Faith in God’s Waiting Room

Are there unfulfilled dreams inside you?  Did you picture your life very different from your current one?  Do you ever wonder why you possess certain skills and talents that seem to go unused and unappreciated? I felt that way for years.

From earliest childhood, I forced my younger brothers to be “students” in my pretend school, with me as teacher. Through my school years and college, I dreamed of that only, to be a teacher.  My instructors and professors assured me I possessed the perfect skill set and personality to be an educator.  Score!

After graduating college, I married my husband, and we moved to the Chicago area for graduate school.  I thought that in a large metropolitan area, I’d choose my school system. Hah!  While I lived in the college bubble, the teaching world changed and a tsunami wave of college students with teaching degrees hit the job market.

Many school systems shifted to hiring primarily from their substitute teacher pools.  I couldn’t even get on a substitute teacher list as they were so overcrowded at that time. Instead, I took a job as a music therapist and figured I’d begin my teaching career when we moved to our first ministry position.

I started my career as a high school teacher 20 years later and I only landed my initial job because I added an English degree to my portfolio and, more importantly, the teacher I replaced left in the middle of the year due to a nervous breakdown.

During those twenty years I worked other careers, I continued to dream of teaching.  Many times, I thought I’d never see that vision come to pass.  I questioned the skills, passion and calling God placed in me in the hard light of many closed doors.

It’s easy to lose faith in something we felt so sure God placed in our hearts when its fulfillment is deferred. God’s waiting room can be a place where we allow our dreams to die instead of entrusting them to His perfect timing.  A vision delayed often reflects God’s desire to prepare our character and skills for a specific assignment.  He also needs to prepare a situation and the people within it, to receive us.

Joseph’s promotion from boy dreamer to Egypt’s second in command wound its way through 14 years of slavery and prison. (Genesis 37-50) David’s waiting period between his teenaged anointing and throne, we approximate to be fifteen years. (I Samuel 16- 2 Samuel 10)

Far eclipsing Joseph and David, Bible historians estimate Noah worked on the Ark for about 100 years.  One of the highest callings ever placed on a life endured a century of mockery and derision from the inhabitants of a land where flooding rains never existed before.  Matthew 24:38-39 indicate the world’s inhabitants continued to eat, drink and be merry until the moment Noah entered the ark.

Scriptures recount Joseph’s and David’s discouragements during their waiting times.  Moses’ leadership calling became encrusted over with desert dust. In Acts 7 Stephen recounts that when Moses was 40 and chose to step away from privileged palace life he was “powerful in speech and action,” and thought that “his own people would realize that God was using him to rescue them.”  40 years later, God miraculously inflames a desert bush to call 80-year-old Moses up for front line duty.  Our hero’s response is to protest that he is no one to whom Pharaoh or Israel will listen, and that he’s a lousy speaker.  What happened?  I think Moses may not have understood that his 40 years of obscurity as a priest in the Midian desert served only as preparation for his ultimate destiny, not the destiny itself.   No judgements here because I’ve done the same exact thing with some of my dreams.

How do we hold on to our faith tenaciously when it comes to deferred dreams?  From man’s beginning, Satan continues to insinuate that humans can’t hear well from God.  Doubting the relationship between Shepherd and sheep can be one of the first casualties in God’s waiting rooms.  Bitterness and despair can erupt when others are promoted, and we continue to be overlooked.  Sometimes, like Moses, we just assume a calling never belonged to us in the first place.

Here’s a few ideas to help keep us in a state of readiness so that when He calls us up we are prepared for action.

  • Recognize waiting periods as your school of preparation and character development.

God kept Christ himself hidden away in a nothing little town for 30 years. During that time, Jesus became the exceptional human revealed in the Gospels.  God knows the demands that our destinies will place on our character and resources.  We don’t need any more public failures in the body of Christ where everyone discovers that a character couldn’t keep up with a calling.

  • Understand that God works to prepare situations and people to receive you.

God brought Jacob’s family and the entire nation of Egypt to places of desperation to enable them to receive Joseph’s leadership gladly.  I like to operate where I am celebrated, not tolerated, don’t you?  Give God time to create that environment for you.

  • Our current state is our proving ground for our coming promotion.

Joseph came to Pharaoh’s attention because he acted with kindness and wisdom in prison.  David fought many valiant battles and treated crazy King Saul with respect, which earned him the admiration of his people before he became their king. We might feel shelved, overlooked and left behind but God is watching carefully to see how we treat the people he sends our way and how we conduct ourselves outside of our dream lives. Be excruciatingly faithful with whatever He gives you to do right now.  Obey quickly when He gives direction.  God wants to be sure we won’t act like we’re too big for our britches when he does promote us.

  • Enjoy the life God gives you today.

