Another Year, Already

© Wendy Clark, 2023

January 15

Tomorrow I will be 59. How is that possible? Wasn’t I just 29 a few days ago? How did the last 30 years go by so quickly and at the same time seem a lifetime ago? 

The incredible passage of time. When I was young, older people told me about it. Some warned, some lamented, some kindly informed. My mom mused, saying that she felt like she was “still twenty inside.” 

But I couldn’t understand. I couldn’t conceive of it. Difficult times seemed long. Time seemed slow. Looking back I realize that sense of time was a persuasive illusion. GOD, in His Word had told me otherwise:

“As for man, his days are like grass; he flourishes like a flower of the field; for the wind passes over it, and it is gone, and its place knows it no more” (Psalm 105:15-16).

I believed Him, but I didn’t quite understand how that could be. And then I began to see. 

The moments came, and the moments passed, and then they were so quickly gone. I learned that if I wanted to slow down the bullet train of time, zooming me through life, I should stop and savor. Others before me knew it. Walter Hagen wrote back in the 1960s, “Don’t hurry. Don’t worry. And be sure to smell the flowers along the way,” and people started saying, “Stop and smell the roses,” and as I started to sense the incredible passage of time, I did. I stopped.

I learned to enjoy the moment, to be present in it, to pause and make memories that I could carry with me in my mind into the future. To never miss the moment of now in favor of reaching for some moment in the future.

So I ask, “GOD, what do you want me to do today? I want to please You.” Sometimes the answer involves planning and preparation that will take me into tomorrow, next week, next year, but always the answer involves paying attention to the people around me and walking in wisdom here and now.

I’m convinced that it is by GOD’s design that I become increasingly aware of the incredible passage of time and the brevity of this life. Seasons come and seasons go. In some places they are more difficult to perceive (like when I was growing up in Southern California), but here in Idaho, it’s not easy to overlook the pile of snow that reaches almost up to my back window.

Experience has taught me that the snow will melt, spring will come, mild and green and blooming; summer will follow, bright and warm, with long, full days; autumn will usher in beautiful colors and milder temperatures, and the days will start to get shorter once again. And then–I will be looking out my back window at the snow, the pile lower or higher, and I will be another year older. 

A long yawn or an intense sneeze, and I might miss it. That’s how it feels at this time of my life.

Wendy at 29, pregnant with her first child, uncomfortable, but ready–she could not sense it, this incredible passage of time. She didn’t know.

I don’t have a sense of how much more time I have ahead of me. Do I have 30 more years? More? Less? A lot less? One of my grandfathers died in his early 60s, another in his 80s, one grandmother in her 70s, but another at 52; my mom lived to be almost 80, and my dad died at 90. 

How much time do I have?  It is not a question that I concern myself with much. The amount of time seems far less important than the choices I make in using it.

I see the incredible passage of time written on my face and in the faces of my husband and  grown children, and I’m sometimes puzzled by the changes that seem accelerated. At the same time, I recognize GOD’s gentle nudge. This world is not my home. Today is passing. I won’t waste it. 

And perhaps ironically, I feel great peace in knowing that this is true.

Changed and Changing

I’m not the person I once was and not the person that I will one day be. And that’s very good news. 

Today, I have lived 59 years.That’s amazing to me and somewhat unbelievable. Wasn’t I in my twenties just moments ago? In truth I’ve been planting many seeds in my life in the past 30 years (and more). As I look back at the growth in my life in the past 30 years, what does the crop look like that I am harvesting now?

I’ve learned to love better, much better. I’m more patient in difficult circumstances and with difficult people. I’ve learned how to wait well, to wait on GOD as a loving Father and to be more compassionate with hurting people. I treat people more gently and with more kindness. 

I feel peaceful most of the time, no matter what manner of chaos is going on around me. I live with deep joy.

All of these things have grown in me, not because I am someone outstanding or amazing, but because over time I have learned to surrender to the prodding of the Holy Spirit in my life, day after day after day. I have come to understand the benefit of surrendering quickly and fully to the Holy Spirit, to not try to battle it out with the GOD of the universe. I have experienced His goodness and His grace, His great kindness and tender mercy.

