Never Too Late

GUEST BLOGGER: Kevin Wilhelm

It’s never too late for most things - to learn to play an instrument; to run a marathon; to heal a broken relationship. 

I have never taken lessons to play an instrument, but am certain I could perhaps play the tambourine or the triangle - with a little practice.  My interest in running a marathon is minimal so that probably won’t get on the bucket list.   But I have experienced God’s infinite grace as He has healed relationships, most notably with my twin brother. 

I had just begun reading the Bible daily late in 2011.  One day just before Christmas I was drawn to Matthew 18:35. I kept reading that verse over and over and over again.

“This is how my heavenly Father will treat each of you unless you forgive your brother or sister from your heart.”

I was a novice in terms of biblical knowledge so the context of the entire chapter was not yet relevant to my life.  All I knew (and God desired) was that I needed desperately to forgive my brother and to seek his forgiveness in return.  Faith actually had driven us apart in a very painful way for more than 15 years.  Faith brought us back together.  I called him on Christmas Day to forgive him and ask for his forgiveness in return.   This surprised him greatly but he was gracious and delighted. 

We didn’t even need to identify the reasons to forgive.  We both just wanted the hurt to stop.  We turned to God rather than our own understanding.

Trust in the Lord with all your heart;
    do not depend on your own understanding.
Seek his will in all you do,
    and he will show you which path to take.

Proverbs 3:5-6

You see my brother had turned his life over to Christ a long time ago.  I hadn’t.  Lacking understanding I interpreted his frequent overtures as judgment when really all he ever wanted was for me to experience the same peace and joy that he had come to know.   I learned after the fact how often he had prayed for me during our long separation.  My brother never lost faith that I would be saved.  He knew it was never too late.

Our lifetime is not even a blink of an eye for the Lord.  Fifteen years seemed like forever to me.  But God is patient – very, very patient.  His love (and my brother’s) was clearly worth the wait. 

Relationships are healed every minute of every hour of every day.  We have to recognize the opportunity He provides for us.  God never gives up on us.  We certainly should never give up on each other, There simply is no such thing as too late. 

 

 

I'm Not Being Punished, I'm Being Prepared

Today as I walked in to church, I was feeling shattered, exhausted, defeated and ready to give up. These are all things that have taken me over in the last couple years and even more so in the last couple months. I walked in and felt that being there was futile and thought to myself "what's the point." But I continually reminded myself that those words were coming from Satan and God had a very different plan for me.

As I sat myself down in the front row like I always do, I felt myself connect with God. People were buzzing around me, but I just sat frozen- and connected. Connection is something that I have a really hard time with, but I felt it so strongly and I knew in that moment that God was holding me.

As the music began to play, I began to cry. My mind is so tired of fighting and my body aches from sadness. But as I listened to the words that were being sung, I realized that this turmoil within myself is not my battle to fight. My God is greater than my pain and greater than any thought I could ever have. As I heard the church singing the words "what a powerful name it is, nothing can stand against. What a powerful name it is, the name of Jesus," something within me let go. "Nothing can stand against." Four words that completely changed my mindset on my current situation. My depression, my anxiety, my thoughts surrounding the idea of ending my life.....all of these things are weak compared to my God and that is so darn incredible.
 

I heard God tell me, "Ashley, I've got this. Just let go." And in that moment, I knew I needed to accept where I am and let God do the rest. Yes it is easier said than done, but it is something that I need to do. Not just to draw closer to God but also to save my life. "Come to me all who are weary and I will give you rest." Matthew 11:28. It's time for me to rest and let my God do the work that He has promised He will do.

As Pastor Andy began to preach today, I knew this message would be a powerful one. As he began to say things like:

"God leverages the tough things in our lives for His glory."
"the hard things you are going through are not punishment, but rather preparation for something bigger."

"Even when our world is falling apart, God does not leave us or forsake us."

"God will turn my mess in to a powerful message."

"God is not just with me, but He is crafting something amazing within me."


