What to Do while You’re Waiting (Even if You Don’t Know What You’re Waiting for)

As I hang out in a bit of a limbo phase in life, post seminary but pre whatever is next, I’m struck by what Jesus’ calling of Peter and buds to follow Him is teaching me about waiting.

The longest account of the calling is in the gospel of Luke. So let’s start there.

Luke 5:1-11

1 One day as Jesus was standing by the Lake of Gennesaret, the people were crowding around him and listening to the word of God. 2 He saw at the water’s edge two boats, left there by the fishermen, who were washing their nets. 3 He got into one of the boats, the one belonging to Simon, and asked him to put out a little from shore. Then he sat down and taught the people from the boat. 4 When he had finished speaking, he said to Simon, “Put out into deep water, and let down the nets for a catch.” 5 Simon answered, “Master, we’ve worked hard all night and haven’t caught anything. But because you say so, I will let down the nets.” 6 When they had done so, they caught such a large number of fish that their nets began to break. 7 So they signaled their partners in the other boat to come and help them, and they came and filled both boats so full that they began to sink. 8 When Simon Peter saw this, he fell at Jesus’ knees and said, “Go away from me, Lord; I am a sinful man!” 9 For he and all his companions were astonished at the catch of fish they had taken, 10 and so were James and John, the sons of Zebedee, Simon’s partners. Then Jesus said to Simon, “Don’t be afraid; from now on you will fish for people.” 11 So they pulled their boats up on shore, left everything and followed him.

In verses 1-3 Jesus is teaching a crowd of people the word of God, portions of the Old Testament, I presume. After the lesson Jesus focuses on one follower, Simon/Peter. Jesus tells Peter to do once more that which he has been doing for hours to no avail–let down the nets. Jesus, THE CARPENTER, instructs Peter, THE PROFESSIONAL FISHERMAN, to go fishing in the heat of the day, the least likely time for fish to bite.

I don’t know about you, but I don’t super love it when someone tells me how to do my job, especially when they themselves have never done it before. The absolute worst form of this is when someone commands me to do my job in a certain way. When Joe Schmo comes up to me and says, “You should…” or “You need to…” and Joe is not my boss or a fantastic web designer (what I do for a living because writing’s pay off of self-fulfillment and warm feelings is not, as it turns out, acceptable payment for a mortgage and groceries and all the whatnot), my eyes glaze over and mind wanders off in search of a way out of the conversation as soon as possible. Because I’m mature like that.

All that to say, if I’m Peter, my response to Jesus’ command to go fish is, “No, thanks, I’m good. And, also, could you build me a new table?” But Peter doesn’t say that (although, I do like to think he certainly thought it). On the contrary, Peter says, “Master, we’ve worked hard all night and haven’t caught anything. But because you say so, I will let down the nets.”

Peter respects Rabbi Jesus enough to obey Him even though Peter has his doubts. Peter tells Jesus he is tired and has had a hard day at the office (or night, as it were), but on account of the fact that Jesus, a respectable member of the community, is instructing him, Peter will act.

You know what this exchange tells me?

You don’t? Fine, I’ll spell it out for you.

  1. Sometimes Jesus comes to us when we’re tired and failing. He doesn’t always wait for us to be on point emotionally, mentally, or when it comes to being “successful.” He’s not scared of our bad days or bad moods or bad sides. He can teach us in bad times as well as good.
  2. It is okay to express our doubts to God. I’m not sure this next statement is true. In fact, it could be heretical, but I trust you, Internet, to correct me if I’m wrong by leaving all manner of “edifying” comments below. My thought is maybe it isn’t a sin to doubt? If we classify doubt as an emotion, it isn’t “right” or “wrong.” Emotions are morally neutral, and, therefore, not righteous or sinful. It’s what we do with our emotions that is either good or bad. If this line of thinking is right (play on words totally intended), doubting becomes a sin when we act on our doubts in a distrustful manner. Peter did not. He felt his doubt, he verbalized his doubt, and, then, he chose to act in accordance with the faith he did not have instead of in accordance with his feelings. Whoa.