I have responded to the hunger and thirst for the Word that the Holy Spirit has stirred in me, and it has continued to grow more deep and vast, and my view of Scripture has grown richer and more intense. It’s been opened up to me in a way that Wendy in her twenties only dreamed of. Consequently, I have grown consistent in seeking GOD through His Word and have gradually expanded my morning time with Him, wanting so much more.

I sense GOD’s presence so very close to me all throughout the day now, every day. If I feel fearful or anxious, my first and immediate response is to go to GOD as my loving Father in prayer and worship. He is my refuge. He comforts me, leads me, and holds me. He faithfully draws out all fear and worry. In His presence is perfect peace.

I knew GOD well when I was 39. I’d had babies and cancer and healing. I knew Him even better at 49.I’d had failures and successes and walked in more confidence and less fear.

At 59 I realize that I’ve only begun to know Him. In the past decade I’ve relied even more on my heavenly Father for strength, comfort, direction, and provision. With my family I uprooted my life, resettled in another state, changed careers, started a ministry, and left behind a wonderful life for an equally wonderful, entirely different one.  I’ve lost both of my parents and have celebrated the lives they lived serving Jesus. I’ve moved into a new season where my siblings and I are now in that “older” generation.

And throughout all of these changes, I’ve continued to grow in my knowledge and understanding of GOD. And He is wonderful. I suspect that throughout Eternity I will be learning, growing, and knowing more and that there will be no end to the expanding depth and richness of understanding about who GOD is and how deeply He loves me.

I’m not done growing and changing. New challenges have revealed new places in me in need of GOD’s tender transformation, and I am confident that He will continue to refine me as I continue to cooperate with all that He wants to do in my life. 

And whatever this next year holds for me, I know that GOD will be faithful to His promises. He will never leave me (Hebrews 13:15), He will supply everything that I need (Philippians 4:19), and He will work out all things for my good (Romans 8:28).

The last birthday of my fifties. The last year before turning 60. Ready.Set.Go!

Christmas, the Beginning of a Bigger Story

© Wendy Clark, December 2022

Christmas is the celebration of the coming of the Christ, the Messiah, the Anointed One. No, “Christ” is not Jesus’ last name. It is who He is–Messiah, the promised Deliverer, and He comes anointed to accomplish a specific assignment.

Think back to Moses and how at his birth there was a fearful king who tried to kill all of the male babies of the Hebrew people. Moses was protected, and Moses would grow to be their deliverer, leading the people out of slavery after 400 years.

Jesus is born after 400 “years of silence.” God hadn’t given the people a new word, recorded and passed down, in all of that time. Don’t be confused and think that means that God withdrew and wasn’t present or paying attention or actively working in the world. Every detail surrounding the birth of Jesus seems to say otherwise and shows that God was waiting until a time that He, Himself had appointed (Mark 1:14-15). At the very least it was 400 years of purposeful silence.

In Jesus’ infancy, there is another evil king who begins killing Jewish baby boys, out of fear that a new king will be born in his own generation. Jesus is protected and grows to be the promised Deliverer, the Messiah, who will “save his people from their sins.” 

Just as Pharaoh in Egypt was right to be afraid of the birth of Moses, King Herod was right to be afraid of the birth of Jesus, not because his earthly throne was in immediate jeopardy, but because of the Kingdom of God that Jesus would ultimately usher in: a Kingdom of justice and wisdom and righteousness and holiness. Kings like Herod can never stand boldly in the presence of Holy God. None of us can. We all need Jesus to deliver us–to save us from our sins.

I recently listened to a professed “progressive Christian” pastor preach about how he rejects the teaching of the atoning sacrifice of Jesus on the cross. He sees that teaching as rising out of a violent and punitive culture and in no way related to our lives today. I say with confidence that, no matter what the young pastor claims, he is not a “Christian” at all because Christianity rests on the atoning sacrifice of Jesus. The whole of Scripture, from beginning to end, is wrapped around the atoning sacrifice of Jesus, the teaching that “without the shedding of blood, there is no forgiveness of sins” (Hebrews 9:22).

