Long-term Visions

Pastor Ed preached yesterday about the state of our church.  Some obstacles and discouragements are coming up, but he also talked about why he still believes God is and will be doing a mighty work at Gateway.

One thing he came back to is that many years ago, God gave him a vision about this church, a vision about lives changed through God’s power.  He acknowledged that for some time now, our circumstances aren’t seeming to fit with that vision.

That got me thinking about long-term vision.  I, too, feel that God has spoken to me about something in the future.  I believe God has told me He is making my husband “a witness to the peoples, a leader and commander of the peoples.”  I believe that God has told me that our marriage will be healed and restored.

But for now, circumstances don’t match.  It looks like a divorce will happen soon.

I thought about long-term visions in the Bible.  We talk about the verse Psalm 119:105 — “Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path.”  Invariably, commentary on that verse mentions that walking by lantern light does not give you the long view, just the next step.

And in the Bible, we humans don’t do too well with long-term visions.

Look at the Israelites heading for the Promised Land.  When the spies looked at the land, they looked at the circumstances — giants who were way too tough for them.  Only Joshua and Caleb remembered God’s promise and God’s vision.

Look at Abraham.  God told him that he would make his descendants like the stars of the sky.  Then nothing happened for years and years.  Abraham thought he’d better help God out with Hagar.

Then there’s Joseph.  God gave him a vision of his brothers bowing down to him.  Joseph didn’t give up on the vision that we know about.  But who knows what he went through waiting for it to happen while he was in prison?

In my marriage crisis, the first crystal-clear word I got from God was “Wait on the Lord.”  I had been praying earnestly and asked God, “Father, can’t you please end this NOW?”  For the next few weeks, every time I picked up a Bible or other Christian book, the words in the passage included “wait on the Lord.”  Our Sunday School lesson a few days later was where Jesus taught his disciples that they should “always pray and not give up.”

I recently heard a testimony about a restored marriage from a woman with my same name and her husband.  They were divorced for ten years before the husband came back to God and came back to his wife.  That’s a long, long time.  Along the way, God continued to speak to her and tell her not to give up, even when her husband married someone else.

Long-term vision is hard for us humans.  Sometimes God gives us the big picture.  Then the challenge is trusting that God can bring it about even when the little picture, from our perspective, doesn’t look like it can possibly fit into that big picture.

I liked what Pastor Ed said about the at least two and a half years we will have to wait before we can get into a new church building.  He said: This is our opportunity to be ready.

By the same token, however long I have to wait for the restoration of my marriage, this is my opportunity:  My opportunity to get rid of resentment, to practice forgiveness, to work on my own relationship with God, and even to work on personal pursuits like my writing.

Part of the challenge of a long-term vision is asking yourself:  What does God want me to do today to get ready for that vision to happen?  Sometimes, like with Abraham, it’s simply to wait.  Sometimes, as with Joshua and Caleb, it’s to go in and take the land.

But where God has provided the long-term vision, surely He will also provide a light for our feet, if we ask.  But be careful about looking at circumstances, like giants in the land or a barren womb, to conclude that God never really meant what He said in the original vision.  Sometimes the hardest thing to do is simply to wait.


I am amazed by how, when we ask for wisdom, “God gives generously to all without finding fault.”

I had been again wondering if God was really telling me what I thought He was telling me.

Is God really telling me He will restore and renew my marriage?  What about my husband and his free will?  If he really wants out and is truly divorcing me, then shouldn’t I move on and look for a better relationship?  Aren’t I hoping for the impossible?  Living in denial?  Being unrealistic?

Yet God seems to be telling me that He is going to restore and rebuild our marriage, and that my husband will end up a leader and a witness and a man of God — NOT because of anything I do, but totally God’s work.  My job is to pray for it, wait for it, and believe that God will do what He has promised.  To “move on” by working on becoming a great children’s librarian and mother and writer, not by trying to find a new man for my life.

But there are times when it doesn’t seem possible.  I get some insights about what went wrong in our marriage, and then I get discouraged.  How can we possibly ever have a healthy relationship together, after all our mistakes in the past?

So I asked God again, “Lord, if You can really transform and rebuild our marriage, if You can really make Steve a leader and a witness and a man of God, if You can really make me a good wife for him — then I need confirmation again.  Just a reminder that I’m on the right track.  I need to know that I’m not just denying reality and going with false hopes after something that’s dead.”

