WIDE AWAKE It is always hard for me to rest the night before I have to do something I do not want to do. My mind races with questions, fears, anxious thoughts, and concerns. When I do sleep, my dreams are uneasy. Further, it difficult for me to pray when I am distraught. In vain you rise early and stay up late, toiling for food to eat – for he grants sleep to those he loves. (Psalm 127:2) Since I cannot sleep, does this mean that I have exhausted the love of God? No, God still loves me dearly. I am just having a very bad night. The momentary insomnia provides the evidence that I am struggling with my faith. This is not necessarily a hopeless situation. Increasing our faith is somewhat like bodybuilding. We must walk through difficult scenarios to become spiritually stronger. Each person seems to have his or her are of weakness. Just as the muscles will fail on occasion, we, too, will have our moments of spiritual malfunction. Fortunately, these things are quickly corrected with prayer, trust, empowerment from the Holy Spirit, and hope. In short, God comforts and restores us. Our wounds serve as a reminder not to fail on the next occasion. I lift up my eyes to the hills – where does my help come from? My help comes from the LORD, the Maker of heaven and earth. He will not let your foot slip – he who watches over you will not slumber; indeed, he who watches over Israel will neither slumber nor sleep. (Psalm 121:1-4)
PEACE ON THE WATER
Jesus spent much time on the Sea of Galilee with His disciples. Although they traveled through a few storms, it was often a quiet place of peace. This enabled Jesus to sped special times with His team of future leaders. The boat seemed to be just he right size for such expeditions.
The apostles gathered around Jesus and reported to him all they had done and taught. The, because so many people were coming and going they did not even have a chance to eat, he said to them, “Come with me by yourselves to a quiet place and get some rest.”
So, they went away by themselves in a boat to a solitary place. (Mark 6:30-32)
Our alone time with the Lord is significant. We, too, need to seek a place of peace when our life becomes too busy for prolonged. Periods. Often, it is a matter of prioritization. It may be necessary to schedule these moments so that they are not missed.
Is it okay to spend money on leisure? In my opinion, if the result is quiet time with the Lord, then it is acceptable. If the activity adds to our busyness, then it is unprofitable. Remember that a serene walk costs very little.
Jesus’ ministry was more than busy. Crowds followed Him throughout the region. The water provided a place of peace, or a vehicle to a solitary place, that was difficult to find elsewhere.
Does your schedule need more quiet time with the Lord? What can be re-prioritized? If Jesus rested His disciples, are we exempt? God instituted the seventh day of rest a s gift for His people. We may not be subject to Old Testament Law; however, the wisdom of the idea is obvious. When are your special moments with the Master?
We have plenty of squirrels our backyard. These ambitious creatures are forever foraging. Their nests bulge with surplus; yet, they are driven to find more. Their strength is in their ability to acquire.
It is uncommon for God to give s a surplus. More often He provides what we need for each day. This can be difficult for people who have a squirrel mentality. Learning to live one day at a time is problematic. The Lord is faithful while the situation remains uncomfortable.
He said to them, “When you pray, say: ‘Father, hallowed by your name, your kingdom come. Give us each day our daily bread.’” (Words of Jesus, Luke 11:2-3)
God wants to be our source of strength and stability. He does not want our acquisitions or surpluses to be our security. This keeps us actively seeking His provisions. The Lord is not attempting to enslave, but rather understands our desperate need for constant fellowship with Him. This interaction is vital to our spiritual health.
If we only speak with God when we are uncomfortable and communication is His greatest desire, is it any wonder we are in constant need? This is an important principle. The more time we spend in fellowship with Him, the more peaceful life becomes. Even when the difficulties do not change. His solace makes life sweet.
The application for this is obvious. We need to prioritize our time with the Almighty. He has all that we need. Further, we don’t have to be alarmed or disturbed by His “daily provisions.” He knows that we require an additional allotment in the morning.
Get A Job!
Our forefather, Adam, enjoyed the good life. Along with Eve, they lived in a paradise that makes any vacation seem subpar. They were blissfully ignorant of stress, overtime, budget restraints, customers, labor disputes, interviews, meetings, promotions, terminations, competition, share holders, reports, lawsuits, and graveyard shifts. All of that changed after sin entered the world.
To Adam he said, “Because you listened to your wife and ate from the tree about which I commanded you, ‘You must not eat of it,’ Cursed is the ground because of you; through painful toil you will eat of it all the days of your life. It will produce thorns and thistles for you, and you will eat the plants of the field. By the sweat of your brow you will eat your food until you return to the ground, since from it you were taken, for dust you are ad to dust you will return.” (Genesis 3:17-19)
Work is a curse. We were designed to be perpetually on vacation. Since this is impossible, we must labor. God promises ultimate rest in the world to come if we love Him. Until then, life will be arduous. Still, the peace of god fills our lives with purpose, strength, rest and joy.
“Come to me, all of you who are weary and burdened and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” (Words of Jesus, Matthew 11:28-30)
Busy, Busy, Busy
It is said, “Idle hands are the devil’s workshop.” That passage is found in 2 Opinions. In other words, it is not in the Bible. Laziness is clearly addressed in multiple passages; however, the need for rest is also presented. God does not want His people running on empty.