And you know what happens after he obeys Jesus?

Peter reaps an inconceivable blessing–more than he could ever ask or imagine (shout out to Paul for the verbiage). Yes, the catch that filled two boats would earn Peter and company a vast sum of money. But, the even bigger blessing is their witnessing Jesus perform what they could only describe as a miracle.

The catch is so ridiculously voluminous, the boats begin to sink under the weight of the fish! (Side note: Blessings can turn to curses.) As the boat is going under, Peter kneels before Jesus and implores Him to leave. Peter recognizes there is something special–holy–about this rabbi. And Peter immediately feels unworthy to even be in Jesus’ presence on account of Peter being a “sinful man.”

On one hand we are right to feel unworthy in Christ’s presence: Jesus is holy, we are not. On the other hand, Jesus does not see our sinfulness as a reason to not have relationship with us. He pursues us despite our sinfulness.

We are the ones who bring feelings of unworthiness to the relationship, and we allow those feelings to put emotional distance between us and Jesus. We must stop this!

If Jesus does not see our sinfulness as a reason to not have relationship with us, WE SHOULDN’T EITHER(I know double negatives are bad grammar, but how does the Internet feel about triple negatives? Never mind, I don’t actually care how the Internet feels about it.)

Peter’s sinfulness is probably not the only reason he wants Jesus to leave, however. Back in verse 7 we see that–oh, crap–He is sinking their boat! They are out in deep water–the Sea of Galilee: 11 miles long, 6 miles wide, 150 feet deep–and there is a very real possibility that if their boat goes under they will drown.

But Jesus reassures them, “Don’t be afraid.” And then He gives them a new, cryptic, job description: “…from now on you will fish for people.” I imagine the guys cutting their eyes at one another, furrowing their brows and mouthing, “What?”

Even though probably none of them had any idea what Jesus was talking about, what gets me is NONE OF THEM ASKED ANY QUESTIONS!

I do believe I would’ve been raising my hand, “Um, Jesus? What even does that mean?” I’d have been racking my brain trying to come up with possible things “men” might have been symbolic for. Or perhaps the symbolism was at the other end of the phrase: what exactly could “fishers” be representative of?

But not Peter and friends.

They got their sinking boats to shore, left all their gear and fish (read: income), and followed Jesus, having no idea where He was going or what was coming next for them. Unbelievable!

They clearly believed, to some degree or another, that Jesus’ new job description for them was worth pursuing. And they had to have believed Jesus would show them what He meant by “fishers of men.” They trusted Jesus to lead them in how to fulfill their new call.

Matthew and Mark say in their accounts of this story that Peter and friends immediately followed Jesus. They didn’t go home and pack a bag. They didn’t kiss grandma goodbye. They didn’t have a going away party. They got off their boats and immediately followed Jesus.

The group of men knew Jesus was the key to their new marching orders. They could not afford to let Him out of their sight. They had no idea where He was going next or when, and they were unwilling to risk losing sight of Him for even a moment. For without Jesus they could not fulfill their calling. 

And so it is with those of us who are waiting.

We may not even know what our call is (perhaps the proverbial phone hasn’t rung yet). Or maybe we have a vague sense of our call, but we have no idea which way to go to step into it more fully. Or we might know very well what our call is, but we don’t know how to live it out.

So we’re waiting. Waiting for the One who will call or is calling or has called to lead us in the way we should go.  And while we are waiting, we all need to do what Peter did: don’t let Jesus out of our sight. He is the key to our new direction. We cannot afford to not follow Him immediately…closely… and at all times.

As we follow Him, sticking close by His side, He will walk us straight into the heart of our calling.