You may be in a job, relationship, church, neighborhood or country that is far outside your dreams.  Some places are hard and unwelcoming like Moses’ desert.  Faith enables us to believe that our dreams are still in God’s hands for safe keeping.  All of God’s promises for grace, peace, joy and purpose are for us today.

During the month of March, we’ll develop some ideas about thriving in hard places because, frankly, that’s where a lot of life is lived.  See you then!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Illogical Faith

“Hang on…. isn’t that Sharon Skinkle?”

“Didn’t she just graduate a couple years ago?”

“What the……? “

I tried to pretend I didn’t hear the student mutterings from the director’s platform on my first day of student teaching in my former high school.  On one hand, I felt solid in this building and this room.  During my junior and senior years, as a student conductor, I directed from this same spot many times.  The seniors, currently speculating about my qualifications, had been lowly freshman the last time I stood before this choir.

When my former director introduced me as “your new student teacher, Miss Skinkle,” I figured some might remember my high school glory days.  They did, but not in the way I imagined.  Even though three years of college preceded my return to my old choral room, a few students behaved as if a sudden, undeserved promotion plopped me in front of them.

During the first couple weeks, a daily tug of war raged.  My seasoned, former director, wisely stayed out of it completely, leaving me alone in the room to discover whether I could excel in classroom management as well as I did in music.  God led me to use various “Love and Logic,” techniques long before that name became common in education circles.

Students learned that I only teach when students behave.  For a while, the goof-off dial climbed until students realized that their well-attended combined Christmas concert, with the high school’s symphonic band, raced towards us on the calendar. With the slow rate we took during rehearsals, due to discipline issues, we daily fell behind on our rehearsal schedule. The fear of looking like chumps, compared to the band, scared them.  We turned a corner and enjoyed a memorable semester together.

When I first showed up on the director’s platform, students doubted whether I had the goods to direct such a large, award winning choir.  I lacked faith in myself, too.  My work would be displayed for the whole community in a few weeks.  Would I measure up? My director expressed full confidence in me consistently, and that kept me lurching forward.

The Hebrews knew and didn’t know Moses.  Surely many of them heard his miraculous story, whispered behind closed doors. They might see him out with his adopted family or in chariot races or other public events.  According to Hebrews 11 he abruptly left his privileged life and threw his lot in with his own people.  I think some probably welcomed him with open arms and others treated him like my students did me.

“Moses?  He knows nothing about us!”

“So, he’s going to slum it with us for awhile till he tucks tail and runs back to the palace?”

“He’s been an Egyptian for 40 years! What does he know about Jehovah?”

Don’t be foolish and think that 2 million slaves rushed to embrace this guy with the strange back story. First, he shows up from the palace and says he wants to do life as a slave. Who does that?  Then, he murders an Egyptian and disappears for 40 years.  When he turns up again, he hits them with an even crazier idea.  “I’m the guy God sent as your leader.  We’re checking out of Egypt and heading to our promised land!”  Come on, you’ve got to know that many Hebrews probably thought him to be a looney.

You know who did support him right from the get go?  His sister Miriam and his brother Aaron, apparently stood with him immediately and helped to promote God’s plan.  Unlike Jesus’ siblings, who questioned their brother’s sanity, Moses’ remaining family recognized God’s call on their Moses’ life and the promise of better days ahead.

I make my faith too logical.  I believe for things when I can figure out how God can make them come to pass.  Miriam and Aaron lived by a wildly illogical faith.  What their recently returned brother said made no sense in the natural. Moses’ declarations about Israel’s deliverance existed light years beyond the imaginations of Hebrew slaves.  Only faith enabled them to step across the chasms between their natural minds and the supernatural workings of God.  They remembered God’s word, spoken through Joseph, centuries before thanks to their parents. “God will surely come to you and bring you out of this land to the land of which He swore to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob.” (Genesis 50:24)

God’s promises provided a framework for Aaron and Miriam to build faith strongholds inside their hearts. From the Hebrews’ point of view, the Egyptians held all the cards of power, otherwise the slave nation could have mounted a rebellion and escaped centuries ago. Just because the story is familiar do not underestimate how insurmountable and impossible the odds were against Moses’ plan working, except for God’s mighty hand of power.

I’m going to continue to expect God to do “infinitely beyond what I can ask or imagine.” (Eph. 3:20 NAS) No longer, though, will I allow myself the fruitlessness of trying to figure out how God is going to do what He’s going to do.  Human reasoning can only lower the ceiling of my faith down to manageable, logical boxes. Moses stumbled into this kind of thinking and faced God’s anger. (Exodus 3,4 particularly 4:14)

I’m diving deeper into his word, expecting that I will be schooled in the ways of faith. The wonders God did through Abraham, Jacob, Joseph, Moses, Elijah, Nehemiah and so many others, He wants to do through me, and you.  People all around us are still in dire need of salvation, deliverance, healing and restoration.  I want to live in the realm of illogical faith and partnership with God where His presence and power flows unhindered.

