Thursday, May 26, 2016

Investing for Tomorrow (Matthew 6:19-21) by Rev. Dr. Alan W. Deuel


A father writes:  “When our daughter was 7 years old, my wife and I sat down with her and talked to her about the value of money.  We explained how you save, and when the piggybank is full, you take the money out and deposit it in a bank so that it might draw interest.  She seemed quite interested in the interest or extra money, as we explained, she could make on her savings and couldn't wait to go to our local bank.  I called the banker and told him we would be in later to open our daughter's savings account.

When we arrived, the president of the bank herself waited on our daughter.  Our daughter handed over all her savings and the president gave her a receipt and thanked her for her business.  But our daughter didn't move.  She just stood there looking at us and the president and then began to cry. "I'm sorry sweetie, is there anything else I can do for you?" the president asked.  "With big tears, our daughter said, but what about my interest?"

Aren't we all a little impatient when it comes to investing?  Buy and hold, invest and forget is a difficult strategy for most people.   Investing for the future, your own future or someone else's future or both, is I believe a worthy goal in life.  The question is – do you desire to leave a legacy that will live on after you die?  Some people do and others have no interest in such a thing.

Rev. John Maxwell writes: “If you desire to create a legacy, then you need to leave something for others.  People who have left a legacy - wealth, education, inspiration, a changed world invested in something that would benefit generations to come.  Invest today to benefit the future.”

A mother writes: “I have two sons, ages 9 and 7.  They each receive a $1000.00 a year from their loving grandparents.  I plan to invest this for their future education.”  People sponsor children in the third world for $25.00 a month through the Christian Children’s Fund or Children International.  I recall seeing a bumper sticker which said: “My money and my daughter go to UCLA.”   People leave bequests to universities, hospitals, Girl Scouts, Boy Scouts, the YMCA and YWCA.

Now there are many worthy things we can pass on to the next generation as our legacies.   Our accomplishments, our memories, our example as a mother/father, grandmother/grandfather, our values, our faith.

One author wrote:   “I followed others who have gone before me; they left a legacy for me.   Now I am making sure that those who come after me will have a trail to follow as well.  Think about those who left a legacy for you to follow specifically: Your parents, Your grandparents, Your aunts and uncles, Your schoolteachers, Your neighbors’ where you grew up.  For those of us in America: The founding fathers who had a dream of a nation ruled by self-government; Abraham Lincoln, who freed the slaves; FDR, who saw us through the great depression; the many men and woman who defended our liberties through the wars so we could live in freedom;  JFK, who called us to space exploration and set us on course to have a man walk on the moon; Martin Luther King Jr. who left us a legacy to pursue the dream of racial equality.  We are stewards of this world, and we have a calling on our lives to leave it better than how we found it, even if it seems like such a small part.  Legacy building is big picture.  It keeps us focused on the long-term and gives us values that we can judge our actions by.  Ask yourself this question: How will my life affect the next generation?”

Now though there are an endless number of worthwhile legacies, I am speaking specifically about the subject of our church's Endowment Fund.  It is another opportunity to invest in something that outlasts and outlives you and me, as we think about the future of Christ’s work here at PBPC.

We have an opportunity to invest in the future ministry and mission of our church.  Making a gift to our Endowment Fund is one way to invest in our church’s future.  The principal remains untouched and income from the earned interest is used in our church's ministry.  As the fund grows, it becomes a perpetual source of income for Christ’s work in the years ahead.

Why give to an endowment fund?  “Gifts are given which allow us to do things for Jesus Christ through the church in the community and world, which we would not otherwise be able to do.”

In our lesson from the Gospel of Matthew, Jesus’ summons us to look toward tomorrow.  We hear Jesus’ warning about one’s attitude toward earthly possessions and money.  He warns us not to hoard up treasures on earth.  Why - because “where your treasure is there your heart will be also.”   One of life's greatest temptations, which we face daily, is love the things of the world more than we love God.

Possessions can posses us.  Material things can become idols which we worship, masters which enslave us, and gods in which we place our ultimate loyalty.  Jesus wants us to invest for tomorrow, investing in earthly things that have heavenly benefits.

