Unintended Consequences

How could I have known
Of the unintended consequences
From a decision I made, an action I took

At that moment
It felt like the right thing to do

But now, I see a ripple effect
Which seems like a tsunami
Washing away what I hold dear

Though all around me, everything is slipping away
You alone O Lord will never leave, nor forsake me

Oh Lord, I cry out to You
As the waves crash in, help me hold on to the Anchor of my soul
Help me to trust You Lord Jesus, in the darkest night

Though my words fail, the Holy Spirit intercedes for me
My compassionate Savior prays for me and the merciful Father hears

Susan Bunts Wachtel
December 3, 2017

 

Sometimes its easier to see things in the lives of others, only to look back and see similar seasons in my own life. When I look back and see the trials the Lord has brought me through, I stand amazed. Thank You Jesus for not wasting one trial, or temptation or difficult season. Thank You for the growth that can take place in the most difficult circumstances. Though I can’t see the unintended circumstances that may come from something I do or say today, You can. Help me to look to You, listen and obey You as you guide and direct me.

 

 

Hard Reading

Last night, before going to sleep, I picked up my Bible to read from Matthew.  I don’t think I realized it until afterwards, when I started reading one of my favorite books “At Home in Mitford”, how challenging it can be to read Bible.

When I read the Bible, I’m examining myself in light of God’s word and that can be hard work!  While my outward actions and words might seem okay, God looks at my heart.  God uses His word to expose the thoughts and intentions of my heart and sometimes it’s not pretty. 

Praise God that I feel that conviction of the Holy Spirit.  Praise God that He is at work in me.  Praise God that when I submit to God in obedience, He changes and molds me into the person He designed me to be, making me into the image and likeness of Christ.  That work will continue until I die.

While I’ll enjoy reading books, fiction and non-fiction, it can be a way to escape and to not confront myself with the mirror of God’s word.  That’s not to say I shouldn’t read books other than the Bible, but I need to put the word of God first in my life.  I need to be ready and willing to let God do the hard work of shining the Light into the dark recesses of my heart and mind and clean out the uglies. 

Listening for the Lord

Do you ever experience those times…when God seems to be silent? 
 
That’s what I’ve been experiencing.  Recently, my husband Chris and I were on vacation and departed from our normal routines.  As much as we need vacations…there’s something that I like about ordinary life.  It’s easier for me to be disciplined in prayer and the study of God’s word when I’m at home.  I find that when I’m living out of a suitcase and traveling from place to place it’s harder for me to be focused in my prayers or to read the Bible without distraction.  So while part of me would like some more time off from work…I appreciate getting back into a disciplined schedule. 
 
While on vacation…I didn’t listen to my I-Pod which is chock full of sermons and Biblically based programs.  I missed it greatly.  During the long drive home…I had the time to put on my head phones and listen to God’s word again….and it felt like a welcomed friend.
 
Since then I’ve been working on my Bible study, reading God’s word and coming before the throne of grace in prayer.  Despite that…my spiritual tanks seem low.  I feel like God has been silent.  I’ve prayed that if there was an area of sin or something that is displeasing to the Lord, that God would help me to see it so that I can repent. 
 
I praise God that daily I can ask for Him to forgive my trespasses as I forgive those who trespass against me.  But I didn’t feel as though God was bringing to mind an area of disobedience that I needed to address.  Yet…the silence continue and I found myself focusing more and more on me and continuing to ask, “Lord what have I done wrong?”.

When I read my morning email devotional from Elizabeth Elliot a quote leap off the page at me, “There is another reason, I think, for the cause of the feeling (a spirit of discontent) within us.  It comes from the flesh and self-introspection.  It is good for us to look at self and know how loathsome it is, but with one look at self we must take ten looks at Christ.”

When I read that quote, I realized that in the time of silence from God, I had turned my focus inward.  In my attempt to examine myself for sin or a barrier between God and me…I had taken my eyes off the Lord. 

I need to keep my eyes on the Lord Jesus Christ, stay in the word of God and preserver in prayer.  God calls us to walk by faith, not by sight.   I must not allow myself to be drawn off course by my feelings.  When I’ve sinned, I can trust the Holy Spirit to bring it to mind so that I can confess and repent. 

