability, security, and an inheritance to the son of Jonathan. Eating at the king’s table, Mephibosheth was treated as an equal to David’s sons.

Jesus is a greater king than David, never failing to minister to those in need. He did more than honor the outcast, he cured their disease. He did more than honor his fallen friends, he resurrected them. Jesus brought former enemies to his table as friends. Even today, he grants eternal security, everlasting peace, and an inheritance as a son or daughter of God. 

Our lives should reflect the work and person of Jesus Christ. He was never slow to cross the boundaries of social norms to meet the needs of the outcasts. Even when the worst of his enemies were abusing him, he prayed for their forgiveness. Loving our former enemies should not be conditional. We must do whatever we can to love our neighbors. “Do not withhold good from those to whom it is due, when it is in your power to act.” Proverbs 3:27 


Divine Hours Prayer: The Greeting

Be exalted, O Lord, in your might; we will sing and praise your power. — Psalm 21.14

– From The Divine Hours: Prayers for Summertime by Phyllis Tickle.

Today’s Readings
2 Samuel 8-9 (Listen – 4:52)
2 Corinthians 2 (Listen -2:13)

Read more about Praying Priestly Blessings — Readers’ Choice
One of the primary purposes of humanity, upheld throughout the entirety of scripture, is being a blessing to others.

Read more about Loving God by Loving Others — Guided Prayer
When we act in God’s name to show love to others, we are also loving God by bringing glory to his name.

Pie In The Sky and Strange Fruit

Scripture Focus: 1 Corinthians 15.19
If only for this life we have hope in Christ, we are of all people most to be pitied.

From John: We are moving into an extremely emotionally charged weekend during which we will remember those who died in attacks on the United States twenty years ago. Many will try to make political hay from the deaths of the victims. At times like this, it is good to remember the resurrection and its true meaning. We also reflect on what it means that we serve a God who chose to suffer with us and on our behalf. This reflection from 2019 refers specifically to racial terrorism, but all forms of injustices we suffer, whether from foreign threats, lynch mobs, politically-motivated violence, or home-grown terrorists, will ultimately be set right by a God who entered injustice to give us his righteousness. The resurrection will steal the sting of earthly death and suffering. Amen.

Reflection: Pie In The Sky and Strange Fruit 
By John Tillman

The hope of the resurrection is not just for some far-off “Day of the Lord.” It is also for the here and now.

The Corinthians struggled with false teachings regarding Heaven and resurrection. Prevailing Greek philosophy taught that bodies were evil and spirit was the ultimate existence. With this belief, bodily resurrection seemed like a punishment, rather than freedom. 

Confusion about the resurrection and about Heaven are nothing new. 

There have been times when those in power misused theology about the resurrection and Heaven. Preachers at times described Heaven as a pie-in-the-sky compensation for starving masses while they themselves sat with the powerful at supper, gorging on pie in the here and now. Some pastors partnered with the powerful, holding Heaven like a carrot in front of the mules, while cruel masters wielded a whip behind. 

This kind of pie-in-the-sky teaching relied on the same un-Christian philosophies about spirit and body that Paul worked to debunk. It told the oppressed that the suffering of their bodies was acceptable, even desirable so that their souls could be saved. This twists Paul’s words in order to theologically defend keeping people in bondage and ignoring cries for justice. 

Christ enters our sufferings with us. But our suffering is not salvific and our hope is not just for after this life.

It is by Christ’s stripes we are healed, not our own. It is by Christ’s lynching, being hung on a tree, that we are saved, not our own. Christ hung on the cross is “strange fruit” from which comes the seed of the gospel

Paul teaches us that the resurrection steals the sting of earthly death and suffering. Amen. All will ultimately be set right. Amen. Righteousness will flow like a mighty stream. Amen. The trees in the kingdom of God will bear fruit that heals the nation, redeeming the “strange fruit” of oppression and hate.

But the existence of ultimate justice does not allow us to ignore calls for justice now. In every community he visited and worked in, Paul encouraged the church to work for the good of their community and to spread the gospel. Nowhere did he counsel them to sit idly to wait on the heavenly city.

The power that raised Christ from the grave is available to us through the Holy Spirit. Seeking his guidance, may we act as representatives of God’s justice, and distribute the crop of healing for the nations.

*Strange Fruit – the story behind “The Song of the Century”, by The Salt Project and WFYI

Divine Hours Prayer: The Greeting
You are the Lord, most high over all the earth; you are exalted far above all gods. — Psalm 97.9

– From The Divine Hours: Prayers for Summertime by Phyllis Tickle.

Today’s Readings
2 Samuel 4-5 (Listen – 6:10) 
1 Corinthians 15 (Listen – 8:06)

This Weekend’s Readings
2 Samuel 6 (Listen – 3:34), 1 Corinthians 16 (Listen – 2:54)
2 Samuel 7 (Listen – 4:26),  2 Corinthians 1 (Listen -3:52)

Read more about Prayers of Woe and Weeping :: Guided Prayer
Weeping for our own hurts and harms is one thing. Weeping for what grieves God is a prophetic task and a work of faith.

Read more about Purpose
Lay down your life. Put others first. Don’t manipulate people. Swallow the tendency to whine when you aren’t the center of the universe.