Jesus' parable of the talents in the Gospel of Matthew is a good illustration.  “A master calls his slaves together, gives one 5 talents, another 2 talents and a third 1 talent.  Then the master leaves on a trip.   Upon his return he calls his servants together.  The slave with 5 talents invested them and made 5 more.  The slave with 2 talents invested them and made 2 more.  But the one with 1 talent dug a hole in the ground and buried it.  The master was pleased with the first two slaves, and praises them and puts them in charge of things.  The master chastises the third slave for burying it and not even investing it in a bank.”  Jesus is saying that as stewards of our God given resources we are both managers and investors.

In the letter of I Timothy we read: “It’s the love of money which is the root of all evil,” not money itself, which is value neutral, but an excessive love of it, an obsession with it, a coveting of it which separates us from God.   Jesus exhorts us to use our resources for His kingdom, for the glory of God.

Investing for tomorrow means we have an opportunity to put our legacy to use in some exciting ways during our lifetimes and beyond our lifetimes – for our children and grandchildren, for needs in the community and in the world.  We should always seek God's guidance in how we manage our resources.  Investing in our congregation's Endowment Fund means we shall pass on faith in Jesus Christ, the gospel of Jesus Christ, to the next generation.

Some churches endow their building maintenance or their music program or their youth program, or their mission giving for the future.   Each church prays for God’s guidance in deciding how to use the income from their endowments in their particular context.   An endowment fund is a blessing from God and allows churches to do creative and innovative things for Jesus Christ and His church.

Some churches encourage members to remember their church in their estate planning with a onetime gift.  Other churches encourage members to endow their pledge in the future, so that the church continues to receive income for its work.   It’s a way of saying: “I thank God and my friends in my church and I want to continue to support Christ’s work even after I’m in heaven.”   That is the power of an endowment fund for Christ’s work.

Investing today for tomorrow, investing in something which outlasts you, allows you to express your faith in God and your appreciation and gratitude to the people in the church for past blessings.   It remembers that our ministry today is built first on the grace of God and second on the heritage and faithfulness and commitment of past believers here at PBPC since 1888.    It means we have the privilege to carry-on Christ’s ministry which they began and to one day pass on our ministry to the next generation.

I truly believe God has in mind a bright future for PBPC for generations to come.  Let us glorify God in Jesus Christ today and tomorrow.  Let us store up for ourselves treasures in heaven in the name of the one who lived for us, died for us and was raised for us, even Jesus Christ.”   Amen!   

Friday, May 20, 2016

The Coming of the Spirit (Acts 2:1-11) by Rev. Dr. Alan W. Deuel

When I was a member of my home church, East San Diego Presbyterian, back in my college days, the minister assigned us to attend different churches for four Sundays, then we met to discuss our experiences at our college group meetings.  I don't recall much about three of the churches, but I vividly recall our experience at a Pentecostal church here in San Diego.

A rock band blared loudly as you entered the sanctuary.  That caught my attention.  People were dancing in the aisles, waving their arms, shouting amen, falling down on their knees in tears, and speaking in tongues.  The preacher yelled for people to receive the anointing of the Holy Spirit and worshippers rushed forward.  The preacher would slam their foreheads with the heal of his hand, and they would fall back into the arms of awaiting ushers.

At one point the preacher proclaimed that at the second coming of Christ, when Jesus returns in glory, Jesus will grab the hand of a Catholic, who will grab the hand of a Lutheran, who will grab the hand of a Methodist, who will grab the hand of a Presbyterian, swing them around and around and fling them off the end of the earth into the eternal flames of hell.  Now that really got my attention.  Yes,  it sounds like another ordinary Sunday morning here at PBPC?

Are we a Pentecostal church?  My answer may surprise you.  I certainly hope so.  I pray we are.  For biblically, the church of Jesus Christ is Pentecostal.   Pentecost celebrates the coming of the Holy Spirit.   Pentecost celebrates the birthday of the church.  Pentecostal isn’t about a particular stereotype of a Christian or style of worship, but rather in a deeper sense, it is about whether the power of the Holy Spirit is present in the lives of the people in the church, whether the church is Spirit-filled, and whether the Spirit is guiding and empowering its worship, ministry and mission.

