My times are in your hands… Psalm 31:15


Have you noticed how strategically God treats time throughout the Bible—and our lives? In the West, we tend to think of time as something we control and as a commodity we can save or dispense or use as we see fit. To the contrary, the psalmist says that God has time in his hands. Once again, we’re called to acknowledge God’s sovereignty over all things. Even time.
We’re often reminded at memorial services of that excellent writing by Solomon:
“There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under the heavens: a time to be born and a time to die, a time to plant and a time to uproot, a time to kill and a time to heal, a time to tear down and a time to build, a time to weep and a time to laugh, a time to mourn and a time to dance, a time to scatter stones and a time to gather them, a time to embrace and a time to refrain from embracing, a time to search and a time to give up, a time to keep and a time to throw away, a time to tear and a time to mend, a time to be silent and a time to speak, a time to love and a time to hate, a time for war and a time for peace.”  (Ecclesiastes 3:1-8)
Essentially, God has a schedule and time for everything that was, that is, and that will come. Throughout Scripture, God used prophets to speak promises of things to come according to his timing. Then, as now, he was working through the circumstances to prepare his people for fulfillment and for his coming. The role of his children has always been to be faithful during the intervening period; to walk in obedience; to do all to his glory; and to live in expectation.
What happens when we get out of sync with God and revert to our own timetables? (By the way, have you ever noticed the way we always use the possessive “my” when we talk of time—“my” time?) Look at Jacob who tricked Esau into surrendering his birthright rather than waiting on God’s timing (Genesis 26:37-27:45). Aaron tired of waiting on Moses and created a golden calf for the people to worship (Exodus 32:1-35). Saul got impatient waiting for the Prophet Samuel and offered the sacrifice that only the priest was commissioned to do (I Samuel 13:9). There are others, but I wonder if Judas was one of them? Was he tired of waiting for Jesus to reveal himself as the Messiah? We know the disasters that occurred when these men didn’t wait for God’s timing.
Apparently, God values waiting in the making of his saints. Being patient is not something that comes naturally. In fact, it seems that we are inherently impatient. Slipping through yellow lights; counting the minutes waiting in line; incessantly checking the clock… Perhaps that’s why God made provision for patience to grow in us as his Spirit becomes dominant. There’s no sense in trying to achieve patience without God’s help. We want what we want NOW. My African friends say, “You Americans have watches. We have time.”
God has time. He’s never too quick, and he’s never late. He makes things work together, and “in the fullness of time,” his time, his timetable, all things work together. When he sees that we are ready; when the world is ready; when the circumstances are just right.
At this Christmas time when all Christendom celebrates the coming of the Christ child, let us give ourselves anew to God’s sovereignty in our lives, to his complete control in all circumstances, and to trust in his unconditional, unchanging love. And let us give up the idea that time is “ours” so that God may go about his work in his way, in his time.


Father, do all things according to your wisdom. We trust, and we wait. In Jesus’ name. AMEN.



And the LORD will continually guide you, And satisfy your desire in scorched places, And give strength to your bones; And you will be like a watered garden, And like a spring of water whose waters do not fail. Isaiah 58:11


I have a new gardener, Shawn, not to be confused with Mario who cheerfully blows leaves from one side of my yard to the other. Shawn comes to my house when the season changes, and I have the great joy of planning what seasonal colors will be added for the next few months. Shawn is a master gardener while I’m just an amateur who loves to see God’s handiwork up close and personal in my garden.
I’ve been anticipating spring long before the pecan trees began to leaf, a Texan’s sure sign that the frosts are over. I’ve tried to second-guess Shawn with ideas of what we’ll add this year. We’re working on what I fancifully call the Fountain Garden (you can imagine why), and much planning has gone into the flowers and foliage. Shawn listed columbine, shrimp plant, hosta, caladium, and many other favorites that I love.
On planting day, I could hardly wait to get home from work to see the scrubby little plot transformed into God’s Eden. But…what? Was I wrong? Was this NOT planting day? As I moved from bed to bed, all I could see were miniature ferns and things staked to the fence. There were tiny bits of foliage poking out of the ground in new places, and there were suggestions of color in other spots. What a letdown. Surely, this wasn’t what I’d waited for months to see.
About bedtime, when the disappointment had thoroughly soaked in, I began to reflect on the whole process of gardening: While the planting has been done, it doesn’t yet appear what the garden will be like. Only in my mind’s eye can I envision the promise that I’ve nurtured in my heart. All the dull hours of cleaning and pulling out dead matter were necessary to give new life an opportunity to thrive without pests and invasive plants. It would have been a lot more fun to just dig a hole and drop in a colorful plant, but—I’m in this garden for the long haul. The digging and harsh tilling were essential to remove the rocks and provide room for strong, healthy roots to develop. As for the smaller plants Shawn incorporated (while I hoped for big bursts of instant color), as they grow, they will combine to make a mass of texture and color and will prevent the weeds from penetrating and spoiling the effect I’ve wanted.
Perhaps the most significant thought was from Hebrews (10:36). I paraphrase: “For you have need of patience, that, after you have done the proper work of the gardener, you might receive the garden of your dreams.” I admit, every morning as soon as the sun is up, I go out to see if anything has occurred in my garden. I like to think that God is also walking about in my heart garden to see if any new fruit is beginning to bud. Might there be a tiny spot of self control in that corner? Or possibly a new bit of joy about to burst into full bloom? I’m hoping so…