My heart was open and receptive for the first time in a long time. I wasn't only hearing the words that Pastor Andy spoke, but I was absorbing them. As I slowly and gingerly walk through the toughest season in my life thus far, I was reminded today that this season will be brought together for His glory. I may not be able to see the other side of this dark hole, but I was reassured that there is in fact another side. And even though God feels so far away, He is not. I need to stop confusing silence for forgotten. This season of life is just that- a season.

I am awestruck by how big and how good my God is. The words that I heard today were truly life changing. As loneliness, despair, sadness, frustration and hopelessness seep in to every aspect of my life, I now know that I just need to hand them over to God and I need to trust the process. Nothing worth having is ever easy. I know that I will continue to struggle, as that is a part of life, but moving forward I just need to remind myself of what a beautiful, powerful and wonderful Name it is- the name of Jesus.

So next time you find yourself surrounded by darkness, please remember that you are NOT being punished but you are being prepared for something much greater than you could ever imagine. Keep on keepin on and understand that God will NEVER leave you or forsake you. How do I know? Because He has promised that to us, and the God I know stands true to His promises.

Thank You, God for loving me and allowing me to see a glimmer of hope amidst my darkness. I love You.

Waiting on God in the MIDDLE

Guest Blogger - Ken Morrison

Three years ago I left Maryland, a place I had lived for over 50 years, to start a new life. The only thing I had in Connecticut was a new job and a hotel reservation  (a place to stay while I looked for a place to live). I only knew one person in Connecticut, and he was the person that hired me.

 

As I drove towards Connecticut and across the Tappan Zee Bridge, it seemed as though I was leaving my past behind me and my new life was in front of me. In some ways I felt like Abram leaving the land he lived to go to the land God showed him or Joshua crossing the Jordan river into the Promised Land. I felt God had led me to this new job and new place. I had a dream of becoming GREAT at this job and my new life would fill my heart’s desire. By trusting and following God all would be well. On my mind was the following quote.

“When you come to the edge of all the light you have, and must take a step into the darkness of the unknown, believe that one of two things will happen. Either there will be something solid for you to stand on - or you will be taught how to fly.” - Patrick Overton

As a follower of Christ, I took this this as Jesus would give me the solid place to stand or He would teach me to fly.

But, my new life didn’t go as planned. My job took a different direction. Promises made by my employer vanished and a life hoped for didn’t work out. I felt Connecticut had  became a metaphor for everything but my Promised Land.

Where is God when We are in the Middle of Pain and Disappointment?

Maybe your life hasn’t gone as planned either. Many of us are in THE MIDDLE, using a different word picture for ‘the middle’ than Pastor Andy. Here, THE MIDDLE is the middle of waiting for a blessing, for prayer to be answered, or a bad situation to be taken away.

  • We want an opportunity in our jobs

  • We want a job

  • We want healing in a relationship

  • We want a relationship

  • We want healing from sickness

  • We want to be loved

  • We want a child

  • We want a family

 

THE MIDDLE is God is telling us - not yet. The MIDDLE could be waiting for something small, but often it is waiting for something that is huge in our lives.

The MIDDLE means disappointment, hurting, pain and loss. It is often God building us up for what he has planned for us and we can only learn what we need to while we are in THE MIDDLE.

It is hard to see outside of our circumstances in THE MIDDLE when we have waited a long time for God’s blessing or suffered setback - after setback. It is easy to think God has forgotten us.

However, there is purpose in the pain as there are things you can only learn while you are in THE MIDDLE.

Sometimes God delays what we want in order to give us something better than we think we need. That is difficult to understand when we have lost that thing we wanted or we are redirected on the path we were heading.

As Pastor Andy said, “Often the situation that we want changed is what God uses to change us.  He is more interested in preparing your character than giving you what you want or making sure you are comfortable.”

We Must Exist in God's Timing

In THE MIDDLE, there are things which are available to us now and things which are not available to us now, but will be available to us later, as part of God's plan.

We are often in a hurry, but God isn't. That is why there is a delay between asking God and receiving his blessing in THE MIDDLE. Some of you may remember from Daring Faith where Pastor Rick Warren described this as ‘planting and harvesting.’ We can't expect the crop to come in the day after we plant it or our prayers answered immediately after we pray them.