Can anyone read the letter to the Hebrews or the letter to Romans and not see that Jesus came to deliver us from our sins? If you aren’t sure of the answer to that question, then I encourage you to start reading both of these letters, in a clear, straightforward way. What is Paul saying? What is the writer of Hebrews saying (whether or not that is Paul)?
The young “progressive Christian” pastor finds the teaching of the blood sacrifice offensive, and he is not alone. The Apostle Paul tells us that many will stumble over the cross and the teaching that Jesus came to die for our sins in our place to be the atoning sacrifice that was required to pay the penalty for sin. 

“For Jews demand signs and Greeks seek wisdom, but we preach Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews and folly to Gentiles, but to those who are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ  the power of God and the wisdom of God. For the foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of God is stronger than men” (I Corinthians 1: 22-25). We preach Christ crucified.

Read all of 1 Corinthians, and it is clear that one thing that the Apostle Paul wants us to understand is that there are teachers among us that aren’t teaching the truth of the Gospel.  Pay attention and be aware.

When talking to people about the Gospel and trying to determine where another person stands, I often ask this question: “Do you know Jesus as your Savior?” If the person says yes, then I ask this: “Can you describe or explain what that means to you?” Whatever the person says next is very helpful in bringing clarity and understanding to the conversation.

One time, a young man responded by saying that Jesus saved him from his depression and his fear and his anxiety and his loneliness . . .  and continued with a very long list that was lacking one specific and important word. Those of us sitting across the table from the young man looked at him and waited. One older gentleman prodded, “Brother?”

The young man then began in a kind of frantic way, “But I’m not a sinner. Jesus didn’t save me from sins. I don’t need saving from sins.” Then we knew where we were in the Gospel conversation. No spinning around trying to figure out how we weren’t communicating clearly. He didn’t believe that the Gospel is about salvation from sins, the blood atonement of Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross, which the Bible clearly teaches. And from that point we were able to come to clarity about how we consider the Bible to be an authority over us and our thoughts, feelings, and opinions, but this young man considers the Bible to be one voice among many voices and of less authority than his own thoughts, feelings, and opinions. The “progressive Christian” pastor that I referred to earlier also eventually came around to sharing that same perspective about the Bible.

Christmas has significance, but the birth of Jesus is the beginning of something that is completed at the cross and confirmed through the resurrection of Jesus from the dead. We aren’t celebrating the birth of a baby who was born a long time ago and grew to be a good and wise teacher and then died and was buried long ago, his body now decomposed as everyone who died before or since. What is the point of that? There are many people like that throughout history, and we haven’t established in their honor elaborate and extensive celebrations that occur all over the world with decorations and parties and music and gift giving and stories and movies . . .

So if we do nothing else during this Christmas celebrating season, let’s meditate on this from the Apostle Paul’s letter to the church at Philippi:

“Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.”(Philippians 2:5-11)

Let Christmas remind us that Jesus is still alive and is coming back, and we will all recognize who He really is. Let’s take seriously the Apostle Paul’s teaching that “today is the day of salvation” (2 Corinthians 6:2) and respond to God’s invitation to draw near to Him through Jesus–and His death for us in our place on the cross. This is the significance of the birth of Christ and the heart of what it means to be a “Christian,” a follower of Christ, the Messiah. All of what it means to be a Christian begins with this understanding.

Son of God and Son of Man

© Wendy Clark, December 2021

Son of God

Hannah, my youngest, my late-in-life child, born after I had cancer and chemo, after we stepped out to adopt unsuccessfully twice, after many miscarriages, after I surrendered to God saying, “If I’m not going to have any more children, I’m okay with that, God,” that child–has always been beautiful, loved by pretty much everyone she spends time with, smart, funny, and unusually profound. Even when she was little, sometimes we would be sitting in a room full of adults, and Hannah would say something that would be so interesting, that the room would go silent, and everyone would turn in her direction.  Here’s one memory of that, related to Christmas.

Hannah must have been no older than about four, and our homeschool group was making manger scenes. Hannah made three baby Jesus figures for her manger scene.  I said, “Hannah, you know there was only one baby Jesus, right?”  She said, “Yes, Mom, I know that, but there is God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit, three in one, and I didn’t know how else to show that.”