Our Father, you speak so often about gardens in your Word. Life began in a garden, and Jesus went often to the garden to be with you. Thank you for digging and planting and nourishing your life in us. Let it blossom fully for your Kingdom and your glory. In Jesus’ name. AMEN.


For still the vision awaits its appointed time; it hastens to the end—it will not lie. If it seems slow, wait for it; it will surely come; it will not delay.  Habakkuk 2:3  (ESV)



I’m the kind of gardener who plants bulbs and then checks daily for the first tiny shoots of green.  I want to see progress, and I want it soon.  Waiting is difficult for me.  When I plant my crop or do my work or pray my prayers, I want results.

And yet God is working all the time.  Underground that bulb is receiving the moisture and nutrients it needs and stores the surplus so that the shoots can reach up to the sun in the spring time.  That waiting time is not lost time.

Children lose teeth and anxiously wait for that new growth to appear just above the gum line.  (Of course, if they believe in the Tooth Fairy, they’re not at all distressed about the loss of teeth.)

There are all sorts of waiting times that come to us as we grow:  for word of the new job, for the doctor’s diagnosis, for the teacher’s grade, for corporate decisions, for answers to prayer.  But all the while, God is working.  Everything has an appointed time just as in nature:  springtime and harvest, life and death, sunrise and sunset.  God is working.

While we wait, delays offer opportunities to trust God and to rely on him rather than our own plans and ingenuity.  We can watch for his creative resolutions to our tangled problems.  We can allow God to build our character as we discover his ways far above our own.  We can be still and know that he is God.

Delays are not dead ends.  They are God’s ways of reassuring us that he is in control—we are not—and that what he is accomplishing will be beyond what we can think or imagine.  Let us be at peace with our delays.  God is working.


Father, impatience seems to dog our steps.  Help us to wait on you, trusting your love and wisdom in all things.  In Jesus our Lord.  AMEN.


“What is truth?” retorted Pilate…  John 18:38


Do you remember the old story about the blind Indians and the elephant?  The king was discussing the nature of truth, and someone suggested he bring in all the men born blind from a certain province.  After touching various parts of an elephant, the men were asked to describe the elephant.  Those who had touched the head described the elephant as a large round jar; those who had felt the ears said it was like a winnowing basket; those who had felt the tusks said it was like a plow; those who had touched the body said it was like a granary; those who touched the feet said the elephant was like a pillar; those who touched the back said it was like a mortar; the tail was like a pestle to others; the tuft was like a broom.  Then began a great dispute among them all, and finally a wise man said, those who “perceive only one side of a case disagree with one another.”

Jesus defined himself with one of his “I AM’s”:  “I am the way and the truth and the life” (John 14:6).  Truth as in reality, actuality, factual.  An absolute, universal, non-variable Truth.  But have you ever considered the possibility that you do not yet know all Truth?  That you possibly only understand “one side of the case?”  Paul said, “Now our knowledge is partial and incomplete, and even the gift of prophecy reveals only part of the whole picture!”  (I Corinthians 13:9)

I could barely make it to my car before the tears began to flow after I’d just concluded teaching a Bible study.  Our topic had been God’s love, and my students had the temerity to suggest that God’s love was more than intellectual and spiritual acceptance of us as his children.  That God’s love could touch our emotions and soul and could wrap us in his warmth while healing our brokenness.  I was so frustrated with their lack of understanding God’s majesty and position of authority over us.  How could they be so frivolous and bring God down to our level?

And that’s when I began studying and learning about the incarnation:  God becoming man, experiencing and understanding humankind, touching and loving us with eternal love, living and dying for us to bring transformation unavailable in any other way.  That Bible study with those ladies whom I thought were so unlearned revealed to me another “side of the case” that I’d not even considered.

So, how about your truth?  Is it all locked up in a box and secure against any fresh revelation, any new work of the Holy Spirit?  I am NOT talking about compromise with God’s written Word.  I am speaking about arrogant, close-mindedness in which we think we know it all—like Job’s friends.  When you are confronted with “another side,” can you listen with love and patience thinking that this might be a fresh ministry of the Spirit to reveal even more of God’s precious Truth?