Conflict’s Aftermath

Scripture Focus:  2 Samuel 2:26
Abner called out to Joab, “Must the sword devour forever? Don’t you realize that this will end in bitterness? How long before you order your men to stop pursuing their fellow Israelites?”

Reflection: Conflict’s Aftermath
By Erin Newton

Polarized. This word is the constant summary of our life lately. Every area seems to be weighted down in conflict.  When we reflect on the darker parts of our history, we like to think they are moments in time, isolated and spontaneous. There is a failure to see the slow progression of change from good to bad. And the even slower progress back to peace.

If Israel’s monarchy was portrayed on a TV episode, the death of Saul would be followed by a short commercial break and the reign of David would begin triumphantly. David was anointed in Hebron but his reign as the king of Israel was slow and filled with more turmoil. The conflict between Saul and David personally had ended but the ramifications continued. More hate, more blood. The house of David and the house of Saul were eager to carry out vengeance and retribution in the name of the lords they served. David was the rightful king and Saul was no longer a threat. The conflict should have ended.

Often there are rippling effects and continual consequences to mindsets that are hardened through a prolonged conflict. Racial discrimination, political rivalry, gender inequality, denominational intolerances, and the suspicion of public healthcare measures are areas that can fester conflict and hatred deep into a soul. Even when bridges are mended briefly, there are those who will continue to seek the destruction of perceived opponents. This can happen through what we say or what we encourage. It can be through our actions to cause pain or the turning of our eyes from someone in pain.

Still, some conflicts have found no lasting resolution. In these times, believers can look to the moment we shifted our allegiance from this world to Christ. This should alter how we function among those who are constantly at war. When did we forget he is the Prince of Peace? Let us ask God to replace the festering anger in our hearts with love. 

Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud.  It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth.  It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. (1 Corinthians 13:4-7)

Divine Hours Prayer: The Refrain for the Morning Lessons
For one day in your courts is better than a thousand in my own room, and to stand at the threshold of the house of my God than to dwell in the tents of the wicked. — Psalm 84.9

– From The Divine Hours: Prayers for Summertime by Phyllis Tickle.

Today’s Readings
2 Samuel 2 (Listen – 5:07) 
1 Corinthians 13 (Listen – 2:23)

Read more about Blocking the Way of Wickedness
We don’t always have a choice about working with or living among wicked people, but we can choose how we respond.

Read more about The Best We Can Do
The best we can do—in our strength and wisdom—may not be God’s best for us.

Critique that Builds

Scripture Focus: 1 Corinthians 14.3, 26
But the one who prophesies speaks to people for their strengthening, encouraging and comfort…What then shall we say, brothers and sisters? When you come together, each of you has a hymn, or a word of instruction, a revelation, a tongue or an interpretation. Everything must be done so that the church may be built up.

Reflection: Critique that Builds Up
By John Tillman

As an actor, director, and teacher of theatre, I have a heightened appreciation for many aspects of theatre and a broader palette of theatrical taste than the average entertainment seeker. But in the wrong circumstances, I can turn into a cynical critic of performances, spotting errors that others don’t notice and cringing at choices that seem fine to the audience.

A similar thing can happen to those experienced in leading worship in any capacity. When they are not leading, those who are experienced leaders and designers of worship can be the most passionate participants, but can also be the most bitter of critics.

Dissatisfaction with forms of worship is not new. (Jesus clearing the Temple comes to mind.)
In 1 Corinthians 14, Paul seemed especially concerned for Christian worship to develop an ordered, discernable form. He desired a form with functions both of edification of believers and evangelization of non-believers and outsiders. He wanted believers not to simply be emotionally entertained, but intellectually informed. He wanted believers not to display mere intellectual prowess, but to faithfully demonstrate the power of God.

Paul speaks in the manner of a director giving notes, or a stage manager calling the cues:
“Two or three should speak. No more. Don’t pull focus. Don’t improvise things that are over the audience’s head. If they can’t understand it, they won’t come back. Stop talking over other people’s lines!”

One of the most valuable things that a healthy experience in theatre can teach, is to give and take criticism. You learn to “take the note.” This means owning the mistake, as well as the responsibility for correcting it. In theatre, when you get a note, you are being called out for an error. Healthy notes are given in love—love for participants, for the source material, and for the audience.

As critical as Paul is, he never loses his love for what is happening. He doesn’t allow critique to turn bitter and cynical. Paul’s relationship with the Corinthian church is tumultuous and passionate. In the messiness of this scandal-filled church, we see a mirror held up to our modern institutions of worship.

May we seek the passion of Paul for worship done well, without losing his love for worshipers even when they do everything wrong.

May our critiques be loving and build others up—never cynical call-outs and tear-downs.

Divine Hours Prayer: The Morning Psalm
Hear, O my people, and I will admonish you: O Israel, if you would but listen to me!
There shall be no strange god among you; you shall not worship a foreign god.
I am the Lord you God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt and said, “open your mouth wide, and I will fill it.” — Psalm 81.8-10

– From The Divine Hours: Prayers for Summertime by Phyllis Tickle.

Today’s Readings
2 Samuel 3 (Listen – 6:35) 
1 Corinthians 14 (Listen – 5:40)

Read more from Lewis on Liturgiology — Part 1
Every service is a structure of acts and words through which we receive a sacrament, or repent, or supplicate, or adore.

Read more about Rumors or Repentance
When someone critiques you and calls you to repent, what will you do?

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