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What to Do When You Go through a Trial

Hi. My name is Kelly. I used to write here. Often. And I used to love it. And some of you enjoyed it, too. But in January, 2015, I started working on my master’s and all but totally stopped writing here. And I missed it. A lot. And some of you missed it, too. Fast forward 3 years, and my degree is complete. I had a lot of fun. I learned a lot of things. But now I don’t know what to do with myself. So here is me shaking off the dust and seeing if I remember how to write…

Yesterday, I sat down and read through the whole book of 1 Peter to get the bird’s eye view of the thing before we start dissecting it next week in the Sunday School class I attend. As I read through the first chapter, a sermon started welling up in me down around verse 7. It seemed particularly fitting for a friend of mine grieving a death in the family, so I tapped my thoughts out with my thumbs and sent them as a text message. Today, I sat down and turned that sermon/text into a post here.

(I don’t know why I think you care about all that back story, but I’m just going to go with it serves as a “practical application” of what follows. My preaching professors would not be happy with the application coming before the explanation, so it looks like those three years away were for naught. Oh well.)

Now then, in Peter’s first letter to early Jewish Christians, his primary goal was to encourage them to live godly lives as they endured terrible persecution for being Christians. This was back in the time of Nero, that Roman emperor who outlawed Christianity and thought it fun to light Christians on fire in order to illuminate his palace gardens at night. Most of the references Peter makes to suffering, then, are on par with levels of persecution we contemporary westerners know nothing about.

However, in 1 Peter 1:6, Peter expands his thoughts to include “all kinds of trials that produce grief.” And that is something you and I can relate to. The next verse reads, “[All kinds of trials that produce grief] have come so that your faith—of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire—may be proved genuine and may result in praise, glory, and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed,” (1 Peter 1:7).

Trials produce grief for two purposes.

First, trials that produce grief have come so that your faith in God is proven genuine both to yourself and to those around you. It is when you are in the midst of trials that you and others will see whether or not you really trust God’s decisions to allow/cause your trials and whether or not you have faith in Him to perfectly handle the results/consequences of your trials. As you trust Him in the middle of trials, other believers will be encouraged to do the same, and unbelievers will see Jesus in you. Your attitude will pique their curiosity in Jesus.

Second, trials that produce grief have come so that praise, glory, and honor will be the results when Jesus Christ is revealed.

This may be Peter’s way of saying YOU–the under-goers of the trials–will receive praise, glory, and honor from Jesus when He returns. In other words, Jesus will give you an, “Atta boy!” or “Atta girl!” for persevering and handling trials faithfully.

An alternate take on this part of the verse is that Jesus will get praise, honor, and glory when He returns as a result of your handling trials well. Why? Because the lost will get saved when they observe believers going through trials with unwavering faith. You are experiencing these specific trials of grief so lost people can see how you handle things with the power of Christ, and then the Spirit will draw them unto salvation. Maybe not today. But at some point before Christ returns, and, as a result, there will be even more people worshiping Christ when He returns than there would’ve been if these trials had never happened to you.

No matter which interpretation is correct (perhaps they both are), it is important for you to remember this: you don’t save people. God saves people.

So while you are undergoing “all kinds of trials that produce grief,” just focus on walking with Him. Receive comfort from Him. Dialogue with Him. Tell others what He is teaching you. Describe to others what the Bible says about trials (which necessarily requires you to learn what the Bible says about trials…).

Make it your goal to stay close to Jesus in your grief-inducing trials, and your faith will be evident to others. 

Preparation K

As in preparation Kelly. What did you think I meant?

Anywho, it seems God is teaching me about three different things right now in an effort to “prepare” me for something terrifying and difficult that is coming down the pike. I don’t know what that something is, per se, I just sense that it is coming.

So I’ve got that going for me. Which is nice.

God is using the gym to school me in all three areas: stepping into fear, resisting equating my performance with my value as a human being, and disciplining myself to do the work when I don’t particularly feel like it.

These are some big lessons He is teaching me in this little safe, controlled environment called the gym. I feel like He is giving me a space to practice these behaviors because I’m going to need them to be second nature where He is taking me.