If you’ve missed that somewhere along the way, don’t miss it this Christmas, that Jesus is God made visible to us.  “Son of God” doesn’t describe an act of God the Father, birthing or creating Jesus, but the intimate relationship that God the Father shares with Jesus. Look at how the writer of Hebrews explains this:

In the past God spoke to our ancestors through the prophets at many times and in various ways, but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed heir of all things, and through whom also he made the universe. The Son is the radiance of God’s glory and the exact representation of his being, sustaining all things by his powerful word” (Hebrews 1:1-3).

Jesus is “the exact representation” of God the Father, the best way for us to see what God is like. God the Father, made the universe through Jesus the Son. Jesus was present at creation and participated in creation. The Apostle John explains this just before he begins to write the account of Jesus’ ministry. It is important to John, who lived and traveled with Jesus, that you understand who Jesus really is.

“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning. Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made” (John 1:1-3, NIV). “The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth” (John 1:14, NIV).

The “Word” in the Greek means “the expression, the utterance that flowed out of God’s mouth.” Jesus is God and pours out of God. Think about that for a few minutes. When God spoke the universe into existence, Jesus was that expression, the words that flowed out of his mouth.  The Holy Spirit is described as the very breath that God breathed, so that when God breathed life into Adam, that life was by the Spirit of God.

God and his Word and his Breath–three in one–perhaps beyond our ability to understand. 

Maybe it’s easier for us to comprehend the relationship of father to son and the spirit that moves between them, connecting them and making them one, and yet all three also separate and distinct in their identities and their roles. The Bible makes it clear that there are three separate persons–with a shared will, perspective, and purpose–separate and distinct from each other, and at the same time, completely unified.

Many have tried to explain this.  Maybe it’s like an egg that has a shell, a white part, and a yolk and is still all one egg.  Maybe it is like water than can be water and steam and ice and still be essentially the same thing.  These descriptions fall short of what the Bible teaches about God as three in one.

Jesus doesn’t explain how this works; he simply states that it is.  Every time Jesus says “I AM,” He uses the expression that God uses when he speaks to Moses and Moses asks for God’s name.

Moses said to God, ‘Suppose I go to the Israelites and say to them, ‘The God of your fathers has sent me to you,’ and they ask me, ‘What is his name?’ Then what shall I tell them?”

God said to Moses, “I AM who I AM. This is what you are to say to the Israelites: ‘I AM has sent me to you.’ (Exodus 3:13-14). 

What did God just say to Moses?  God’s name translates to something like this:  I am the one who has always existed and who will always exist.  I exist in myself, by myself.  There is no other like me.

Jesus uses this same expression of God’s name to describe himself, which is why the Jewish leaders become so enraged against him and also why it is impossible to view Jesus as simply a good man; good men don’t go around claiming to be God.

Here are seven of these statements just from the testimony of the Apostle John.  In each of these statements Jesus identifies himself as God, I AM GOD who is .  . .

“I AM the bread of life.” (John 6:35, 41, 48, 51)

“I AM the light of the world.” (John 8:12) 

“I AM the door of the sheep.” (John 10:7,9) 

“I AM the resurrection and the life.” (John 11:25) 

“I AM the good shepherd.” (John 10:11, 14) 

“I AM the way, the truth, and the life.” (John 14:6) 

“I AM the true vine.” (John 15:1, 5) 

Jesus also says, “I and the Father are one” (John 10:30), and those who oppose him pick up stones to try to stone him to death and “Anyone who has seen me has seen the Father” (John 14:9).

If you have never heard that Jesus actually taught that he himself is God and the Son of God, not just a prophet of God or a good man sent by God . . .

If you were taught that Jesus was just a man . . .

If you’ve never really thought about Jesus much at all . . .

Consider this particular conversation that Jesus has with his disciples:

When Jesus came to the region of Caesarea Philippi, he asked his disciples, “Who do people say the Son of Man is?”

They replied, “Some say John the Baptist; others say Elijah; and still others, Jeremiah or one of the prophets.”

“But what about you?” he asked. “Who do you say I am?”

Simon Peter answered, “You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God.”

Jesus replied, “Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah, for this was not revealed to you by flesh and blood, but by my Father in heaven.” (Matthew 16:13-17, NIV)

Jesus refers to himself as the “Son of Man” and then commends Peter for recognizing that he is also the Messiah and the “Son of God.”

