Thursday, January 28, 2016

When Life Puts You on Hold

     If I had a dime for every time I was put on hold, I would be very rich by now.  Working with insurance companies at my job,
this is a daily experience.  They tell you press a number which then leads to a second set of numbers when all you really want to do is talk to a live person.  Very frustrating isn't it?  No one wants to wait for anything very long because time is valuable.  However, in God's economy and timing, we may experience times when we are put on hold.
     As many of my readers know, my dear husband went through open heart surgery to repair a valve. We were told to expect 4-6 weeks of recuperation time if all went well.  Four days in the hospital and then, home to recuperate.  Nevertheless, there are some detours that come about because every person is different.  Neither my husband nor I expected to have two weeks in the hospital but we hit a bump in the road to recovery.  God put us on hold.
     When this happens in our life, what is our response?  Do we whine, complain or get upset?  None of this changes any of the circumstances and may only lead to greater stress.  After all Scripture teaches us in Proverbs 16:9:  "The heart of man plans his way, but the LORD establishes his steps."  Then, in Proverbs 20:24, we read:  "A person's steps are directed by the LORD. How then can anyone understand their own way?"  Finally in Jeremiah 10:23, we find:  "LORD, I know that people's lives are not their own; it is not for them to direct their steps."  In all these passages, we see that a man can make his plans, but it is the Lord who will guide his steps.  He, alone, knows the purpose and plan for our lives.
     Certainly the Apostle Paul (then known as Saul) had other plans as he went to Damascus in search of Christians to persecute and arrest, but God interrupted those manmade plans for His glory and Paul's good.  Paul was put on hold that day.  Not being able to see, he was without sight for three days (Acts 9) until he was prayed for by Ananias.   Following his conversion, Paul spent about three years in the desert of Arabia (Galatians 1:16-24).  He did not go to the other Apostles right away.  When he did go to Jerusalem, Paul was not immediately accepted by the disciples when he arrived because of his reputation.   Eventually, Paul was received by the brothers and preached the Gospel boldly.  Throughout his ministry, Paul was put on hold as a captive in a prison cell, but he never wasted a moment sharing the Gospel of Jesus Christ with all who would hear him.  What was Paul's response to being put on hold?  Look at his letter to the Philippians 4:4-9:  "4 Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! 5 Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. 6 Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. 7 And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. 8 Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things. 9 Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me—put it into practice. And the God of peace will be with you."
     Beloved, this is how we are to respond to being put on hold by God.  Perhaps, He delayed us from an appointment to keep us from a traffic accident.  He may have put us in a bed so that we might look up and consider Him.  Maybe an answer was delayed to test our faith and trust in Him.  We may not know why we are "on hold", but we know who holds us.  Therefore, we need to rejoice in the Lord and seek ways to serve Him even where we are at this time.  The promise of Jeremiah 29:11 assures us that God's plans for us are good and not for evil.  So the next time we find ourselves in a holding pattern, we should look up to Him who keeps us in His care and wait for Him to direct our steps for His way is always good.  Selah!

Thursday, January 14, 2016

For Better or For Worse

     When I married my best friend and the love of my life 44 years ago, I made a covenant with God before witnesses and to him that I would walk with him "for better, for worse, for richer, for poorer, in sickness, in health as long as we both shall live."  Those words cover a lot of territory and we have had a wonderful journey together.  Four children, eight going on ten grandchildren, home educating for 21 years, walking through the loss of our parents and a cherished grandson and the daily ups and downs of every day living have all been a part of our covenant relationship.  Of course, none of this would have been possible without Jesus Christ as our Lord and Savior.  Three months before we married, we committed our lives to Him.  Now we have added another adventure in faith to our time together.
     Last week, my dear husband had to undergo open heart surgery to repair a valve.  It is certainly not an easy procedure, but going into it, we knew our surgeon was a Christian who took time to pray with us.  Our children were there to support us at the hospital and our church family had bathed us in prayer.  Any surgery is daunting, but our times are in God's Hands.  
     After three days in intensive care, my husband was moved to a private room where he rested and walked with assistance to begin the healing process.  During one of his walks down the hospital corridor, he turned to me and said, "I guess this is the "worse" part of the marriage vows."  However, when you love someone in Christ, even the hard times offer an opportunity to draw upon God's grace.
Perhaps this is why the Apostle Paul expressed the picture of marriage here as the example of Christ and the church.
     In his letter to the Ephesians 5:31-32, we read:  "For this reason, a man shall leave his father and his mother and shall be joined to his wife.  And the two shall become one flesh.  This mystery is great; but I am speaking with reference to Christ and the church."  Earlier in this chapter in Ephesians,  Paul writes this about the ministry of Christ to His bride the church in verses 26-27 of chapter 5:  "...26so that He might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, 27that He might present to Himself the church in all her glory, having no spot or wrinkle or any such thing; but that she would be holy and blameless."  What a picture of sacrifice, love and devotion we see in these verses.  Christ gave Himself as a sacrifice not only to save us from our sins which condemned us but He also now works in us to cleanse, keep and sanctify us that we might be holy.  There is no room for selfishness in this picture is there?  Christ gave it all that we might live.  No holds barred, no hesitation, no self-seeking, no demanding of rights but a simple relinquishment of Himself  that He would save us from eternal damnation.  This puts marriage and the covenant we make with one another on this earth in a whole new light doesn't it?
     I gladly put aside my wants, needs and agenda to help my husband, and I know that he has and would do the same for me.  It is not a burden.  It is what true love is - a life long commitment.  When two people become one flesh in Christ, there is no assurance they won't face loss, hardship or hurts.  Yet, they are assured that Christ is with them every step of the way, and He gives the grace to see them through the difficult days.
     Unfortunately today, many see marriage as disposable and walk away from their vows before they ever really know the depth of true love in Christ.  He is the One who makes marriage meaningful when it really counts "for better, for worse".  None of us can escape the ravages of growing older in a fallen world where heart disease, Alzheimer's or other afflictions attack our imperfect bodies, but we can know a taste of heaven when we keep covenant with God and the bride or bridegroom He has chosen for us.  May our lives and our marriages reflect the glory of the Lord in all that we do.  Selah!