Father, you are so infinite that we will never be able to grasp more than a fraction of your truth until we meet you in eternity.  Guard our minds against deception, but keep us always open to hearing your Truth even through the mouth of a little child.  In Jesus’ name.  AMEN.


Beloved, we are God’s children now; what we will be has not yet been revealed.  I John 3:2



This week in chapel our preacher was relating his enthusiasm for the New Year and his plans for a fresh start.  To begin with, he decided he was going to get to work early.  On Monday morning he walked out the door at 7:30 fully motivated only to realize that he had forgotten to shave.  When he went inside and admitted his oversight, his wife replied that, although this might be a new year, he was still the same person.

And that’s our problem, isn’t it?  We have any number of wonderful intentions, but we find over and over again that we’re still the same person.  We keep trying, and we wind up with Paul’s lament:  For I know that good itself does not dwell in me… For I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out.  For I do not do the good I want to do, but the evil I do not want to do—this I keep on doing” (Romans 7:18, 19).

But Paul doesn’t leave us there.  He writes in his letter to the Philippians that he who began a good work in [us] will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus (1:6).   If God initiated his work in us by his Holy Spirit, he will continue it, not abruptly abandon us because he’s run out of patience or we’re not yet perfect.  Then in Philippians 2:13 we’re encouraged that God works in [us] to will and to act in order to fulfill his good purpose.  God himself sets out to mold and shape us after his plan for our lives while strengthening us to become like Jesus.

Going back to Romans, in the narrative of chapter 8, after Paul has bemoaned the struggle with his human nature, he announces that because of Jesus, There is therefore now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit (verse 1).  The whole eighth chapter of Romans is full of God’s promises of what he will do in and through us when we take up residence in him.

The first verse cited above (I John 3:2) refers to resurrection and end times.  But I think we can apply it to our everyday life with Christ.  After all, he is the Creator Christ who was in the beginning (John 1:1), and we are new creatures in him (II Cor. 5:17).  Every single day we can experience his transforming power as we realize the changes his Spirit is affecting in us (II Cor. 3:18).

Instead of being discouraged that we’re not yet everything we want to be, we must remember that it does not yet appear what we shall be: but we know that, when he shall appear, we shall be like him (I John 3:2).  Every single day…more like Jesus.


Father, make us like Jesus.  Thank you that you daily give us opportunities to grow into his likeness.  Have your way.  In Jesus’ name.  AMEN.



I am come that they might have life, and that they might have [it] more abundantly.  John 10:10  (KJV)



I just read about a lady who was known for her extraordinary Christian maturity.  One day her pastor asked her to preach the Sunday sermon believing that her experience would be instructive to the congregation.  On the Sunday when the lady rose to speak, her sermon was short and sweet.  “Dear Friends,” she began, “there’s always more.”  And with that, she sat down.

Just begin to ponder that simple message:  there’s always more.  The God of the Infinite, the one who promised to meet all our needs, the Alpha (beginning) and the Omega (ending), the great Creator never operates in scarcity.  He never runs out of any resource—of love, of grace, of mercy, of patience, of whatever we need.  And there’s no end to the delights of knowing him.

Think of what this means in your present circumstance.  As a parent, spouse, friend, employer:  there’s more wisdom, there’s more understanding, there are more ideas, there’s more love…  As an intellectual:  there’s more to contemplate, there’s more to learn, there’s more to investigate, there’s more for growth…   As a leader:  there’s more direction, there’s more discernment, there are more resources, there’s more creativity…  As a disciple:  there’s more to discover, there’s more to obey, there’s more to abandon, there’s more to enjoy…  We could fill in the blanks indefinitely.  Suffice it to say, that in Christ, there is abundance.

Lest we consider God as having limited resources, just look at his provision for the Children of Israel in the wilderness; for Elijah in hiding; for Ruth in Bethlehem; for David in his wanderings; for Israel in exile; for feeding the four thousand and five thousand; for rescuing you and me; and for the times he is always there for his people.  His hand is not shortened that he cannot save nor is he deaf that he cannot hear our prayers (Isaiah 59:1).

We sometimes treat our spiritual beings as add-ons.  They’re peripheral to our real lives.  But Jesus says I’ve come to give you abundant life, more than we’re currently experiencing.  If we’re not living in abundance, there’s more.  God has more for us than we can think or imagine and waits for us to move beyond our impoverished selfishness into his endless provision of more.  Wherever we find ourselves, there’s always more.  Dare we take the challenge?


Father, charge our spiritual imaginations that we reach out in faith to you to receive more from your goodness.  Move us beyond our spiritual poverty into the richness we have in Christ Jesus.  Gratefully, we pray in Jesus’ name.  AMEN.