And God answered.  Today’s sermon was all about transformation.  The opening and closing illustration was even about a marriage that was dead that God transformed.

Without going into details, God specifically answered what I was asking.

God CAN restore and heal — both our marriage, and our lives.

I believe that God is telling me that He WILL restore and heal.

But I also know that this is GOD’s work to do, not mine.  Time for me to think about it a lot less and focus on being the woman God created me to be.  God gave me many passions that I didn’t have as much time for when I was trying to be a good wife.  It’s time to take advantage of this opportunity!

I’ve been a children’s librarian for two full weeks now:  I want to be a good one!

And this is also my chance to write.  I have ALWAYS dreamed of being a published author.  I didn’t do any writing while my marriage was in such crisis, or while I was taking graduate classes.  Now it’s time to start up again.

And it’s my chance to write for Sonderbooks.  I have so enjoyed sharing books with people! 

And my blogs.  I like this way to connect with people.  I put my thoughts out there, and usually only those who are interested read it.  I connect with people in surprising ways.

I haven’t been writing so much in this blog lately–I’d like to do more of that.  I’m having fun with my other two.  Sonderquotes is the one I update most–I’m reading some great books!  And Sonderblessings is just to remind myself how MUCH I have to be thankful for.

So–even though this started with maybe too much thinking and worrying about my marriage, God has left me with a great sense of peace.  Some day, somehow He will restore our marriage.  It will be His work, not mine.  And it will happen in His timing, not mine.  Meanwhile, this is my chance to live a joyful life with God, striving to be the person He created me to be.

And He will be enough for me, reassuring me of His love, and His forgiveness.

God is good.  And God cares about my life.

He is not above giving reassurance.  And that’s reason to rejoice!

Earthly Activities

Today I heard an old argument that I disagree with.  Here’s how it goes:

Why doesn’t God just take us to heaven after we accept Christ?

— The only thing we can do on earth that we can’t do in heaven better is to bring other people to Christ.

— Therefore, we should devote our time on earth to bringing other people to Christ.

I disagree with this.  It seems to me, there are plenty of things we can do on earth that we can’t do in heaven.  Over the years, I came up with two biggies:

1.  Glorify God in suffering.

2.  Bear children.

Today, thinking about it again, I came up with several more, though I think maybe a lot of them could be classified under “Glorify God in suffering.”  Here are some:

— Withstand temptation.

— Forgive others who are sinning against us.

— Experience God’s forgiveness or someone else’s forgiveness as we are sinning.

— Exercise faith.

— Have hope.  (Three things remain:  faith, hope, and love.  But the greatest of these is love.  You don’t need faith when you can see the result.  You don’t need hope when you have the object of your hope.)

— Learn patience.

I guess now I’m getting into a whole area of personal growth.  We grow through our experiences in a fallen world.

I was going to add things like “Writing a book.” to the list of things we can do on earth that we can’t do in heaven, but that’s not clear at all–I think we can still exercise Creativity in heaven.  Though will we still be able to write those heart-rending stories that touch people deeply?  Or would we be able to if we hadn’t experienced pain on earth?

I think the whole argument minimizes the many parts of my life that are not spent bringing others to Christ.  Why didn’t God just destroy the world when Adam sinned and start over?

I think there is value to be found in this life.  That I can glorify God simply by enjoying the gifts He has given me — reading a good book, enjoying a sunset, smiling at a baby.  I also think that much of God’s plan for me — the reasons he made me the person I am and put me on this earth — has nothing to do with spiritual things, necessarily.  I believe that I am being the person He made me to be when I conduct a Storytime and connect with one small child.  Or when I write something that introduces someone to a good book. 

My friend Kathe is glorifying God and fulfilling her own calling and being the person God made her to be when she grooms a dog with love in her heart.  It’s a beautiful thing to see, but I believe she’s serving God even when she does this and no other human sees her do it.

All this has gotten pretty far afield from the original argument.  What do you think?  What things can you do on earth that you can’t do better in heaven?  And why do you think God put us on earth and why does He leave us on earth?

God Doesn’t Give Us the Silent Treatment

I’ve been thinking lately that I should not be surprised when God specifically, pointedly, answers a specific question I ask him about what I should do or how I should act.