Biblically, Pentecostal worship can be earsplitting or contemplative.  Pentecost is about God’s Spirit penetrating the hearts and minds of God’s people.  Pentecost is about the Holy Spirit inspiring the worship and ministry of the people.

A Pentecostal church is alive in the Spirit of God.  And if the Holy Spirit isn’t present in our midst, if the Holy Spirit is absent, then we may be a social club, or a 501 c3 non-profit organization, but we are not the church of Jesus Christ.

Pentecost is a Greek word meaning 50th day.  On the day of Pentecost, fifty days after Easter, when the disciples were gathered in a home in Jerusalem, God sent His Holy Spirit upon them.  Our story describes the Spirit's coming like a mighty wind and tongues of fire, spiritual gifts were imparted, and those present were united into a body of believers and empowered for their coming mission into the world.

On the Day of Pentecost, a day of mystery and awe, a miracle occurred; people came to Jerusalem from all around the Mediterranean world, speaking a variety of languages, but they heard these Galileans, who spoke Aramaic, speaking about God's deeds of power in their own languages. The message here is that the gospel is for the whole world.  It transcends racial ethnic groups, nationalities, and languages.  Let's go a little deeper.

A Pentecostal church understands why it exists?  It embodies Jesus’ Great Commandment:  “Love God with all your heart, soul, strength, and mind and love your neighbor as yourself.”  It incarnates Jesus' Great Commission:  “Go forth and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you, for Lo, I am with you always to the end of the age.”  A Pentecostal church knows that the Great Commandment combined with the Great Commission makes a great church.  Our mission is rooted in our name - Pacific Beach Presbyterian Church, PBPC, People Bringing People to Christ.

A Pentecostal church is flexible and adaptable in a changing world, able to change the way it carries out its mission. And we know human nature resists change.  Once a man stood up at a lecture that the famous rocket scientist Dr. Werner Von Braun was giving and asked: “Why can’t we just forget all these new-fangled ideas about going out into space and be content to stay at home and watch television like the good Lord intended?”

God didn’t establish the church at Pentecost for Christians to stay at home and watch television.   God has empowered us with the mission of loving and reaching people in the name of Christ in the world.

A Pentecostal church is a church where believer’s lives are being transformed, where spiritual energy, enthusiasm and joy is evident in the life of believers.   Does this mean every Sunday or every day in the church will be as dramatic as that first Pentecost?  No.”  God doesn’t expect the church to go full steam ahead 24-7.  But since the church is Spirit infused, Spirit inculcated, signs of the Holy Spirit, in small and powerful ways, will be evident always in the life of the people of God.

A Pentecostal church is where people discover and use their Spirit given gifts and talents and abilities to glorify God.  If its singing, you sing, its its playing a musical instrument, you play, like Larry Cox, who is blind, but is a gifted bass player, if its teaching, you teach, if its leadership you lead, if its service, you serve, if its caring for people you care, if your gifted technically, you might help in the sound and projection booth or help with computers or networks.

A Pentecostal church strives to worship in the Spirit.  Author A. W. Tozer wrote: “God is delighted with all that is good and lovingly concerned about all that is wrong.  God pursues His labors always in a fullness of holy zeal. No wonder the Spirit came at Pentecost as a sound of a rushing mighty wind and sight of tongues of fire on every forehead. ... Whatever else happened at Pentecost, one thing that cannot be missed by the most casual observer was the sudden upsurging of spiritual enthusiasm.”

In worship and prayer we grow stronger through loving and glorifying God.  In ministry, we grow broader through serving and loving others in the church, the community and the world.  In evangelism, we grow larger through reaching out to unbelievers and making disciples.  In fellowship we grow warmer through building and deepening caring relationships.  In discipleship we grow deeper as people grow in faith and spiritual maturity through teaching, meditation, prayer, Bible study, and developing skills in service to the glory of God.