If you aren’t sure about all of this or even if you are sure but haven’t given it much thought lately, I encourage you to take some time before Christmas day and read through the Gospel of John, the Apostle John’s account of his encounter with the Son of Man/ Son of God.

As you read, ask and answer these questions:  What does Jesus say about himself?  What does he do?  What does he ask his followers to do?  If all of this is true, what implications does it have for my life? 

Next time . . . more about the Son of Man.

Moving Again

© Wendy Clark, 2021

Only our friends who live in this valley will fully understand this news, but the owner of the house we rent let us know yesterday that he needs to move back into the house in July, so we will be house-hunting and moving once again.  (I can hear the groans from this side of the screen.)

I’m happy that it isn’t about him wanting to sell the house while the market is hot or about wanting to rent it as a vacation home, but moving is well, not my favorite thing, and we will be moving to our 5th house since we came to the valley in 2014.  We lived on Pine Street in Hailey, then 1st Street, then 3rd, and then here in Bellevue. (Each of the other houses we had to move because they went on the market. If you want to understand what is going on here in the housing market, this information should help.)

We are truly thankful that we were able to live in this house for over two years, and it has been a really good place to live. We are truly not worried about where we will go (though I know that will sound crazy to some). I’m not looking forward to sorting and packing or to figuring out where we will live next, but there is a part of me that feels good about having some time to sort through things that have been stored and lighten the load and about the possibilities that moving brings.

If you are wondering why it is we are not worried in a time that we probably should be worried, it’s just that the faithfulness of God to take care of us has already been firmly established.  I will retell those stories as we move into this new season, but there have been so many times that we needed somewhere to go and that it looked like there was nowhere to go, including the time we moved into this current house, that worrying seems to be wasted energy.

But please do pray for us, and please let us know if you have any leads on a house in the valley, and please pass along that we are looking. And now’s the time to cue up the exciting, suspenseful music because here we go again. 

A Sad Warning

© Wendy Anne Clark, 2021

I am so broken hearted over the scandal surrounding Ravi Zacharias.  I can only imagine the great pain of his wife, his children, his close friends and those who served in ministry with him.  I believe them when they say that they are completely shocked–that this was a life that Ravi hid from them.  How damaging that is!  

We are in a spiritual battle, though the war itself will be ours in the end, we are called to fight, and our weapons are not the weapons of this world. We are to worship, pray, know the Word, live by the Word, and live as set apart for God’s purposes. We are to be in open and honest relationships with other Believers.  Ravi, one who stood up as a soldier in the fight, gaining territory and influence for the Kingdom over the years, has now lost a huge battle and surrendered some significant real-estate to the enemy forces.  This loss will be felt well into the future.

The ministry organization and training center that Ravi established will have to distance themselves from him and completely regroup.  Already speaking engagements of those who worked closely with Ravi have been canceled.  Many working in Ravi’s ministry have quit their jobs.  It has been reported that Ravi’s daughter has been running the ministry since her father stepped down.  What an incredible and painful mess to leave behind for her!

I greatly appreciate the courage it took for the ministry to go looking for the truth and then to publish what was found even though it was horrible and heart breaking for so many. One who worked with Ravi has spoken about how grieved he is that Ravi did not confess, repent, and deal with all of this sin while he was alive.  Why was he not driven to do so as he faced death? It would have been painful and damaging, but not nearly as painful nor as damaging as hiding his sin to be found after his death.  

The level of Ravi’s deception and of the inability of those who knew him best to see it, raises so many questions that we will not be able to answer.  Jesus will separate the sheep from the goats at the end of the age, and He alone knows who belongs to Him.  Many more will fall, and each time we will be caused to wonder, but the fall of those who appear rooted, grounded, and spiritually healthy should drive us to examine ourselves daily.  To daily ask the Spirit to reveal the truth about our hearts.  To daily confess, repent, and walk in the mercy that is new every morning.   It should also drive us to pray earnestly for all those representing the Body of Christ on the front lines of the spiritual battle. 

Being Changed

© Wendy Clark, 2021

I’ve been using Bob Goff’s book Live in Grace-Walk in Love:A 365-Day Journey as a supplement to my other Bible studies, Bible reading, and personal reflection. Though Bob Goff’s book follows a schedule of sorts, I don’t read in keeping with it.  (I’m somewhere in October’s reading right now.) But as often happens when I read daily readings according to my own schedule, the reading for today relates well to what I have been thinking about.