After all, he says in James 1:  “If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all, without finding fault, and it will be given to him.”

There’s only one requirement.  We’ve got to believe that the advice God gives is worth following.  “But when he asks, he must believe and not doubt.  For the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind.  That man should not expect to receive anything from the Lord.  He is a double-minded man, unstable in all he does.”

I’ve gotten a lot of answers to specific questions lately.  It continues to amaze me.  But perhaps I shouldn’t be so surprised.

Sometimes I feel like I shouldn’t still have any questions.  God has told me what He wants me to do over and over again.  Why do I still get doubts and questions?  But that’s the beauty of the fact that God will give wisdom “without finding fault.”  He never lectures like an impatient parent, “Now, I’m only going to say this once!”

Recently, I found myself wondering if I was being “unrealistic” believing that God had told me to stand for my marriage.  With all the hurts behind us, it didn’t seem “realistic,” it didn’t seem “practical” to think that God could possibly restore our relationship.  I asked God, “Am I just having wishful thinking?”  “Am I being unrealistic?”

The very next day, Pastor Ed preached a sermon titled, “The Limitations of Common Sense” (http://www.gatewaychurch.org/content/view/526/85/) which directly and specifically answered my questions.  The example was Jeroboam, King of Israel.  God had promised to give him ten tribes of Israel, and even build him an everlasting dynasty if He would follow the Lord.  But that request did not seem practical….

When God gives you a plan of action coupled with a promise, it’s not about what’s realistic or practical.  It’s about what God can do.

The question is not:  Is this practical?  The question is:  Will I obey God?

Finish Well

As I travel on the journey of life, God keeps using Sunday’s sermons to touch my heart.

Here’s a link to last Sunday’s sermon:


Pastor Ed Allen is starting a series from I and II Kings.

It has not escaped me that this tied in beautifully with some verses that had struck me a few days before the sermon:

Jeremiah 31:3-4, 16-20 (New International Version):

The Lord appeared to us in the past, saying:
“I have loved you with an everlasting love;
I have drawn you with loving-kindness.
I will build you up again
and you will be rebuilt, O Virgin Israel.
Again you will take up your tambourines
and go out to dance with the joyful….”

This is what the Lord says:
“Restrain your voice from weeping
and your eyes from tears,
for your work will be rewarded,” declares the Lord.
“They will return from the land of the enemy.
So there is hope for your future,” declares the Lord.
“Your children will return to their own land.

“I have surely heard Ephraim’s moaning:
‘You disciplined me like an unruly calf,
and I have been disciplined.
Restore me, and I will return,
because you are the Lord my God.
After I strayed, I repented;
after I came to understand,
I beat my breast.
I was ashamed and humiliated
because I bore the disgrace of my youth.’
Is not Ephraim my dear son
the child in whom I delight?
Though I often speak against him,
I still remember him.
Therefore my heart yearns for him;
I have great compassion for him.” declares the Lord.

With these verses, I was struck by how free God is to forgive and restore us.  We can blow it; we can reject Him completely.  But still He considers us His dear child; still He delights in us.

When Pastor Ed explained the overview of the sermon series in the books of Kings, he mentioned that these books, besides showing the downfall of Israel, also show how ready God is to forgive.  All He asks is–brokenness.  When Israel was broken and repentant, God freely forgave and restored them to His great love.

I thought that was a beautiful reference to the Jeremiah 31 passage–where Israel was actually broken and repentant, and God is freely restoring them, with no reproaches.

Brokenness–Not much fun.  But once we’ve gotten there, God can restore.

We talk about “broken homes.”  Well, if a marriage and family are broken, perhaps that puts them all the more in a position for God to restore.

God heals broken lives.  Can’t he also heal broken marriages?

Back to the sermon, the main point of the sermon was about Solomon.  He started out so well, and had so many things going for him.  But he did not finish well.

It’s rather ironic.  The man who penned the words, “Above all else guard your heart, for it is the wellspring of life” (Proverbs 4:23), was also the one of whom it was said, “As Solomon grew old, his wives turned his heart after other gods, and his heart was not fully devoted to the Lord his God, as the heart of David his father had been” (I Kings 11: 4).

We were reminded that the Christian life is an ongoing race.  It’s not time to sit back and rest on our laurels.  Wise Solomon was not wise in letting his wives turn him from God.

Good thoughts!