A Pentecostal church is loving and joyful and caring and faith filled and prayerful.  People support and encourage others in the midst of brokenness, grief and death.  There is compassion, kindness and empathy.  People come alongside one another in times of joy and celebration and in times of crisis and tragedy.  Like Mavis, our Coordinator of Congregational Care, and her team of visitors and many of you who pray, who send cards, who visit people in need. People rejoice with those who rejoice and weep with those who weep.

Our Sunday Night Ministry which reaches out to homeless people in our community is a good example of the work of the Holy Spirit.   Our Friday Night Family movie and Pizza gatherings for families in our community is another example of the work of the Holy Spirit.   Christ calls us to engage in a dynamic, purpose-filled, faithful, loving and vital ministry.

A Pentecostal church is committed to the gospel, the unchanging word of God.  The letter of Hebrews 13:8 says:  “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever.”   And we bring that unchanging gospel to ever-changing world.  The message of the gospel never changes, “God so loved the world that He sent His Son Jesus to save sinners,” but the methods we employ to spread the gospel and reach people must be open to change.  The church’s strategies must be flexible, creative, and innovative.   The church’s mission must always strive to be relevant to the community.

Missionary Leslie Newbigin said: "Mission is not a burden laid upon the church; it is a gift and a promise to the church that is faithful. Jesus reigns and all authority has been given to him in earth and heaven.”

I think of another example.  Young adults from our Sunday Night Roots ministry go out on on Garnet Ave once or twice a month, just as the bars are closing, and pass out free water bottles and talk to young people.  They set up a sign and hand out flyers identifying our church.  Why – it has to do with Pentecost.  It has to do with the inspiration of the Holy Spirit.  I think of how generously people here give to support our youth for camperships.  Why – it has to do with Pentecost.

What is the test of a Spirit-filled church?  Is it rock bands, speaking in tongues and dancing in the aisles?  For some churches the answer is yes.  And I say amen. I respect them.  But I also turn to the letter of Galatians 5:22 which says:  “The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.”  If those spiritual qualities permeate the life of a church, in whatever form, we are Spirit-filled.

We are all on a spiritual journey.  By the grace of God we are and are becoming a Spirit-filled church.  Let us open our hearts and minds to God’s power and inspiration.  Let us be alert and aware of needs and opportunities around us, and minister to those needs in the power of the Holy Spirit.  Amen

Friday, May 13, 2016

A Mother to Me (Exodus 2:1-10; Romans 16:13-16) by Rev. Dr. Alan W. Deuel

A 15-year-old boy arrived home from school and found his mother in bed: “Hi Mom, boy am I hungry, what's for dinner, hey, what are you doing in bed, are you sick or something?"  "Well,” his mother replied weakly, "I'm not feeling too well, so I thought I'd lie down a minute.”  “Sorry to hear it mom, but don't worry about dinner, I'm pretty strong, so I can carry you down to the kitchen.”

Today our nation sets aside a day to honor mothers, single or married, grandmothers and great grandmothers, step mothers, foster mothers and adoptive mothers.  Today we pause to remember our mothers whether they are living or no longer with us.  We also acknowledge that today can be a difficult day for mothers who have experienced the death of a son or daughter, for women who longed to become mothers but it wasn't to be and for mothers who are estranged from their children.

Today we show mothers that they are special, that we appreciate them.  Some families will take their moms out to a restaurant. Other families will visit their mothers in a nursing home or a retirement home, and still others will go to cemeteries and lay a bouquet of flowers at the gravesite, as a way of honoring their mothers.

The Bible looks at motherhood realistically.  It honors mothers, as we read in the fifth commandment, “Honor your father and your mother,” but it doesn’t idealize motherhood. It acknowledges the joys and sorrows, the challenges and rewards, the pressure and peace of being a mother.   The Bible tells many moving stories about mothers.

Like the story of the courageous and wise Jochebed, the mother of Moses.   Because the Hebrew's  population in Egypt had greatly increased, the Pharaoh felt threatened and forced the Hebrew people into slavery.   Pharaoh put forth this order: “Every boy that is born to the Hebrews you shall throw into the Nile, but you shall let every girl live.” It was during this reign of terror that Jochebed became pregnant with her third child, Moses.