Here are a few of the things that Bob Goff writes that stand out to me:

“ . . . when I started to think of them [dreaded airport experiences] as opportunities to give away love,my attitude changed.”

“When I think someone ought to be more loving, it’s usually me.”

“The longer I follow Jesus, the more I’m trying to see through the eyes of other people.”

“We come into contact with people every day who need to encounter love.”

“Don’t leave it to someone else to do the loving for you.”

I agree with all of these statements, and I understand them to be true, both in what I know and by what I have experienced. But I would not have been able to agree in the same way many years ago.

In a Bible study discussion the other day one question centered around our awareness of sin, what causes our awareness of sin, and how we respond when we become aware of our own sin.

I thought back to when I was 19 or 20, and in studying the book of I John, I became very convicted by my own lack of love for others, especially difficult people or people who thought very differently from me.

Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God, and whoever loves has been born of God and knows God. Anyone who does not love does not know God, because God is love.  
I John 4:7-8, ESV

I had sung this passage many times (maybe you can sing the song and know where the claps belong), but suddenly the words leaped off the page right into my heart, and the entire book of I John took on new significance for me.  I felt an acute awareness of my inability to truly love other people, not an emotional, feeling, but the love that Paul describes in I Corinthians 13:

Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.
I Corinthians 13:4-7, ESV

I mourned over the incredible lack of true love in me, my intense selfishness, my general lack of concern about most other people, and my propensity to justify my own actions while criticizing the actions of others.

I came to the place where I recognized that in and of myself and my own will, I would never really love other people, especially difficult, challenging people. But that’s exactly what Jesus tells us to do.

“You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven. For he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust. For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? And if you greet only your brothers, what more are you doing than others? Do not even the Gentiles do the same?” 
Matthew 5:43-47, ESV

I needed a Savior, a Deliverer, a Redeemer, and a Teacher,  I needed transformation by a Power other than my own.

And so . . . 

I confessed my sin of being selfish and unloving, and I took my sin where it belongs and laid it at the foot of the cross.  I surrendered.

I am convinced that if we really want to be changed, the cross is the place where we must start, confessing our sin to God, laying it down, along with all of the plans and schemes and methods that we have tried in our own strength, by our own understanding, and recognizing our total inability to do anything about our sin or our weakness. Then turning in the direction of Jesus, let Him take us to the next place in our journey.

Today when I read Bob Goff’s words about love, I agreed with them, knowing them to be true, both intellectually by the Word of God, and also by my personal experience, having lived them.  I am a much more loving person today than I was nearly 40 years ago when I felt hopeless in my ability to ever truly love.  I see the world completely differently than I did back then.  I see you differently.

How did I move from a place where loving people was never much on my radar to a place where loving people is front and center and where I actually look for opportunities to love other people?

I encountered the Word of God.
I believed it.
I submitted to it by putting it into practice.
I repeated these steps over and over and over again.

If you are struggling with sin, something in you that you know is counter to God’s Word, that you know needs to change, there is a simple practice that will take you to the next step:  Encounter the Word of God.  Believe it.  Surrender to it. 

Easy?  Often it is not. It tends to take a lot of practice.

Simple?  Yes, very simple.  Even a young child can learn this practice, step by step, and it’s something that we should teach our children, even as we model it for them.

So then, do I now love perfectly? No. I am still being transformed.  I am not who I once was, but I am not yet who I will be.  

To me, that is very good news because in this last strange and challenging year, I have both made some new mistakes, and I’ve also repeated some very old ones.  I have sometimes fallen into trying to persuade people who perhaps needed more to experience unconditional love. I have sometimes trod with heavy feet where I ought to have stopped lightly. 

I am aware of these sinful missteps because I have daily encountered the Word of God.  I believe that what God says is true and non-negotiable. I confess my sin daily (and trust me, I have daily sin to confess), and I seek to align myself with what God says is true and right and good.  I surrender.

Every day that I practice, practice, practice following Jesus, I am transformed by the Power of the Holy Spirit, little by little.

