…for it is God who works in you to will and to act in order to fulfill his good purpose. Philippians 2:13

My friend Janie says that it takes God seven years to answer a prayer. I’m not sure how she’s come up with that number—perhaps that’s because it’s God’s number of completion. But Janie doesn’t get impatient when answers don’t happen right away. Unlike so many of us…

There are so many examples in the Bible of people praying and experiencing delays in their answers. Sarah and Abraham were well past their prime when God birthed their promised son. Joseph waited more than a decade to see God’s promise fulfilled in his life. The children of Israel waited about four hundred years before returning home. How long did the faithful wait for Messiah? And how long have we waited for his Second Coming?

Yet God is the one who is working. He gives a promise, and then he works to bring it to pass. When Sarah and Abraham tried to help God out, they only created enmity that has lasted to this present day. The pattern is: we pray and God works. He brings together the myriad details, all the connections, and every component that’s needed for what we call answered prayer.

And God works secretly, behind the scenes, and in our hearts. Trying to watch God work is somewhat like planting an acorn and expecting to see an oak tree appear overnight. “God works in mysterious ways his wonders to perform,” (Cowper) and we need to get out of his way. Often, it takes time; other times he surprises us with his speed. But the underlying truth is that God’s ways are higher than our ways (Isa. 55:9), and he’s always working.

So much is written about prayer—pray fervently, pray in faith, ask and seek and knock. I’ve spent countless days praying and praying and trying to see what God was doing. As if I could peek over his shoulder and be a spectator to the wonders of his ways. And when I didn’t feel I had prayed sufficiently or used the proper words, I’d begin again as if God didn’t understand the situation or hadn’t heard me initially.

I am beginning to learn that my job is to pray and then to simply trust and let go. I hand the matter to my Father and trust him to work. I try not to rush him or ask him to explain. I leave the matter totally to him. I walk away and move on to my next duty so that he can work without my interruption (or suggestions).

And then, to my wonder and great joy (sometimes when I’ve even forgotten what I’d asked him to do) in his timing he shows me what he has been up to. It’s always better than what I had prayed, what I had asked, or what I had imagined. God is ALWAYS working. And it’s always good. I’m trying to remember to back out and stop interfering.

Father, thank you for your mercy with my impatience. Let your will be done in your time. In Jesus, our Lord. AMEN.



Therefore, put on every piece of God’s armor so you will be able to resist the enemy in the time of evil. Then after the battle you will still be firm. Ephesians 6:13 (ESV)


A friend reminded me this past week that “the evil one” is always lurking around, looking for an opening through which to torment or derail God’s children. There’s no fear in that, but it certainly is important for us to remain vigilant and to remain abiding in the shadow of the Almighty (Ps. 91).
I think we’re  pretty much accustomed to safety messages all around us that tell us to “Be aware of your surroundings to minimize safety incidents.” But do we take seriously the need to abide in God and to be prepared for attack? Do you inventory your safety equipment? And do you take time to put it on every morning? I mean the armor of God:
• The helmet of salvation. Jesus Christ’s redemptive death on the cross paid the price for our sin—once and for all—and we have absolutely no condemnation if we stay in him and obey his Word (Romans 8). We put on Jesus’ salvation covering our thoughts so that the enemy cannot have access to our minds.
• The breastplate of righteousness. Our righteousness comes from Jesus alone, not from our good deeds, so that we have no right to boast (Romans 3:22). We choose to live in purity, giving glory to God.
• The belt of truth. Jesus described himself as Truth. We bind ourselves in him committed to live in light and transparency, without falsehood, deception, or exaggeration. Truth encircles us.
• Shoes of the Gospel of peace. We’re told to—as much as possible—live at peace with all men (Romans 12:18). We do everything we can to be disciples of Jesus’ peace, knowing that he gives us his peace so that we’re not troubled in spirit (John 14:27).
• Shield of faith. My personal thought is that the size of our shields is determined by the size of our faith (Luke 17:5). While that may be a scary thought, as we walk in obedience to the Lord and experience his faithfulness, our trust in him increases and prepares us for the battle ahead.
• Sword of the Spirit. This is our only offense—the Word of God. And it’s enough. It was the weapon Jesus used against his enemy, Satan, and it’s sufficient for us as we study, memorize, and rely on its truth in every situation.
Personally speaking, I don’t like battles, but we are well equipped to take on any enemy and to be victorious. Think of these battle verses and be encouraged:
• “This is what the LORD says to you: ‘Do not be afraid or discouraged because of this vast army. For the battle is not yours, but God’s’” II Chronicles 20:15.
• “No weapon formed against you shall prosper, And every tongue which rises against you in judgment you shall condemn. This is the heritage of the servants of the Lord, And their righteousness is from Me” Isaiah 54:17.
• “Fear ye not, stand still, and see the salvation of the LORD, which he will show to you to-day…” Exodus 14:13
• “When the enemy shall come in like a flood, the Spirit of the LORD shall lift up a standard against him” Isaiah 59:19.
• Finally, “…after you have done everything, … stand” Ephesians 6:13.
Oh, God, the enemy is breathing down my neck. But I am relying on your promises, wearing your armor, and standing. AMEN.