After Moses was born she hid him for three months.  And when she could hide him no longer, and an idea occurred to her.  She made a papyrus basket, set him in it, and placed it among the reeds on the bank of the river.  Jochebed made sure that her oldest daughter watched Moses from the shore.  When Pharaoh’s daughter came down to the river to bathe, she saw the basket floating in the reeds, found the baby Moses, and took pity on him.   When Jochebed's daughter saw this happen, she went to speak to Pharaoh's daughter and offered to find a Hebrew woman to nurse the child.  That woman was Jochebed.

We honor Jochebed and all mothers for their ingenuity, courage and commitment to protect their children.  Mothers must be creative and resourceful when raising children.  God rewarded her faith and courage.  Jochebed raised Moses in Pharaoh’s court and Moses grew to become one of the greatest leaders in the history of the Jews.

In the letter of Romans, the apostle Paul sends special greetings to persons whose loyalty, faith, and friendship had made a tremendous impact upon his life and ministry.  We read his words: “Give my greetings to Rufus, chosen in the Lord, and to his mother, who was a mother also to me.”   Rufus' mother and Paul shared a close relationship; he cherished and respected her.

I also remember a woman who was like a mother to me.  Her name was Doris.  She was a teacher at Hoover High School and the mother of a good friend of mine.  She was a devoted Christian and member of our church.    After I graduated from Hoover I got a part-time job as a dish washer in a pancake house while I was attending City College.  I worked three nights a week washing dishes, cleaning floors, vacuuming, and cleaning out the drains.  What a job.  After getting off work at night, I would go over to my friend's home.  She would set out the ice cream.  Doris, her son John and I would engage in fascinating conversations.  She was smart, kind, encouraging, generous and a good listener.

I suspect you too can think of someone, who in addition to your own mother, acted like a mother to you.  Who comes to mind when you think of someone who took time for you, encouraged you, accepted and understood you?  Yes, God uses both our biological mother’s and women who act like mothers for His purpose in our lives.

Conversely, some of you here this morning have been like a mother to another child, to a neighbor child, a friend of your children, or you've been a mentor to a student at school.  You have been like a mother to a niece or nephew or grandchild.  Women can always be like a mother to a child, like Rufus’ mother was to Paul.  God brings such opportunities into our lives. Anthropologist Ashley Montague wisely observed:  “The next best thing to being a mother is to behave like one.”

How does a mother live a life in faithfulness to God?  Consider carefully these biblical principles.  First, be a Christian witness to your children, let them see and hear your faith.  Let them see that you love God and trust in God.  Let them see how the church is significant in your life.  Pray and read the Bible with them.  Worship as a family.    Bring neighborhood children to church or to youth activities.    Teach them about sharing, respect, forgiveness, kindness.  These biblical values are not inborn, they need to be taught.  Be a Christ-like example to children that they might catch the faith and Christ's love from you.

Second, see your child as God’s child.   Children are gifts from God, they are on loan temporarily for you to protect, nurture, cherish, teach, love and provide for.  Don’t compare them with other children.  Value the unique individuality of each child.  God has made our children one of a kind, with different gifts and talents and strengths and weaknesses and temperaments.   See the potential in them and spend valuable time cultivating that potential.  Keep expectations high, but also realistic.

Third, bringing discipline.  Discipline is another form of loving your child.  It is an expression of parental love.   It is a way of teaching your child moral values and good behavior and respect for authority.  It is a way of bringing structure, boundaries, and accountability into a child's upbringing.  In my humble opinion, always trying to be a friend rather than a parent is problematic. Children may grow up to be defiant and angry because they grew up with too much freedom, to fast and too little structure.

Fourth, make motherhood a priority.  Spend precious time with your child.  There is no substitute for you, for your presence and influence, for your counsel, for your values and virtues, for your hugs and smile.  Only you can bring the gift of your personality and spirit, your guidance, faith and moral example, and your love and teaching.  You don't have to be perfect, just present.  Learn to forgive yourself.  God doesn’t expect perfection, God expects faithfulness.