It has occurred to me many times in the past that my ministry role models have all gone through their own personal versions of growing in these three areas.

They have all struggled with fear in the past, learned how to handle it, and gone on to teach others how to deal with it in healthy ways. They’ve written books on the subject and shared their stories from the stage. Learning how to interact with fear is a common thread for the most successful people I know.

These people also clearly know who they are and why they are valuable and that their writing a best-selling book or speaking to 10,000 people in no way means they are any more valuable than the next person. Conversely, they know their ill-worded tweet that lands them on the social media crap list doesn’t mean their value has diminished either. They don’t tie their identities to their performances.

And they are all very self-disciplined people. It shows up in their ministries, their teaching, and the everydayness of their lives (for example, every single one exercises religiously). They run giant ministries while writing in-depth Bible studies and books simultaneously while speaking all over the world 40 times every year. Oh, and they are parents and spouses and children who strive to keep their families a priority over their ministries. None of this happens without incredible self-discipline.

So here I am, learning all these same lessons on a much smaller scale, trying not to get too caught up in what the future may hold, but curious nonetheless.

I graduate seminary, the reason for my total neglect of writing on this blog, in December. And I have no plan after that. As in, none.

Some find that nonsensical. Some find that stupid. Some find that odd. I find it to be just another day in the life of being one of God’s kids.

He doesn’t tell us the whole plan. He tells us what the current step is. And that’s usually about it. Seminary and gym lessons are my current steps. So I am focusing on being a diligent student in both classrooms so I don’t miss the spiritual and character development He is attempting to create in me.

And, by His grace, I’ll be prepared for what’s waiting for me in 2018…

Pleasing People Versus Pleasing God 

Pretty much everywhere Paul went, he shared the gospel. He was compelled to let people know the truth and love and saving grace Jesus had shown him because he wanted other people to experience that amazingness too. 

And pretty much everywhere Paul went, people got cranky with him for sharing the gospel. They thought what Paul was saying and doing was wrong—even blasphemous in some people’s eyes. They grew angry with Paul and spoke out against him. They vied for his arrest, his imprisonment, his discipline, and, at times, his death. 

But Paul pressed on, sharing the gospel everywhere he went. 

Why? 

He tells the Galatians why, “Am I now trying to win the approval of human beings, or of God? Or am I trying to please people? If I were still trying to please people, I would not be a servant of Christ,” (Galatians‬ ‭1:10‬). 

This went for Paul when people didn’t like him sharing the gospel. More broadly, it goes for all who encounter naysayers when obeying any scripture.

Sometimes we have to make this same choice Paul had to make: when the two conflict, will I do what people want me to do or what the scripture tells me to do?

I don’t know if you know this about people, but they don’t usually like it when you don’t do what they want you to do when, how, and where they want you to do it. 

That didn’t deter Paul. And it shouldn’t deter us. 

Even if/while we get pushback from others we love and respect (and those we struggle to love and respect), if we are TRYING to please God/serve Christ through our actions, and if those actions appear to be scripture approved, I think we are on the right track. And by that I mean I think God is pleased with us. 

God’s pleasure and serving Christ have to be our motivations when we have to choose pleasing God over pleasing men. We must not have any ulterior motives, which are likely impure. Additionally, we must stay humble and stay open to the possibility God may show us He is NOT pleased with us. 

It will still be difficult to displease people we care about, but, if, by the power of the Holy Spirit, we keep our hearts humbly focused on Him and our actions solidly grounded in His Word, He will be pleased. 

The Difference between Peacemakers and Peacekeepers 

There is a temptation for believers who find themselves in conflict to quietly keep the peace by acquiescing in the hopes of quelling the conflict as soon as possible. 

It’s unfortunate because these otherwise godly believers have been misled into thinking that their peacekeeping is biblical and conflict is to be avoided.  After all, Romans 12:18 says, “…as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone.”