If we will seek to be transformed, minute by minute, day by day, over a lifetime, we will, in time, be greatly changed. Instead, often we look for huge change in a short amount of time and with little perseverance, and so find ourselves to be ever the same.

Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom. And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another. For this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit. 
2 Corinthians 3:17-18, ESV

I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.  
Romans 12:1-2, ESV

At the Proper Time

©  Wendy Anne Clark, 2020

So often have I heard Believers say that they do not read the Old Testament because it is “too troubling” or too confusing.  So often I have heard those who do not believe in the God of the Bible refer to God in the Old Testament as full of wrath and vengeance, seeking to annihilate sinners.

How they have misread and misunderstood God and what He reveals about Himself in the Old Testament! How they have missed the great mercy and grace of God revealed throughout the entire Scriptures!

For the past couple of years I have been studying the different books of the prophets.  Currently, I am working through the book of Ezekiel.  Here’s what I have been learning over the past couple of years:

God’s wrath is the pouring out of His perfect justice in response to sin. God’s wrath is the right and appropriate response of holiness to unholiness, and we all long for it.  We want God to pour out His wrath.  We want the world to be set right.  We want justice and truth and everything that is wrong and deceitful and manipulated and twisted to be dealt with and corrected.

One big problem we have, though, is that we are all sinners.  When God’s wrath is finally and fully poured out on all of mankind, in our natural state, we will all be destroyed.  So, for now, God is withholding His wrath. 

People get mad about that sometimes.  Why does God allow evil to exist and the wicked to prosper?  Why doesn’t He just wipe it all out right now?  If God were truly loving and truly powerful, surely He would do just that, wipe out evil and make things perfect, right now.

But if we would take the time to read the Old Testament and to look for what God teaches  about Himself, about humanity, about sin, about justice and judgment and wrath and mercy, we would have a better understanding of why an all-loving, perfectly wise, and all-powerful God, holds back His wrath, for now.

God’s perfect and divine wrath is balanced by His perfect and divine love, which results in His mercy and grace, perfectly poured out.  And all of God’s attributes are perfectly intertwined so that “at just the right time” everything that is supposed to happen, happens, just as it is meant to happen.

In the book of Ezekiel, God tells the prophet Ezekiel that He is going to release His wrath against the evil and sin of His own priests and prophets as well as their enemies. The right time has come.  This is something that absolutely will be; this is not something they will escape.  The sword is coming their way, and there will be widespread destruction and suffering.  And yet, in chapter 33, God says that if the people will appoint a watchman to be on the lookout for the coming sword of judgment, and that if the watchman will see and sound the trumpet of warning, and if the people heed the warning and turn from their iniquity, they will escape the judgment and be saved. 

If anyone fails to heed the warning, his own destruction will be on his own head.  But if the watchman fails to give the warning, all of the people will die in their iniquity, but the watchman will bear responsibility for their destruction. 

So much to think about here, but one point for today is that God, even though He has pronounced coming judgment and is getting ready to pour out His wrath, still invites people to turn and receive mercy and be saved.  

This indeed is the heart of God throughout all of Scripture.  God is longing to show mercy and is giving us every opportunity to turn to Him and receive it. 

When God sees Cain’s murderous heart, He points Cain in the direction of escape and deliverance.  Cain ignores the warning, and yet God still cares for Cain and shows concern for him.

When the world becomes completely evil, God chooses Noah to warn the people of the coming judgment and to build a place of protection that is offered as a way of escape and deliverance.  Noah and his family go into that place of protection and are saved.  No one else responds to the warning.  Everyone else perishes.

When God gets ready to pour out His wrath on Sodom and Gomorrah, He agrees to hold back His wrath on the account of even a few righteous people living there.  When none is found, God provides a warning and a way of escape for Lot and his family, but only those who heed the warning and are obedient are saved.

When the right time has come for God to respond to the great evil of Nineveh, He sends Jonah to warn the people of the coming judgment.  Jonah does not want to deliver this warning, and later we learn that he does not want the people to heed the warning and be saved.  He wants to be the watchman who doesn’t sound the trumpet.

Eventually, Jonah does as God commands, and he warns the people that they have forty days until God’s wrath will be poured out on their sin.  Here’s what happens next:

“The Ninevites believed God. A fast was proclaimed, and all of them, from the greatest to the least, put on sackcloth.