Fifth, leading them to graduation or to launch time.  This is perhaps the most difficult and frightening aspect of parenting.  Allowing our children to experience more freedom to make decisions appropriate to their age.  Allowing them to fail and learn from their failures as well as their successes.  Allowing them to accept responsibility and the consequences of irresponsibility.  We cannot always shield them from setbacks and disappointments, nor should we, because such times are an essential part of character development.  Isn’t the goal of parenting to launch our children the world as independent, productive, faith-filled, moral and responsible human beings?

Now after children leave home and become independent, our role as parents of course changes.  The hands-on manager must become the outside consultant.  Yet we obviously desire to maintain good relationships with our children.  Keep checking in, without checking up, learn to listen and not to lecture, give advice when asked for, and ask questions for the sake of praying, not prying.

I close with a story titled Rent A Mom.

"For $40 an hour, you can have your very own mother figure help you make a tough decision, provide emotional support when you're going through a break up or when you get sick, or make you a homemade pumpkin pie when you're spending the holidays alone. No judgment included.

Nina Keneally, 63, of Brooklyn, is the mother for hire. She came up with the idea for the service when she realized she was dishing out free advice to youngsters in her yoga class. "I've noticed that a lot of young people in the neighborhood wanted to talk to me about what was going on in their lives," Keneally said.

As a mother of two adults, and one who is familiar with the New York City area, she says she can help Millennials, those born in the 80's and 90's, navigate the harsh waters of life as a young person in the big city.   As she puts it on her website, you can “call her when you need a mom, just not your mom."

Give my greetings to Rufus, chosen in the Lord, and to his mother, who was a mother also to me.”  Amen!

Wednesday, May 11, 2016

Jesus Said Wait! (Acts 1:1-11) by Rev. Dr. Alan W. Deuel

In the New Testament, the letter of II Peter, the apostle writes: "Do not ignore this one fact, beloved, for with the Lord, one day is like a thousand years and a thousand years are like one day."  An economist who read this passage became curious and prayed to God about it. "Lord, is it true that a thousand years for us is like one day to you?"  The Lord said “yes.”  The economist replied, "Then a million dollars to us must be like one penny to you."  The Lord said, "Well, yes."  The economist said, "Lord, will you give me one penny?"  The Lord  answered,  “Sure, can you wait a day?"

Which brings us to our lesson from the book of Acts.  After the Risen Lord had appeared to the disciples over 40 days, they were anxious to leave the city, but Jesus commands them to stay in Jerusalem and wait for the coming of the Holy Spirit.  So let us reflect upon our Risen Lord’s summons to His disciples to wait.

How do you react when someone says to you: “I’m sorry, but you’re going to have to wait! “   Have you ever heard that?  Is the Pope Catholic?   Yes, it's hard to wait.  Taking action is easy, but waiting...  Like waiting for a baby to be born, especially when you go past your due date, 5 days is a long time, isn't it Caroline?   Our computers and cell phones have never been faster.  Intel's new Core i7 chip hits 5 GHz.  Do I know what that means, not a clue, but it sounds fast and yet its surprising how quickly they become too slow and we are impatient for the latest faster model to be released.   We don’t like to have to wait for a decision or an answer.   I think technology has made us impatient.   I also think waiting is hard because it means we aren't in control over our circumstances.  We have to trust the outcome of a situation to someone or something else which means it might not turn out the way you want it to.  Is waiting easy for you?

The disciples were eager to leave Jerusalem and return to their homes to get on with their lives.  They knew Jesus’ enemies were still in the city and as Jesus' followers they could be arrested and thrown in prison at any moment.  But rather than sending them out  Jesus reigns them in.  And so with mixed emotions, with elation and frustration, the disciples obey Jesus and remain in Jerusalem.

Why did Jesus ask them to wait?   They needed power for their coming mission to spread the gospel, to witness to Jesus in Jerusalem, Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth,   the power of the Holy Spirit, a supernatural power to accomplish what God had planned for them.  Jesus promised that they would soon receive this extraordinary spiritual power.