All the believers were one in heart and mind. No one claimed that any of their possessions was their own, but they shared everything they had. Acts 4:32


Have you ever taken time to look at God’s provisions for his children in Bible times? It’s quite instructive the way God worked through his people to ensure that all needs were met, and yet, no one was robbed of his dignity. Take, for example, the injunction to farmers, “When you reap the harvest of your land, you are not to reap to the very edges of your field or gather the gleanings of your harvest. You must not strip your vineyard bare or gather its fallen grapes. Leave them for the poor and the sojourner” (Lev. 19:9, 10).

There’s more: “At the end of every three years, bring all the tithes of that year’s produce and store it in your towns, so that… the widows who live in your towns may come and eat and be satisfied” (Deut. 14:28-29).  “When you are harvesting in your field and you overlook a sheaf, do not go back to get it. Leave it for the alien, the fatherless and the widow, so that the LORD your God may bless you in all the work of your hands” (Deut. 24:19). And then, “He who oppresses the poor shows contempt for their Maker, but whoever is kind to the needy honors God” (Prov. 14:31).

Do you notice that those who had plenty were to leave food for those who had no provision? But, and this is so important, the poor, widows, orphans, and strangers (who weren’t yet established) could maintain their self-respect by gathering the crops that were left growing in the fields or vines. They were able to work for their provision. This is what Ruth did, and her industry attracted the attention of the wealthy farmer, Boaz. (She also attained a place in the lineage of Jesus for her all-round good character.)

Speaking on God’s behalf, Isaiah (58:10) says, “If you spend yourselves in behalf of the hungry and satisfy the needs of the oppressed, then your light will rise in the darkness, and your night will become like the noonday.” If we wisely invest our resources in ministry to others, God will bless whatever we have. Jesus said, “… I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in” (Matt. 25:35).  He pointed out that when we minister to others, we are giving to him.

Corbett and Fikkert (When Helping Hurts) address the problem of generosity without understanding… when we rush in to help people without encouraging them to see the many assets they already possess. Remember Moses, when he was complaining to the Lord that he wasn’t the right leader for the Israelites? God’s response to him was, “What’s in your hand?” What do you already have that can be used?  Everyone possesses assets that are waiting to be identified.

We shouldn’t be afraid (or stingy) about reaching out in faith to wisely help the truly needy. In fact, one of the big complaints God had against the Israelites—study the writings of the prophets—was the way they treated those among them who suffered and whom they didn’t pity. In words of encouragement, Jesus said, “Give, and it shall be given unto you; good measure, pressed down, and shaken together, and running over, shall men give into your bosom. For with the same measure that ye mete withal it shall be measured to you again” (Luke 6:38).

Remember, it’s more blessed to give than to receive (Acts 20:35).

Father, help our love for you to be manifested in our deeds for others. In Jesus’ name.  AMEN.



Do you have eyes but fail to see…? Mark 8:18

Jesus has several notable instances of healing blind men—Bartimaeus called out to Jesus and was healed because of his faith (Mark 10, Luke 18); another blind man was healed in stages (Mark 8); and a man born blind was healed by mud put on his eyes (John 9). Then scripture speaks of spiritual darkness, blind leaders of the blind, blinded minds, or darkened understanding, with many other allusions to a state in which there’s no spiritual light.