No matter if it’s a fruitful and intimate time with the Lord or a time of silence…I need to keep my eyes on Jesus Christ.

The Forgotten God

He is the Forgotten God
Oft thought of as “It”, rather than He
 
In today’s church He bears little resemblance
To the Holy Spirit’s work in New Testament believers
 
Do our lives reflect the work of the Holy Spirit
Or do we desire to experience more
 
He is the promised Counselor and Comforter
Our bodies are His temple and He resides within
 
The Holy Spirit has been unleashed
He is available to all believers
 
He empowers us with supernatural gifts for the brethren
Through Him we can put sin to death in us
 
Our lives can be radically different
Won’t you yield to the Holy Spirit’s active work within? 
by Susan Bunts Wachtel
May 21, 2010
 
This poem was inspired by Francis Chan’s new book “The Forgotten God”. 

Darkness of the Soul

There is a certain darkness to your soul
Unapproachable
A place where no one can come in

Your thoughts remain private
Silence
I’m at a loss on what to say or do

A frown so deep, so low
Profound
Sadness, loneliness or is it anger I see

I cry out to God
Desperate
For His presence to go before you

My words so ineffective
Intercede Holy Spirit
Translate when I don’t know what to pray

Susan Bunts Wachtel
July 15, 2009


Susan Blog Sig 2

The Pretender

He sat in the pews among us
Heard sermons proclaiming God’s Word
Sang the great hymns alongside us
He was with us, but not of us

Sermons were heard
But his heart was not convicted
Hymns were sung
But there was no worship in his heart nor praise on his lips

He tasted the Bread of Life
But did not eat
He sipped the Living Water
But did not drink

His heart has become hardened
His ears accustomed to tuning out the Word of God
The Holy Spirit knocks at the door of his heart
But that knocking will one day cease

He has been enlightened, tasted and shared
In the goodness and mercy of the Lord
Yet he continues to sin
There is no sign of repentance

Oh Lord
May he heed Your warning
That it is impossible for those who have fallen away
To be brought back to repentance

By Susan Bunts Wachtel
May 31, 2009

Hebrews 6:4-6

It is impossible for those who have once been enlightened, who have tasted the heavenly gift, who have shared in the Holy Spirit, who have tasted the goodness of the word of God and the powers of the coming age, if they fall away, to be brought back to repentance, because to their loss they are crucifying the Son of God all over again and subjecting him to public disgrace.

It was sobering hearing a Bible study taught by Pastor Dave Dunn on Hebrew 6:1-8. We all know people who sit alongside us in church that are not Christians. They hear the Word of God but continue unrepentant in their sin. Tuning out the warnings of the Holy Spirit.

There may be some who give the appearance of being a Christian, but there is no growth or demonstration of the fruit of the Spirit in their life. While there may be no overt sin, their hearts are far from God and they will one day walk away. They are in church, but not in Christ. Oh Lord, may they not presume upon Your mercy and but turn to You for forgiveness of their sin. Today is the day of salvation.

Oh Lord, may I examine my own heart, mind, will and actions. Measure them against Your Word. May I have ears to hear and a heart that is quick to repent and turn to You.

Victory

Tonight, the Lord enabled me

To snatch victory from the jaws of the enemy




When I heard the word…a smile crossed my lips

“Yes Lord…forgive”




The battle began early

I felt pummeled…assaulted on every side




Relentless…unending

Subtle…but it was an effective attack




Who would recognize it

Trace it back…to the enemy




Who would recognize the handwriting

Scripted by the hater of my soul




It felt like a war

The enemy was on every front




It left me wounded and numb

Spent…barely able to lift my head




Then the “piece of resistance”