Waiting!  You can fight against it and become filled with frustration, or accept it philosophically, “Oh well, it's a part of life.” The psalmist in psalm 130 cries out: “I wait for the lord, my soul doth wait, and in his word do I hope.”  Yes, like Jesus’ command to His disciples, I believe God sometimes commands you and me to be patient and wait it out.

I’m certainly not going to pretend that I know all the reasons why.  Sometimes the answer remains hidden from our mind for months or even years before God reveals it, and sometimes we will not know in our lifetime, but in the life to come.  But the Bible isn’t silent on this question.  It speaks about what can happen inside, in our interior lives, when we wait.  Waiting is God's means of grace through faith.  Isaiah 40:31 says: "Those who wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength. They shall mount up with wings like eagles, they shall run and not be weary, and they shall walk and not faint."

Here Isaiah is saying God knows that at times we are too weak physically or mentally, and we need a new infusion of spiritual power.  Do you ever feel burned out emotionally or physically or spiritually?  We need God's renewing strength.  We just aren’t ready for some new thing.  God knows this, whether we know it or not.  Waiting is one way God recharges our inner being.   Isaiah's words are about God’s promise to restore us.  Waiting forces you to stop, so that God can renew your strength.   Psalm 23 says:  “He makes me to lie down in green pastures, he restores my soul.”

Further, waiting refines our character!  We read in the letter of Romans 5: “We can rejoice, too, when we run into problems and trials; they help us learn to be patient and patience produces character in us and character produces hope.”  I remember a friend who used to say to me when I was grumbling about something: “Alan, it's just another character building opportunity.”  God cares about your character.  God is in the character building business.

God knows that when everything comes easy, character comes hard.  Like when kids grow up to be adults, after their parents have given them everything they wanted when they wanted it.  I remember two brothers who lacked ambition or drive or goals.  Both were married, but neither would work and basically lounged around the house.  Their parents admitted that they spoiled them as children.   When they first started working, if they ran into frustrations, if a raise didn’t come fast enough or the promotion didn't materialize or the job got difficult they simply quit.  After awhile, they simply quit looking.

Now I'd love to develop my character without having to wait it out through trials, without persevering through difficult times, how about you?   But the Bible says it doesn't work like that. As one writer put it: “You can't make steel without tempering it.  You can't develop character without going through times of waiting.”

Finally, waiting can refocus your direction in life.   If God wants to re-direct our lives, God must get us to stop, and guide us in the direction He wants us to go.   Sometimes doors being slammed shut are God’s ways of re-directing our lives so that new opportunities might open up for us.  Sometimes when opportunities are not opening up, it’s because we need to listen to God and others and change what we are doing or change the way we are thinking.

Like the story of a couple who waited and waited to have a baby.  Sadly, they were unable to due to infertility.  The news devastated them.  They had discussed the idea of adoption but now, when adoption seemed their only recourse, it felt it like a consolation prize, like second place.  The husband writes:

We dropped the thought.  As we balanced the delicate walk between grief and hope, we decided to try to understand the Lord's heart regarding this subject.  We prayed about it and studied stories in the Bible.

After waiting a year, we made the prayerful decision and adopted twin boys.  Unbelievably, after the adoption of our twins, my wife became pregnant for the first time.  It was a very difficult pregnancy, but after the birth, my wife fully recovered with no side effects other than extreme exhaustion.

When we decided to adopt the boys, we already had come to terms with our deepest desire. It wasn't biological heirs or blood and gene transference.  It was the opportunity to parent, the privilege to raise up a boy or a girl in the ways of the Lord—to share life and dreams with the next generation.”

So listen for God's word and persevere in faith and hope.    I believe that in moments of deep frustration or confusion or indecision, when your way is unclear, God is saying: “Listen, pray, watch, talk to others, read your Bible, be patient, imagine another way, don’t act foolishly, and trust in me.”    Psalm 37 says: “Be still in the presence of the Lord and wait patiently for Him to act.”    Amen!