“For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways,” declares the LORD.  Isaiah 55:8


If you had been a reporter in Jesus’ day and were assigned to “cover” his ministry, what do you think you would write?  Apparently, Jesus had plenty of followers, everyday people who knew life unvarnished—people with financial stresses, illnesses and death, relational challenges.  They were people just like us.  Even the rich folks knew to call on Jesus when they needed help.  You could write about these responses to Jesus.

It seems that the people who had the most trouble with Jesus were those who were the professionals who were insulated by layers of religion and tradition—the Pharisees, scribes, and Sadducees. They were distressed because he did things like eating while others fasted (Matt. 9:14), repeatedly broke the Sabbath (John 5, Matt. 12…), caused chaos in the Temple*, claimed to be God’s Son (John 6, 10, 14…), forgave sin (Matt. 9, Luke 7), and was generally a trial to them.  You’d get a whole different slant from this group.  So what would you write?

If we allow ourselves to get bogged down in the whys and hows and perceived inconsistencies in the Bible—according to the pros—we will miss the whole picture.  Yes, God is in the details, but in obsessing with the minutiae, we miss the majesty and the genius of what God is DOING.  In “breaking the Sabbath” he demonstrates his lordship OVER the Sabbath; in cleansing the Temple he underscores the holiness and purpose of God’s House; with proclaiming himself like his Father he reveals the character of a God few have ever known; in forgiving sin, he brings hope that our unrighteousness will be covered by his righteousness; and so on.

Rather than looking for inaccuracies or inconsistencies or being thrown off by perceived errors in the text—or even in our own lives when God doesn’t manifest himself as we expect—we can choose to focus on the big picture and look to see what God is DOING.  We can write a story that brings redemption rather than analysis, that sees a God at work loving and healing and saving his people.


* Even the writers of the Gospels don’t agree as to the timing of the cleansing of the Temple.


Sweet Father, thank you for your patience with us when we want to put you into our tiny box of understanding.  Push us to allow you to be God and remind us again that we are not.  Thank you again.  AMEN.


Wait for the LORD; Be strong and let your heart take courage; Yes, wait for the LORD.  Psalm 27:14


It doesn’t take long to discover that seriously pursuing the life of faith and its Author, Jesus Christ, is not for sissies.  God seems to delight in stretching us – far beyond what we think is comfortable.   You don’t have to consider yourself a spiritual giant to get stretched.  All it takes is determination to live as Jesus teaches us.

In my lifetime I have experienced the stretching of family crises, serious health issues, financial scarcity, and just about everything that everyone alive goes through.  But sometimes waiting for little things can push me to the tipping point.

Take my summer of home repairs, for instance.  After a coupling in a bathroom broke and flooded much of my house, I waited – for the insurance process (thank you, Lord), movers (ALL the furniture had to be removed), and repairs.  While I waited, I added a request for patience and every good spiritual fruit God can give so that my constant companions (the workmen) would see Jesus.

During the wait time, my faithful refrigerator decided to die after only twenty-seven years.  And then the dishwasher died at seventeen years.  Termites chewed through a front porch post holding up the balcony, and the exterminators disappeared.  Lord, I really need patience.  The upholsterer who was making cushions lost my fabric.  My phone died, and that cup of hot tea spilled all over my laptop.  Then the contractor came in with his proposal for additional repairs needed in the kitchen.  I almost cried.

In the night as I lay in bed talking to the Lord, my conversation took on an edge that let me know I was being tempted to worry (hysteria?).  I’ve already learned that’s totally counterproductive.  I asked the Lord to help me be still and then I “heard,” Trust in the LORD with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding. In all thy ways acknowledge him, and he shall direct thy paths (Proverbs 3:5, 6)I relinquished those cares and waited to see what he would do.

Within the next few weeks I got a new (improved) phone, repaired the laptop, forgave the exterminator, replaced the post, and ordered new appliances—with the funds that just happened to come in.  Rather than stress about the contractor’s proposal that was way over budget, I waited to see how God would lead.

Someone recommended this painter; then someone suggested I try that tile man; and someone else said he had a great cabinet maker for the ‘fridge and dishwasher front panels.  As I’ve waited, these everyday stressors are being addressed by a good Father who understands that little things can cause great angst and is sending the help I need, one day and one person at a time.

The work in my kitchen isn’t complete yet, but the work in my spirit astonishes me.  I’m still very much a work in progress, but I am finding that trusting, acknowledging, and listening is so much better than stressing.  And I am meeting some really lovely people as I wait.


Father, you’ve done it again.  You’ve appeared in the middle of my frustrating circumstances, and you’re doing something really good.  What you’ve done inside me has become so much more valuable that what I see in my house.  Thank you for allowing these annoying circumstances to be such an enrichment.  AMEN.