Words wielded…left me battered and bloody




Oh Lord…just get me through this day

Help me to not respond in kind




Understanding their true nature

Brought no comfort




Knowledge that they are but a puppet of the enemy

Was not a healing balm to my soul




But in the quiet…at the end of the day

I came to the end of my reserves




It was there that the Holy Spirit reminded me

Of my “new nature” in Christ




He’s the One

When He whispered the word, “Forgive”…peace filled my soul




He’s the One who will enable me to return the arena

Enter where the prowling lions seek to devour me




Yet I fear not…for He is the One

Who will shut tight the jaws that would otherwise crush me




Tonight…the Holy Spirit within

Enabled me to forgive




In doing so He snatched victory

From the deadly jaws of Satan




A powerful and effective foe to a created one

But a defeated foe to the Kind of kings and Lord of lords




By Susan Bunts

September 9, 2008

Transforming Power

In my weakness
I want to turn around and walk away
But by the power of the Holy Spirit
I will return to the lion’s den this day

In my flesh
I want to strike back
But under the control of the Holy Spirit
I will choose to turn the other cheek

In my sin nature
I want to tell others of the offense against me
By the transforming power of Christ within
I will instead offer a prayer for the offender

In my humanity
Tears flow as I’m surrounded by quite
From the Word planted in my heart
I’m reminded that God will wipe every tear from my eyes

In my solitude
I attempt to wrestle against the spiritual forces of darkness
When I remember I am part of the body of Christ
I reach out and ask for my day to be covered in prayer

In my self confidence
I fail to prepare for spiritual warfare
In His wisdom, power and strength
I put on the full armor of God so I can stand against the devil’s schemes

By Susan Bunts
July 25, 2008

Cause & Effect

The week didn’t start out that way…and it surely was not my intent to not complete my Bible Study Fellowship homework. But there it was…Sunday night and well after 11 pm, and the only thing I had done was read the notes. Yikes…how did that happen?

Yes, I had a busy schedule. But not more than normal…not really. I’d be hard pressed to tell you what I did that supplanted the attention that I normally devote to Bible study time. After going through a week without that personal study time…I can tell you…there is a price to be paid for not studying.

Despite the fact my lesson was blank I wanted to go to class tonight. I got there just in time for the lecture. As usual…Terri’s lecture was compelling and convicting. The images and words that Terri shared… I could not get out of my head. Terri described how two young girls hung on the words of a hymn and were in awe when learning about Jesus for the first time. They were in awe. When’s the last time I was in awe of God…or enraptured by what I was learning?

Terry contrasted that with their mom…who sat a distance away…with her arms folded. Ears hearing…but not a listening heart. Is that me? I pray not.

But God drove home the point…as I drove home. The Holy Spirit convicted me of not putting God first this week. Yes…I was in church…and at my regular Bible studies…and even attended the prayer meeting. But I didn’t read the Book. Each day…I’m eager to put in CD’s to hear great preaching…I’m drinking from an abundant well…but I’m left thirsty.

Then I realized…that by not taking the time to do my study, to read the Bible for myself…I was neglecting my personal relationship with God. There is a time and place for all the above activities. They are very good…but not when they take the place of personal Bible study time.

God brought to mind the analogy of a husband saying he was knows and is communicating with his wife…but he has no personal or direct contact with her. Instead of seeing her and talking with her face to face…or speaking directly to her on the phone…he’s satisfied with talking to her friends or family to find out how she’s doing. They may even be giving an accurate assessment of how his wife is doing…but it in no way substitutes for personal interaction. To know and see her for himself.

That’s exactly what I was doing. Listening to sermons or Bible studies is a good. But it never should replace my own personal Bible study time. Even if the Pastor is accurate and effective in preaching the word of God…I’m hearing it through someone else’s filter. I’m not hearing God speak directly to me through the study of His word.

The husband and wife analogy is an apt description. Just as husband would more inclined to start looking elsewhere and be tempted to stray when he doesn’t foster and maintain that personal relationship…so too am I vulnerable to wandering.

As the old hymn goes, “Prone to wander, Lord I feel it, Prone to leave the God I love”. But the remedy is simple, yet not easy. “Here’s my heart, Oh take and seal it, Seal it for Thy courts above”. That sealing…that binding takes place when I’m studying and reading His word for myself…daily.

Trustworthy Guide

Not too long ago I found myself shifting uncomfortably in my seat as a new class member in my Bible Study Fellowship group spoke. She shared that she found the lessons so challenging that she was able to answer them only when she started her lesson by praying. Praying for God to give her wisdom and guide her as she studied the passage and answered the questions.