I’ve been particularly sensitive to this topic recently as I’ve experienced visual difficulties and temporary loss of vision. Being partially blinded, even though it wasn’t prolonged, was a frightening prospect. But during this time, I experienced an even more troubling issue, and it’s just what Jesus spoke about: I’ve discovered spiritual blind spots, attitudes and spaces where I thought I saw, but my lens was completely distorted to my own perspective.

Melynda, my friend who does mediation with couples considering divorce, says that in most mediations the issue at hand is projection—“a defense mechanism in which the human ego defends itself against unconscious impulses or qualities (both positive and negative) by denying their existence in themselves while attributing them to others. For example, a person who is habitually rude may constantly accuse other people of being rude. It incorporates blame shifting” (Wikipedia). Essentially, when we have a problem, we think it’s the other person.

Our blind spots come as a result of our training/teaching or our environment, and they typically keep us from perceiving truth about ourselves or others. But that’s no difficulty for the indwelling Holy Spirit. He is able to open our blinded eyes and to restore our sight. There is only a single caveat: “Do you want to get well?” (John 5:6) If so, ask Jesus in faith, believing, to restore your sight. He is able to do exceeding abundantly above all we can ask or think (Eph. 3:20).

Father, with Bartimaeus I cry out, “I want to see.” In Jesus’ name. AMEN.


Trust in the LORD with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding… Proverbs 3:5

I often find that God teaches me through circumstances. I do trust him, and he’s faithfully guided me all my cognitive years, but still I sometimes wish he would just give me a brief outline of his plan prior to launch. I know trust is based on our relationship with a God who has never failed us, but it would be so much easier if he would confer with us on logistics.

This past week I was scheduled to be part of a team leading a retreat for missionaries in Guatemala. Our theme was “Trust,” and we’d all planned our presentations. Our airfares were booked and paid, our accommodations were reserved, and we were ready to go. And then the excruciating pain in my foot (a stress fracture) alerted me that I WOULD NOT be part of the retreat. Instead, I was the one assigned to retreat, rest, and listen.

That had not been part of the plan, and I was not consulted prior to packing or preparing my talks. When the ER doctor confirmed that my team would leave without me, I was relegated to immobility, rest, and listening. I was reminded that understanding typically occurs after the fact—when we’re quiet and when we’re open to God’s wisdom.

I remembered an event that occurred during my last annual church council meeting, which could have had severe consequences. We were doing a dramatic presentation of the Woman at the Well for the thousand or so church delegates. All the lights were off in the vast conference hall, and I was standing at a podium with blinding theater lights pointing in my direction. Slowly and as articulately as possible, I read John 4:4-42, a really long passage. When I came to the end of the reading, the lights were abruptly cut off to heighten the effect. What happened next would instruct me…

My task was to make my way across the platform, step down to the next level, and find my chair – in total blackness. (Whose idea was that?) I carefully slid my feet inches at a time, thinking, “What if I fall and the noise disrupts the flow? What if I scream as I break something?” The actress following me in full costume had already begun her part on the far end at the other side of the platform. I mustn’t make a scene.

I continued to slide my feet, carefully inching along the upper platform, wondering if the next step would bring disaster. And then a hand reached out of the darkness and grabbed me. An unexpected hand that had anticipated my dilemma and was there waiting for me. Santos (Saint, his real name) knew I couldn’t see and had moved to the edge of the step to help me and to keep me from falling. I could feel his strong grip, and I could sense his warm smile.

And that’s just what Jesus is like—knowing and anticipating those pitfalls ahead of us but also planning to be there to keep us from injuring ourselves. I hadn’t needed Santos at the podium or on the long slide across the floor. But he was there just at the right time, and he kept me from falling.

Father, sometimes I complain about your ways, but I ask that you continue to strengthen my faith and teach me to trust in you—however you choose to do it. You’ve saved me so many times, and you’ve promised to continue. In fact, you said you “[are] able to keep [us] from stumbling and to present [us] before [your] glorious presence without fault and with great joy” (Jude 1:24). Your promise is enough. AMEN.