But the first phrase of that verse is “if it is possible…”, meaning sometimes it’s not. 

How could it not be possible to live at peace with everyone? If we give in to everything everyone else wants, that would make us peacekeepers, right? 

Yes. And in a lot of instances, being a peacekeeper is wrong. 

Paul says “if it is possible” because there are times he wants us to not give in. Like when keeping the peace means enabling sin. 

Keeping the peace does not trump calling out sin. The Bible is clear about this. 

  • “Brothers and sisters, if someone is caught in a sin, you who live by the Spirit should restore that person gently.” Galatians 6:1
  • “As for [elders] who persist in sin, rebuke them in the presence of all, so that the rest may stand in fear.” 1 Timothy 5:20
  • “My brothers, if anyone among you wanders from the truth and someone brings him back, let him know that whoever brings back a sinner from his wandering will save his soul from death and will cover a multitude of sins.” James 5:19-20
  • “Pay attention to yourselves! If your brother sins, rebuke him, and if he repents, forgive him.” Luke 17:3
  • “If your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault, between you and him alone.” Matthew 18:15

Now, to be sure, we are to call each other out on sin in a humble manner, knowing full well we are not sinless ourselves and that we will be on the other side of the calling out at some point in the near future if we have godly people around us.

If the person we are confronting is mature, it’s possible the confrontation will actually be peaceful. However, most of the time these things are not peaceful. In fact, they may stir up some contention. 

And that’s okay. 

Why? 

Because our calling out sin in someone else creates an avenue through which the Spirit can lead him to repentance, which will produce more peace in the body than our turning a blind eye to sin ever could. In the latter instance, we are a peacekeeper. But in the former instance, we are peacemakers

Peacekeeping when sin is involved only allows the sin to grow, damaging more and more people more and more severely (which isn’t very peaceful, when you think about it). 

Peacemaking when sin is involved calls for an end to the sin, stopping the damage in its tracks (which is true peace, when you think about it). 

James writes, “Peacemakers who sow in peace reap a harvest of righteousness,” ‭‭(James‬ ‭3:18‬).

Don’t be a peacekeeper; it often leads to unrest. Be a peacemaker; when done with the right attitude, it always results in righteousness. 

How to Become Wise and Make Those Around You Wiser

I’m reading through Proverbs right now (not right now, but you know what I’m saying), in which Solomon writes ad nauseum about wisdom. I guess that makes sense since that was his forte, but still, he repeats himself over and over (which I realize is redundant, but I like redundancy…I also like to say things again and again… … … … …)

Anyway, one of the dead horses Solomon beats is that wise people listen to advice and accept discipline. In fact, Proverbs 19:20 reads, Listen to advice and accept discipline, and at the end you will be counted among the wise.” So. There you go.

Likewise, Proverbs 12:15 says, “The wise listen to advice.” Proverbs 13:10 reads, “Wisdom is found in those who take advice.” Proverbs 10:17 says, “Whoever heeds discipline shows the way to life.” Proverbs 12:1 reads, “Whoever loves discipline loves knowledge.” Proverbs 15:32 says, “The one who heeds correction gains understanding.”

Several thoughts occur to me.

First, if we want to be wise, the verse says we have to listen to advice and accept discipline. Which we cannot do if people aren’t giving us advice and disciplining us.

Now, don’t get scared. I’m not going to say we should walk around spanking adults for misbehavior or placing grown people in time out (although, I think I’d benefit greatly if someone would make me sit on a mat and think about what I’ve done from time to time). Discipline here has less to do with punishment and more to do with instruction and correction. Think disciple. Wise people listen to advice and accept instruction and correction.

Obviously, all advice and instruction are not created equally. Some people give really crappy advice. Others over-correct constantly because they like the sound of their own voices. So we have to be careful about who we consult. But we all need good advice-givers and discipliners/instructors/disciplers in our lives. 

