Monthly Archives: February 2014

Remembering Good Times But Waiting For More?

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Happy Couple

Are you waiting for better times to return?

“When the Lord restored the fortunes of Zion, we were like those who dream.”

Psalm 126:1

While the ancient Israelites were in captivity by the Babylonians, they no doubt recollected on better times, but due to their exiled status, better times were on hold–indefinitely. However, God did a new thing for His chosen people. During the reign of King Cyrus, God turned the tide of the Israelites circumstances. He “stirred up the spirit of King Cyrus of Persia” (Ezra 1:1). Cyrus set free a group of Jewish exiles, allowing them to return home. Psalm 126 describes this period of great elation for these ancient Israelites. The author of this psalm rejoiced over a significant event that seemed too good to be true. In fact, the psalmist said it all seemed like a dream. “When the Lord restored the fortunes of Zion, we were like those who dream” (Psalm 126:1).

Commentator James Limburg describes this time of waiting perfectly. “Psalm 126 comes from a people who are living between the times, between a good time remembered and another good time hoped for.”1 What about you? Are you in a period of dry, disappointing times? Do you feel that you’re living between two realms–between a time filled with fond memories, and another time waiting for good times to return again? While in this difficult season, have you taken your distress to the Lord in prayer? Have you asked God, “How long, Lord? How much longer until better times return?

We live in a fast-paced environment. The culture we live in believes in quick fixes, but God is never in a hurry. He ordains our days and the circumstances in our lives for our good and His glory. When burdened by a longing for better times, daily sow the seed of God’s Word into your circumstances. When our minds are soaked with His Word, God enlarges our spiritual perception to better discern our circumstances. Hebrews 4:14 says: “Indeed, the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword…it is able to judge the thoughts and intentions of the heart.” God’s Word is alive. And it has life-changing power. When we tap into His Word, it imparts power to our weary hearts. The Bible also says it is active; it gives us supernatural strength, to expectantly wait for God to work in our circumstances and see His promises fulfilled. “But those who wait for the Lord shall renew their strength, they shall mount up with wings like eagles, they shall run and not be weary, they shall walk and not faint” (Isaiah 40:31). By anticipating God’s promise of strength, we grow in hopeful expectation that God will move in our circumstances and usher in better times.

Those taken into captivity in Babylon were carried away in tears, signaling the start of discouraging circumstances that had no relief for seventy years. Their tears of sorrow became the seeds for a future harvest of joy that would be theirs later. Verse 6 says: “May those who sow in tears reap with shouts of joy.” God did the extraordinary and ended their bondage, thereby ushering in a new season of joy.

“Restore our fortunes, O Lord, like the watercourses in the Negeb” (v. 4). If God can end a season of drought and provide a year of abundant crops on the dry bed of the region known as Negeb, He is fully able to fill our weary spirits with joy by doing something remarkable for us. Your tears, when prayerfully sowed, are the seeds for your future harvest. “Those who go out weeping, bearing the seed for sowing, shall come home with shouts of joy, carrying their sheaves” (v). Sheaves are bundles of wheat tied together. Bringing in the sheaves means bringing in the harvest. God still desires to bless His children with events that astonish us. Like the dry beds of the Negeb, previously barren and void of life, He is able to restore our lives and bring joy out of our most difficult seasons. And move you to the other side of James Limburg’s quote to “another time hoped for.”

Have you experienced something so astonishing that it could only have been from God’s hand? If that’s the case, you can now be like the watercourses of Negeb. You can bring refreshment and encouragement to those still waiting for God to move them into better times. However, if you’re still waiting for God to usher in a season of better times, He knows your longing. He hears your prayers for better days ahead. Lean on Him while trusting Him to do a “new thing” (Isaiah 43:19) in your circumstances. The same God who restored the circumstances of the ancient Israelites will restore your circumstances – in His timing and according to His will, which is always in our best interest.



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The Anguished Man

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Vietnam3SoldiersHe was sitting there, his face appearing tired and worn; his clothes clean, but torn.

In his hand he held an old faded ball cap, and a small cat lay sleeping peacefully on his lap.

Lots of people were rushing by, but it was me who caught the strange man’s eye.

He smiled, then I smiled, but like all the others, I too quickly passed by.

“Mommy,” my daughter said to me, “What’s wrong with that man? Why does he sit out here all alone? And why does he look so sad?”

“I don’t know,” I guiltily replied. Curious, I stopped and glanced back. His head bent low as his hands were busy fingering shiny letters on his ball cap.

Instinctively I knew. It wasn’t hard to see. He was a  man of sacrifice and pain, now a misfit of society.

Then, carefully and meticulously, he placed his ball cap on his head, and then began to gently stroke the back of his beloved pet.

It was then I read the words of those shiny letters,

“Vietnam Vet.”

-Lisa N. Phillips

Olympic Size Unity

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The winter Olympics  of 2014 are underway and people from all over the world have descended upon Sochi, Russia. I did a little reading on Sochi and learned that it has a climate similar to San Diego, which is ironic as that is where I currently am while writing this. It shouldn’t come as a surprise then to learn that Sochi is frequented by tourists for its mild weather.

As I watched the opening ceremony, I couldn’t help but sense a blanket of unity descend upon the spectators as the evening program unfolded. Audiences from around the world set aside political, religious, or social differences in favor of global, but friendly competition. As each athlete strives for gold, or at least his or her personal best, fans assemble together cloaked in joy and unity.

Hebrews 12:1 says, “…let us run with perseverance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus the pioneer and perfecter of our faith…”(NRSV). Like an athlete who knows his or her sport thoroughly and is so preoccupied with how to perfect their skill level, those who profess to be Christians ought to also be occupied with Christ–a state of continuous abiding or dwelling to mature in their faith. One who closely dwells with Christ ought to also seek after a spirit of unity in all his or her relationships.

King David says in Psalm 133:1-3: “How very good and pleasant it is when kindred live together in unity! It is like the precious oil on the head, running down upon the beard, on the beard of Aaron, running down over the collar of his robes. A spirit of unity is like the dew of Hermon, which falls on the mountains of Zion.” The oil on the head and the dew of Mt. Hermon represent blessings from a life that strives to live in unity with others. Having a spirit of unity is like fragrant oil such as what Mary poured upon Jesus before his death on the cross. Broken open, the oil releases a fragrance. Likewise, when we live in harmonious relationships, our homes are blessed with the sweet fragrance of unity. Additionally, the dew that falls from the sky over Mt. Hermon resembles one’s spirit being refreshed. If we are drinking deeply from God’s Word, our spirits will be rested, revitalized, and restored for the work of maintaining a spirit of unity.

We may never compete in an Olympic event, but like athletes we are required to live disciplined lives and seek to maintain the spirit of unity. “…making every effort to maintain the unity of the spirit in the bond of peace” (Ephesians 3:3 nrsv). Without unity, the unbelieving world may miss the love of Christ that is inside Christ-followers.