What you ask for and need might fall in line with God’s teachings, but a delay is not God saying no. You and I may not be ready for His final blessing. God sees all time, is all knowing, and doesn't make a mistake. God's perfect timing is best in our lives.

What Does Scripture Say About THE MIDDLE?

We must stay connected to God, the Father, Son and Holy Spirit while in THE MIDDLE. When we do, He unfolds the plan for our lives, one step at a time. We must point our compass vertically to God in prayer and listen to Him through the scriptures to stay closely connected to Him during this time. This connection to God will create a more intimate relationship with Jesus and we will walk closer with Him as He works us through to our blessing.

Wait on the Lord

Teach me your way, O LORD, and lead me on a level path because of my enemies. Give me not up to the will of my adversaries; for false witnesses have risen against me, and they breathe out violence. I believe that I shall look upon the goodness of the LORD in the land of the living! Wait for the LORD; be strong, and let your heart take courage; wait for the LORD!

Psalm 27: 11-14

God Has a Very Good Plan for You

For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope.

Jeremiah 29:11

Ask Him to Guide You and Fulfill Your Needs

Then you will call on me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you. You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart.

Jeremiah 29:12-13

Don’t Be Anxious but Pray and Be Thankful

In nothing be anxious; but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God.

Philippians 4:6-7

We Won't Be Disappointed By God If We Wait

To you, O LORD, I lift up my soul. O my God, in you I trust; let me not be put to shame; let not my enemies exult over me. Indeed, none who wait for you shall be put to shame; they shall be ashamed who are wantonly treacherous.

Psalm 25:1.

What Does Waiting on the Lord in THE MIDDLE Mean?

Waiting in THE MIDDLE is NOT doing nothing. It is NOT putting our lives on hold. We must CONTINUE to:

  • Pray

  • Serve - Volunteer

  • Interact with other Christians

  • Learn about God and stay in His Word

  • Believe in God and His plan

We must continue to be guided by God and trust Him. Even when our future is unclear. We enter a time of ACTIVE STILLNESS. God can’t steer us in the right direction if we are sitting completely still. Some suggest keeping a journal and writing down everything you are learning during this time.

Don’t Do It on Your Own

Sometimes, when we have waited and waited with no solution, we make a decision outside of God's instruction and His guidance, and do things on our own.

I have fallen into that trap many times in my life and decided to ignore God's teachings and direction. In doing so, I disrupted God's plan for my life or missed his plan.

We make mistakes when we point our compass to someone or something other than God.

But, God is good. He will make another plan for you if you fall back into connection with Him. He will take you where you are and give you a whole new beginning.

Conclusion

Before I left Maryland I confided in a friend and told him I was thinking about turning down the job offer in Connecticut. He told me I would be turning my back on God's plan for me. Today, that is very hard for me to understand especially in the sorrow and loneliness I am in currently.

 

For me, THE MIDDLE is hard. I don't write these things as an expert or as someone who has mastered waiting in the MIDDLE and waiting on God. This information is important for me to learn, too.

I have prayed for and desire many things which include removal of loneliness, a purpose in this stage of my life, and some things that are voiced only between me and God.

I ask that you, who are also in THE MIDDLE, walk beside me. Some of you are friends, and others I don’t know. The only thing you may feel we have in common is that you are waiting, too.

Remember these things according to the scripture while you are in THE MIDDLE:

  • God has a very good plan for you

  • You must ask him to guide you and you must ask him to give you your needs

  • Be thankful when you pray, not anxious, and you will be at peace with God.

  • You won't be disappointed with God by waiting on Him

We show God we are honoring and glorifying His Lordship when we acknowledge His power, knowledge and timing. We are obedient when we  stay in His Word, listen to His direction for our lives, and pray for our desires and needs.

What God has planned for us may not be ours today. We don't have to fear losing. God will provide us what we need in His plan because He is a loving God. When we follow and obey Him, He keeps His promises.

Stay strong in THE MIDDLE. As Pastor Rick Warren says: In many ways, we must always walk through the wilderness to make it to the Promised Land.