Since I’ve been in BSF for so many years…the answers usually come easy…perhaps too easy. As a result I may fail to begin my lesson in prayer…and my first thought is not always…let me pray to God for wisdom in answering this question.

When my new classmate said that she has to begin her lesson in prayer…I felt the conviction of the Holy Spirit…a nudge…a reminder. I should not be presumptuous, but instead come humbly before the Lord and ask for His guidance, wisdom and discernment.

I can tell I’m off track…when I’m completing my lesson and I come to a question that is difficult and I get frustrated. Instead of excited that God is going to show me something new…I start stressing. The frustration factor is multiplied when I’m doing my lesson late in the week, rather than daily.

Tonight I had a tough question…what does Matthew 11:11 mean?

“I tell you the truth: Among those born of women there has not risen anyone greater than John the Baptist; yet he who is least in the kingdom of heaven is greater than he.” – Matthew 11:11

And I had no idea what the answer was. At first…I thought I’d go on and come back and complete it later. Soon I had to leave for church. I chatted with folks at the prayer meeting to get their consensus. I listened…but it still didn’t connect.

When I got home…a visit to Bible Gateway afforded me the opportunity to read the passage in several different versions. The snag with Bible Study Fellowship is that you can’t use commentaries to help you answer your question. You must only use the Bible. You can also look up definitions in the dictionary…but that’s it. After reading the passages…I asked God for wisdom and stepped away from the computer.

As I did so…God brought to mind the passage in Matthew 20:26 which states that if we are to be great in God’s kingdom…we are to be a servant of all. That seemed to answer most of the question…but I was still uncertain what God meant when he said we would be “great”. After all how could we greater than John the Baptist?

Will I was off to my second tool…Webster’s online dictionary to look up the word “great”. There were several definitions that seemed to fit: remarkable in magnitude, degree, or effectiveness”, “superior in character or quality”, or “used as a generalized term of approval”.

While not 100% sure of my answer…I believe that Matthew 11:11 tells us that if we serve others, consider others more valuable than ourselves and serve them…then we will be considered great in God’s kingdom. Effective in carrying out God’s work and that work will be approved by God.

Jesus himself came to serve others. “For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.” – Mark 10:45

If Jesus…the Son of God served…how much more should I serve others?

I look forward to hearing the other woman think this passage means, as well as our leader Terri…and of course the lesson’s notes.

Even if my answer varies…I still learned a valuable lesson that when I seek to know God and His word, I need to go to Him in prayer first. For He will be faithful to answer that prayer.

9/19/07 At the End of the Day…Reining In of the Holy Spirit

Today I experienced the unmistakable reining in of the Holy Spirit.

After a few days of inconvenience caused by someone who erred…I was tempted to dwell upon it and perhaps drop a well timed clever put down for the audience at hand. Thankfully that good old conviction of the Holy Spirit stopped me short of being mean spirited and speaking in a gossipy rude manner. Thank you Jesus!

Being that I fully understand when Paul said that “nothing good dwells in me”…the temptation to speak rudely did not go away entirely.

But when driving this morning…as my mind started to dwell on the situation…God reined me. Not only about not speaking poorly about someone…but He convicted me for even choosing think along those lines. He challenged me, “Susan…before you so easily complain, have you thought about praying for this person? Praying for the situation to be resolved? Offered to help make it better? What they did was not done intentionally and it went from bad to worse. Susan you’ve been there, done that…and you want to put this person down…for what? Don’t you think they are already getting hassled and snippy comments coming there way? I’d bank on it.”

With the Holy Spirit’s help…the desire to complain stopped and I knew that I had chosen what God would have me to do.

“Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.” – Philippians 4:8

Complaining…while perhaps even justified or understandable…is very destructive, for both the hearer and the speaker. It’s lazy and prideful.

There is nothing good that comes out of that type of complaining. There is room to address genuine issues. However that really needs to be done in a one on one basis and in a straightforward manner. That’s a healthy way to address situations. But it requires thought, patience and restraint when it may feel better initially to verbally or emotionally hit back after being hurt.