 

 

Crazy Faith- Moses’ Family

“What is that?” I hissed in Ken’s ear.

“Don’t know,” he whispered back.

“Someone’s trying to get in the house!”  I hissed again. Fear paralyzed me, yet I didn’t want to wait for intruders to find us.  The horrendous noise that woke us continued.  We presumed it to be the home invasion crew recently described to us by a deputy sheriff.

“Yeah, ya got yer two dozen break-ins the last two months.  If yer door’s locked they just hack at it with axes.”

Someone was axing our door right now while we laid in bed trying to figure out what to do!

Ken dialed 911 and whispered our suspicions to the operator then locked our bedroom door. Within five minutes, the front of our house looked like a drug bust going down.   A loud knocking on our front door, accompanied by, “Sheriff’s department, open up,” propelled Ken to the door.  At that moment, he realized the noise we heard came from our screen door not being latched and throwing itself on the front of the house.

Can you remember a time when fear grabbed you, throttled you and challenged your ability to reason or move?  If you can recall a moment like that, it will help you admire and understand the commando faith of Moses’ parents, Amram and Jochabed.

Giving birth to a healthy, beautiful child should create intense joy for any parent.  For Moses’s parents, it forced them into a time of crazy courage and radical trust in God.

Moses’ birth occurred during the season of the Egyptian pharaoh’s edict that all Hebrew boys must be murdered at birth.  Close your eyes and try to imagine what it felt like to be a pregnant Hebrew woman at that time.  Let your mind wander a bit over the landscape of horror and grief that law unleashed in the Israelite nation.

That story always came across to me in picture books with Moses’ parents cowering in fear.  Scriptures paint a different picture.  Let’s review the facts in Exodus 2.

  1. Pharaoh proclaims his edict.
  2. Jochabed gives birth to Moses and observes that he is “especially beautiful and healthy.” (Exodus 2:2 AMP)
  3. The decision is made to hide Moses for three months.
  4. At the end of three months, a special basket is built, Moses is placed inside and positioned in the portion of the Nile River where it is known that Pharaoh’s daughter regularly bathes.
  5. Miriam is placed on guard duty.

What prompted this monumentally unique response from Moses’ parents when they were surrounded by others who stood by helplessly as Egyptian soldiers slaughtered their newborns?  I believe that the crazy faith of these remarkable parents connected with God’s desire to move heaven and earth to spare Moses’ life.

Hebrews 11: 23 highlights this: “By faith Moses, after his birth, was hidden for three months by his parents, because they saw he was a beautiful and divinely favored child; and they were not afraid of the king’s decree.”  (Amp) Unlike many Israelites, it seems clear that Amram and Jochabed did not adapt the false gods of Egypt. They hunkered down with Jehovah, the One who promised to send a deliverer.

Joshua confronted the Israelites about this issue years later. “Now, therefore, fear the Lord and serve Him in sincerity and in truth; remove the gods which your fathers served….in Egypt, and serve the Lord.” (Josh. 24:14 AMP)

Amram and Jochabed seemed to be set apart from their culture.  To be unafraid of a powerful tyrant is noteworthy.  The whole basket in the river strategy represented a solid belief that God’s power far exceeded Pharaoh’s, and that he also knew the heart of Pharaoh’s daughter. Otherwise, how did these parents know she wouldn’t murder Moses in deference to her father?  The only conclusion is that God shared his thoughts with them.  He let them know that if they took this wild step of faith, He planned to make it come out right.

The takeaway here is simple to say and so challenging to do.  If you are expecting God to do great things in the places where fear and chaos threatens, you must be in the kind of intimate relationship with Him that allows him to share his plans with you. Knowing God deeply through prayer and studying his word means we are able to see his supernatural workings all around us and join him in his work.

Like Israel, Christ-followers are set apart. The way we face catastrophes and set-backs, the way we spend our time and resources, and the way we obey God, should all be distinct within our sphere of influence. Sometimes we are called to be different even within the midst of  God’s chosen, as Moses’ parents were.

It’s entirely possible that other Israelites mocked Moses’ family for continuing to worship a God who left Israel in bondage for 400 years.  I imagine voices screaming, “Where is your Jehovah now?” while Hebrew families wailed with grief over their murdered infants.  In the same way people around us often cry, “Where is God?” in the face of natural disasters, mass shootings or terrorist events. Overcoming evil with good takes an aerobic, ever-growing faith, the kind of absolute trust in God that empowers us to be calm within chaos, loving in the face of evil, courageous when surrounded by fear.

I am inspired by Amram and Jochabed, whose trust in God lifted them above the soul-crushing circumstances of their circumstances to lay the foundation for the deliverance of the entire nation of Israel.  We need that kind of dangerous faith to arise in the soul of every believer so that we are ready to be conduits of heaven’s power and peace into every situation of chaos and fear.

