He did not rob me …

Humanly speaking, I have Dave Pauley to thank for diligently allowing God to speak and act through him, even when it was inconvenient, so that I would not stay in my original state sin. Looking back, he tithed his time above ten percent. Had he not he would have been a thief. When we withhold what God wants to do through us, we become thieves. He was an ordinary guy who refused to live for himself. Because he lived for others, he did not rob me of the blessing that God wanted in my life. He was the one who took the time to talk to me about my relationship to Christ. Because he was a saint [one set apart for the work of service in God’s Kingdom] I left my darkness and entered into the Light. Had he declined the mission, God would have raised up someone else. David was obedient. He did not always understand my doubts and hesitation and endless questions. But he was obedient and continued on patiently praying and talking to me. I finally “heard” the Gospel because David was obedient and faithful to God. And He gave some as … teachers … to the building up of the body of Christ; (Ephesians 4:12 NASB)

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Stopping to listen…

I must ask the Lord to open my ears to hear His words of love.  When God says: I have loved you with an everlasting love; I have drawn you with loving-kindness…” [Jeremiah 31:3] is that something that I believe [Trust in; rely on; adhere to]?  God speaks and desires the best for His children.  God’s heart wants me to follow the path that He has put in front of me so that I will always have access to water to be refreshed.  He wants me to stay on His chosen path because that is the one He has leveled so that I will not stumble.  I will make them walk by brooks of water, in a straight path in which they shall not stumble, for I am a father…” [v.9] This not talking about how difficult the path might become.  We think that just because the path become difficult that God has abandoned us.

The real difficulty is when I take a different path that appears to be less difficult.  But my path will eventually lead into the desert…where there is no water for refreshment and the path has not been cleared so there are places of quick-sand and shale that will cause me to stumble.

Because I am prone to wander, my Father calls cadence out to me from His Word.  He wants me to stay focused on Jesus who knows the path.  When I wander and then realize that I am no longer where I should be, I naturally expect that God will respond to me as an angry judge.  I am always amazed at His Father’s heart.  “…I will turn their mourning into joy; I will comfort them, and give them gladness for sorrow…” [v.13]   Only when I stop and listen do I hear Him speak to m in loving-kindness.  This means that I have to stop my activity and ask my Father in heaven to open my ears to hear His words of love.  I must learn to listen before I can become interested in what God has to say.

The last straw is important…

Sometime during October 2008 Kathe and I were sitting at red light waiting for the light to change at this busy intersection in Pretoria South Africa.  Suddenly the car just died.  It was like someone had yanked out the battery.  I checked under the hood and yes everything was still there…and it should be OK since the battery was only a year and a half old.  This seemed to be the last straw for us in our woes with this 1994 Toyota Camry.  God had provided the car for us but during the last eight months it had been draining our bank account in repairs.  Now the car was dead and our bank account empty.  Needless to say, Kathe and I were not ‘happy campers’ as we called for a tow truck.

The tow truck operator got there and while he was busy getting the car onto his flatbed we did the paper work.  When we filled in the paperwork he noted that we were missionaries with an international organization, telling us that he too was a Christian.  I was giving him a litany of woes about not having any resources to fix the car and we were on limited income as volunteers and we really wanted to blow up the car.    He nodded and smiled not saying anything as he drove us to the compound where we work and there is a repair shop.  As he unloaded the car, I continued to list out my frustrations.  After he was finished he stopped and turning to both of us he asked us if he could pray for the car…specifically laying hands on it.  We were surprised and said yes…neither one of us thought that it would do any good…but hey…we were desperate!

The next day the mechanic told me that batteries here in South Africa last less than two years and so that was an easy fix.  And guess what?  God had prompted someone to add some extra to their giving and it was enough to pay for the battery.  But that is not the end of the story.

The car was still unreliable and full of noises that sounded like parts falling out.  On the mission field these cars are commonly called P&P…push and pray!  As we thought about the incident we talked about how we had done a lot of pushing but almost no praying.  As I thought about Philippians 4:6 that says: “…do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.” I was stuck with the fact that I had qualified needs to bring to the Lord: Important or Not so Important.  This was one of those divine appointments that God arranged not to help us with the car but to shift our paradigm as to the meaning of everything! Was it coincidence that of the hundreds of the tow truck drivers available in this large city that this one was a man of God?

You would think that we as missionaries would be experts regarding this whole area of pray.  When the man of God prayed for our car, it did not take long for us to realize that this was one particular area in our life that we were clinging on to with tight fists.  The result was that our attitude regarding the car was causing large amounts of stress, worry and unfaithfulness to our Sovereign Lord.  What changed for us for us?  The car is still the same.  But now we get into the car and ask God to keep it going.  We also remind Him on occasion [particularly when a new noise appears] that He provided the car for us and that we have given it back to Him to care for.  We also acknowledge [and this is the faith leap] that should He allow the car to quit again, we are going to trust Him to sort it out and not rely on our strategy.  We remind Him occasionally that He is the one that brought us to South Africa and has faithfully consistently provided for our every need…and this is just one of them.

That incident happened during October 2008.  Today is August 20, 2009.  The car has not so much as hiccupped.  It still sounds like a tin can full of nuts and bolts and it is scary to drive with steering that wanders on the road.  Ed Noble [teaching pastor at Journey Church in San Diego] made this observation about the human need for control:  “Not knowing makes us feel out of control and helpless.  Prayer helps us to remember and causes us to embrace that our good and all-wise God is always the one in control.” And the really cool thing is that once again God has demonstrated to us the truth of John 14:27 when Jesus made this promise “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let it be afraid“. God is so good!  Before coming on furlough Kathe and I were taking about what we have learned during these two years.  The thought occurred to me that if the Lord were to give us a new vehicle, I would miss the old bucket of bolts.  You see, we learned a new thing about trusting God.  Would we give our new and better car back to the Lord?  The choice would be up to us.

Grateful

We have so very much to be thankful for to our heavenly Father. Exodus 34:6 says “The Lord, the Lord, a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness…” Every once in a while I stop and look around. I marvel at the mercy and grace that God has showered on us. We did not deserve this. There is nothing in the world…no human energy, strategy or cleverness that can merit God’s unmerited favor on us. When I do take the time to pause and think about God’s blessing on our lives, it causes an overwhelming sense of gratitude. But here is the kicker…how does one thank God who blesses without reason? Maybe the more important question would be ‘How often do I stop and thank God for such a rich life?’