On the other side of the coin, we all need to be good advice givers and discipliners.

I don’t know a lot of people who struggle with not giving advice. Most people like to give advice and find it easy to do so because it is a lot like giving an opinion. We all have a lot of opinions and most of us don’t mind sharing them.

But I don’t know a lot of discipliners and correctors. It takes more guts to correct someone than to give them some advice. Personally, when someone is saying or doing something stupid or wrong in my presence, I’d rather keep my mouth shut and silently wish the moment would pass than confront him on it.

I suspect most people are like me in that regard; we have an aversion to correcting people because we associate conflict and animosity with correcting. We anticipate it won’t go well. How many of us have been taught how to correct/confront others in a gentle, helpful way and feel comfortable doing so?

But what is the result of being a society–a Church–who does not correct people when they are wrong or foolish? We end up with a void of wisdom.

The verse says, “Listen to advice and accept discipline, and at the end you will be counted among the wise.” We cannot produce wise people unless we are willing to correct people. This has far reaching implications in every aspect of life. On a a big picture level, those of us who have an aversion to conflict have to get over ourselves if we want a society/government/culture/Church/family that is wise. 

On a small scale, when we withhold valuable instruction and correction from the person sitting across the table from us who is bragging about his latest sin or laying out the worst plan we’ve ever heard in our lives, we contribute to his downfall. We stunt his emotional and spiritual growth. Ultimately, we fail to love him well.

That puts a whole new perspective on things. Next time you feel compelled to not correct someone out of fear of the uncomfortable confrontation that may occur, think to yourself, “Self, if I love him, I will speak up.”

If you don’t love him, well, that’s a whole different problem.

 

Chronic Peace

“You seem really at ease with yourself these days.”

My friend’s comment came after my recounting a sad circumstance in my life right now. It’s a circumstance that has been around a long time and caused way more than its fair share of heartache. But as I described the latest development, instead of pain I felt peace. 

Huh. 

When my friend pointed out my demeanor, I realized that peace has been here for awhile now. I’m not sure when, exactly, it made its debut, but I do know exactly how it got here—inside the heart of a girl who is starting to grasp that she used to be broken, but largely isn’t anymore. 

(Don’t get me wrong, I still have plenty of cracks and fissures, and part of me is scared to death one of those weak spaces will break the whole dang thing again any instant. But I’m learning to ignore that part because she needs a Xanax and a week at the beach.)

This chronic peace I’ve been experiencing the past several months is a direct result of increased confidence in God to take care. To take care of my heart and my family and my friends and my future and my job and my church and my everything. 

How, pray tell, did I get this surge of confidence? By going through hell and experiencing Him deliver me. 

David spent a lot of time in his own hell on earth, during which he penned some brutally honest psalms. And what I’ve been noticing is his remarkable confidence in God to protect him and see him through and bless him—both during his suffering and after. 

Just one of the many examples we could look at is Psalm 71:20-21, “Though you have made me see troubles, many and bitter, you will restore my life again; from the depths of the earth you will again bring me up. You will increase my honor and comfort me once more.”

‭The NIV Study Bible guys say David wrote this toward the very end of his life. Enemies liked to come knocking when kings were elderly, seeing them and their nations as easy prey. 

Knowing this, how can David write so confidently? Does he really believe God will enable him to lead well and protect Israel against her enemies despite his body probably becoming frail and his mind probably starting to go at a rapid pace? 

I think he does, and I’ll tell you why. 

(I know, you can hardly wait.)

David uses the word “again” twice and again’s twin sister, “once more”, once. In three sentences David implies the foundation of his confidence three times: “God has done all this for me before!”

In fact, God had delivered David from countless seasons of ridiculous suffering and unbelievable trials throughout his life. As a direct result, David knows God will continue to deliver him until he is delivered right on into heaven. 

I’m not super old yet, but I’m starting to catch on to what David learned about God: He can be wholly trusted all the time. And truly believing that brings chronic peace.