Sometimes doing the right thing isn’t always the easiest or may not feel the best…at that time. But in the end…when I choose to do the right thing…I have peace with God and with people. I’m not left feeling guilty for saying the wrong thing and I’m not being kept up late at night wishing I could take back what I have done.

Today the Holy Spirit reined me in. My question is…does Jesus Christ reign in me? If not, why? What will it take for me to surrender to His power, guidance and direction in my life?

“When we put bits into the mouths of horses to make them obey us, we can turn the whole animal. Or take ships as an example. Although they are so large and are driven by strong winds, they are steered by a very small rudder wherever the pilot wants to go. Likewise the tongue is a small part of the body, but it makes great boasts. Consider what a great forest is set on fire by a small spark. The tongue also is a fire, a world of evil among the parts of the body. It corrupts the whole person, sets the whole course of his life on fire, and is itself set on fire by hell. All kinds of animals, birds, reptiles and creatures of the sea are being tamed and have been tamed by man, but no man can tame the tongue. It is a restless evil, full of deadly poison. With the tongue we praise our Lord and Father, and with it we curse men, who have been made in God’s likeness. Out of the same mouth come praise and cursing. My brothers, this should not be. Can both fresh water and salt water flow from the same spring? My brothers, can a fig tree bear olives, or a grapevine bear figs? Neither can a salt spring produce fresh water.” James 3:3-12

Bless those that curse you?

It’s a darn good thing that I’m involved with Bible study…in more ways than one. One grand benefit that studying scripture affords me is the opportunity to measure my life, my words, my thoughts and deeds according to God’s word.

There are days…I’m feeling right fine about myself….but when I read the Word of God…well let’s just say the Holy Spirit is working overtime…doing some conviction. Not condemnation mind you…no that’s the work of Satan. But conviction…that’s something else.

It’s kind of like that internal pressure that nudges me to repentance and obedience.

This year I’m studying the book of Romans in BSF. I just love it…it’s my second time around and Romans is my very favorite book of the Bible. This last week we studied chapter 12:9-21. This passage talks a lot about love, walking in love and not seeking retribution on your enemies.

Not that I have an abundance of enemies…but I think it’s rather hard to get through this life without ruffling a few feather along the way. Sometimes intentionally and sometimes not.

I found this passage to be a most helpful reminder on how I am to act toward people whom I may not like. As a Christian…I’m called upon to die to self. That means laying down my grudge or rights and acting how God calls me to act towards them.

How should I act toward my enemies? God calls me to do good unto my enemies. Not only do good…but bless them too. He affirms that in His perfect timing, if He deems it necessary, He will avenge wrongs.

The question is…am I going to trust God and take Him at His word? What will be a sign that I’m trusting God? It will be my obedience to His commands.

So how might I bless my enemies? One of the first things that comes to mind is to pray for them. For their salvation and for God help them, guide them and direct them when they are having difficulties. Praying for someone’s salvation…even for your enemy is easy in comparison to blessing them. Sometimes that might mean acting in a kind way as you would towards a friend. It might be praying that God would bless them…and help them to get that promotion or find a husband or take a much needed restful vacation.

Trusting God…is what makes the difference. Having that eternal perspective instead of getting caught up with what’s happening down here on earth.

Perhaps as I do good to my enemies…God will work in each of our lives and make a friend out of an enemy. Friends are much easier to forgive…and I’m happy when God blesses my friends…and I don’t anxiously await their judgment.

Recently…God showed me the fruits of restraint. A while back…after walking though the door…an individual walked several feet away from me and proceeded to make a nasty remark about me. Not discretely or in whispered tones to a friend…but instead quite loudly to an audience. While flummoxed, hurt and angry inside…I chose to ignore it and move on. As I continued to interact with this person…I made sure that I treated them considerately. Little did I know how right that choice was. After the passing a beloved relative…God opened the door for me to interact with them. I was able to be genuinely caring and offer a kind word. Now if I had reacted like I had wanted to when originally offended…I would have destroyed any chance for peaceful interaction in the future.

Is that how I always act in dicey situations? No…but seeing the fruits a right choice…makes it easier to choose wisely in the future. Continually reading and studying the Bible…will help arm the Holy Spirit as He gently corrects me…and help grow me up.