Commando Faith

I slumped by the side of my bed, weeping.  Another list of “Pastor Ken’s Wrongs,” arose from our church. It came from a small, angry group of members who felt threatened by floods of new people, ministries and ideas.  Their response: attack Ken’s character to remove him from the church.

We’d been on this battlefield once before, a few years earlier.  The greater denominational leadership stepped in, examined the facts, and made a statement. “We find no basis to these allegations and believe most of them to be untrue or simple matters of personal preference.  If you are unable to accept this man as your God-given pastor, we recommend you seek a new church.” That’s the short story.

The long story involves months of gut-wrenching conflict and many sleepless nights.  We doubted our gifts and our callings. The great news is, what Satan crafted to destroy us, God used to develop warrior spirits inside of us. We became fervent in our prayer closets and Bible study which in turn built our faith and honed our use of our Spirit-Sword, the Word of God.

After the resolution of that first list, wonderful years of ministry and growth rolled out for a bit then, whoosh, we were deployed back onto that same battlefield.  Did I rise in my warrior strength?  No. I cowered in a whiny, “I can’t believe this is happening again,” place.

Warriors are not formed in battle, they are tested by itFaith warriors are created in their secret places of prayer where the anguished heart wrestles with God and His Word until the thing at hand is prayed all the way through. Private victories prepare the way for public battles to accomplish not only our own freedom but freedom for others.

I am consistently drawn to movies and books about courageous men and women.  Marcus Luttrell overcame the horrific loss of his teammates and vicious pursuit by his enemies all on top of serious, bodily wounds to live and inspire millions with his account of survival.

 

I will never quit. My nation expects me to be physically harder and mentally stronger than my enemies. If knocked down I will get back up, every time. I will draw on every remaining ounce of strength to protect my teammates and to accomplish our mission. I am never out of the fight.” 
― Marcus LuttrellLone Survivor: The Eyewitness Account of Operation Redwing and the Lost Heroes of SEAL Team 10

When I encounter these stories, I find my faith re-ignited.  If men and women can give their last ounce of strength for their country or cause, can’t I find the grit to fight in the same way for my eternal country, the kingdom of God?

Honestly, I’ve spent too much of my life being a fearful, sometimes lazy, often self-absorbed foot soldier in the war between darkness and light.  In the quiet, with only God speaking, I am reminded of how much time and energy I’ve squandered trying to make my life comfortable and happy, away from the front lines.  What might be different in the world around me if I’d approached my role in the kingdom army like Marcus Luttrell?

In the next few posts I’d like to examine some overlooked faith warriors from the Bible.  Til then, ask yourself how much you are willing to sacrifice to see God’s will come to pass in your life, your family, your church, your country and across the world.   Where are you waiting to see God move?  Where is the enemy messing with you and yours?

Let’s learn from a soldier like Marcus, who stayed true to his cause despite numerous hardships and dangers.

  • Stop quitting. The flesh hates hard stuff, but that’s life on this side of heaven. Remember, as soldiers in Christ’s army, we fight from a unique position of victory. Often, battles are won by people who wear down the enemy simply because they refuse to give up.
  • Remember you are harder and stronger than your enemies.  The Lion of Judah lives inside us and empowers us with every heavenly resource to resist and drive back the one who only prowls around like a lion.  God expects us to use all the weapons He’s given us.  Picture yourself fighting alongside the Captain of the Hosts because that is your reality. He is leading the charge, not us.
  • Expect you will be knocked down. Determine you will rise each time.  Jesus himself was tortured, beaten and murdered before He rose in victory.  He is our perfect example that going under doesn’t mean staying under.  We rise in the strength of the Holy Spirit who fortifies our character and faith.
  • Remember who and what is at stake and spend that last ounce of courage and strength. We fight for the King of Kings.  We fight for souls balanced between eternal life and death.  We fight for our wounded fellow soldiers.  There is simply too much at stake here for me to be primarily concerned about my comfort or convenience.
  • Acknowledge your status as an actively serving soldier everyday of your earthly life. If God grants me life and breath, He designs missions just for me.  No matter our state, He has purpose for us.

Are you starting to feel that warrior spirit in you?  Let me finish with verses that will stoke that fire.

When you go out to battle against your enemies and see horses and chariots and people more numerous than you, do not be afraid of them; for the LORD your God, who brought you up from the land of Egypt, is with you.  Deut. 20:1-4

          “Do not fear or be dismayed because of this great multitude, for the battle is not yours but God’s.” 2 Chronicles 20:15

          “You have also given me the shield of Your salvation, and your right hand upholds me; and your gentleness makes me great.” Psalm 18:35

“For the Lord your God is the one who goes with you to fight for you against your enemies to give you victory.” Deut. 20:4