When Jonah’s warning reached the king of Nineveh, he rose from his throne, took off his royal robes, covered himself with sackcloth and sat down in the dust. This is the proclamation he issued in Nineveh:

‘By the decree of the king and his nobles:

Do not let people or animals, herds or flocks, taste anything; do not let them eat or drink. But let people and animals be covered with sackcloth. Let everyone call urgently on God. Let them give up their evil ways and their violence. Who knows? God may yet relent and with compassion turn from his fierce anger so that we will not perish.’

Did you catch that?  There was mass repentance in Nineveh.  The king even declared a time of fasting and repentance for all of the people and even the animals.

When God saw what they did and how they turned from their evil ways, he relented and did not bring on them the destruction he had threatened.” (Jonah 3:5-10)

How can anyone reading this account think that God is longing to pour out His wrath and miss that God is actually longing to pour out His mercy? 

What this account reveals is that God’s wrath is the appropriate response to sin and that there comes a time when it must be poured out unless . . . unless the people will respond and repent–turn to the Lord and turn away from their sin.  And God sends a warning, a watchman to sound the trumpet and show the way of deliverance.  If the people heed the warning, they will be saved.

We discover that Jonah knew this about God, and like many of us, Jonah wanted judgment for his enemies but mercy for himself.

“But to Jonah this seemed very wrong, and he became angry. He prayed to the Lord, ‘Isn’t this what I said, Lord, when I was still at home? That is what I tried to forestall by fleeing to Tarshish. I knew that you are a gracious and compassionate God, slow to anger and abounding in love, a God who relents from sending calamity. Now, Lord, take away my life, for it is better for me to die than to live.’” (Jonah 4:1-3)

When someone asks why God allows evil to exist in the world, why He doesn’t wipe the evil people out, destroy them on the spot, I want to look at that person and say, “Because He’s not ready to give up on you just yet.”  That is the truth that many are not willing to face. 

“Above all, you must understand that in the last days scoffers will come, scoffing and following their own evil desires. They will say, ‘Where is this ‘coming’ he promised? Ever since our ancestors died, everything goes on as it has since the beginning of creation.’” (2 Peter 3:3-4)

But what people fail to perceive is that we are living in a temporary situation, a time where God is waiting, holding back, actively NOT pouring out His wrath because of His great love for us.

God’s wrath poured out means that everyone who is not in the place of protection and provision that God has provided, will perish.  But because of God’s great love, He has mercifully provided a place of protection and provision, and He invites all people to come and be saved.

For Noah and his family and anyone who would have listened, it was to be sheltered in the ark. 

For Lot, it was a town nearby that God did not destroy, but allowed Lot and his family to flee to for safety.

For those living today it is the protection that is given to us by salvation provided through the shed blood of Jesus on the cross.  All who are in Christ Jesus will be saved.  Those who are trying to make their own way or provide for their own salvation will be lost.

“For God so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through Him.” (John 3:16-17)

There is a right and proper time that will come when God will pour out His wrath, God’s perfect justice will deal with all wickedness and evil, and sin and evil will no longer have a place in the world.

“But do not forget this one thing, dear friends: With the Lord a day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years are like a day. The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. Instead he is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance.

But the day of the Lord will come like a thief. The heavens will disappear with a roar; the elements will be destroyed by fire, and the earth and everything done in it will be laid bare.

“Since everything will be destroyed in this way, what kind of people ought you to be? You ought to live holy and godly lives as you look forward to the day of God and speed its coming. That day will bring about the destruction of the heavens by fire, and the elements will melt in the heat. But in keeping with his promise we are looking forward to a new heaven and a new earth, where righteousness dwells.”
(2 Peter 3:8–13)

In the meantime, we are to be the watchmen on the wall, warn people of what is coming, and point them in the direction of Jesus, that they might be saved. We are to live in such a way that when we warn people, they will take the warning seriously, not like Lot’s extended family, who heard Lot’s warning, but stayed where they were and were destroyed. We are to live as God’s people, dearly loved by God, basking in His great mercy and grace, and we are to love the people around us and invite them to come and experience God’s great and perfect mercy and grace.

Justice will come when the time is right.