Be at rest once more, O my soul, for the LORD has been good to you. (Psalm 116:7)
Television may seem like a great distraction; however, it is far from relaxing. In my opinion, most shows cause an adrenaline rush which is the situation we are trying to avoid. It is better to find a less stressful activity. Still, searching for an undisturbed moment or two can be difficult for many.
God’s enemy likes to keep us busy. He knows we will eventually burnout without the proper care. Junk food, sleeplessness, and too much adrenaline all feed into the downward spiral. Eventually, the crash occurs.
In the seventh day God had finished the work he had been doing; so on the seventh day he rested from all his work. And God blessed the seventh day and make it holy, because on it he rested from all the work of creating that he had done. (Genesis 2:2-3)
We can follow God’s example with a time of rest. We can unplug from the internet, turn off the cell phone, and find some quiet time with our Lord. In the New testament, we are given freedom to choose our moments. In my case, I like to keep my pastoral activities on Fridays to a minimum.
One man considers one day more sacred than another, another man considers every day alike. Each one should be fully convinced in his own mind. He who regards one day as special, does so to the Lord. (Romans 14:5-6)
Jesus said to His disciples, “Follow me.” Initially it meant that He would become their instructor. Through time, they would discover that the Savior was much more. Two-thousand years later, “Follow me,” is just as powerful.
No matter how long we have been following Christ, we are still learning better ways to do things. Each day becomes a fresh adventure in Him. At times, the path seems gentle. On other occasions, it seems like we are climbing the Matterhorn of faith.
Trust in the LORD with all your heart and lean not on your won understanding: in all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make your paths straight. (Proverbs 3:5-6)
The second part of this command, “lean not on your won understanding,” is perhaps the hardest. Our plans, desires, and dreams are jettisoned in the shadow of Christ. We think that we know our limitations, resources, and abilities. This is true without the divine empowerment of God’s Spirit. This means if God calls us, He is responsible to provide for our needs, spiritually, physically, and emotionally. I believe 90% of the difficulties in discipleship come from our battle to release control.
Ski slopes are categorized by ability. There are expert, intermediate, and novice slopes. Sitting around the lodge drinking cocoa does not prepare one for the Olympics. We may like the bunny slopes, but God has black diamonds on His mind.
The same thing is true about our spiritual growth. Following Jesus is much more than attending a half-hour weekly Sunday service. Instead, we must apply our faith daily. I recommend starting each morning in prayer.
Special blessings to you during the month of May as we focus on prayer.
FEAR IS A LIAR
And he said to his disciples, “Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat, nor about your body, what you will put on. For life is more than food, and the body more than clothing.Consider the ravens: they neither sow nor reap, they have neither storehouse nor barn, and yet God feeds them. Of how much more value are you than the birds! And which of you by being anxious can add a single hour to his span of life? If then you are not able to do as small a thing as that, why are you anxious about the rest? (Luke 12:22-26)
It is easy to forget Jesus’ words when we are going through struggles in our lives. Our minds and imaginations wander in a multitude of areas and scenarios and we forget that our lives are the Lord’s and He always has the best plan for us. Focus on that. Do not allow fear to creep in and overtake for God has control of our lives and He will not abandon us!
Thank you Lord, for never leaving or forsaking us. In Jesus’s name, Amen!
The walls of the city of Jericho in the time of Joshua were impressive. Houses or apartments were part of the structure. The city had the best defense for the technology of the day. The only way known to defeat such a fortress was a long siege. This stronghold was unconquerable for an army of desert wanderers.
Joshua’s army was different. His soldiers were raised on God’s miraculous daily provisions. Further, there was a cloud, which also appeared like fire at night, that reminded the people of God’s presence. This army had faith. Because they trusted in the Lord, they were unimpressed by the size of the great walls of Jericho. They were accustomed to the power of God.
Then the LORD said to Joshua, “See, I have delivered Jericho into your hands, along with its king and its fighting men. March around the city once with all the armed men. Do this for six days. Have seven priests carry trumpets of rams’ horns in front of the ark. On the seventh day, march around the city seven times, with the priests blowing the trumpets. When you hear them sound a long blast on the trumpets, have all the people give a loud shout: then the wall of the city will collapse and the people will go up, every man straight in.” (Joshua 6:2-5)
Just as God had promised, the walls of the city fell. The miraculous power of the Lord destroyed them in an instant. The impenetrable fortress was defeated. Is anything too hard for the Almighty?
We face situations that seem impossible. These are the moments that define our faith. Are we overwhelmed by the size of our problems? If God is calling us to “advance” are we willing to follow?
Dear Father, You clearly understand the challenges that I am facing. You also know my fears, past failures, and doubts. I ask that You will strengthen my resolve, empower me with the Holy Spirit and lead to victory. I cannot do this without You. You are a mighty worker of miracles. Therefore, I trust You with my life. In the mighty name of Jesus, Amen.
GOD HAS A PLAN
In the midst of the storms of life, it is difficult to remember that God always has a plan. God’s intellect is beyond our understanding. For example, He knows what we had for breakfast (or what we are goin to eat) on our fortieth birthday. It is the application of this idea that is empowering. If we jettison our plans in favor of His, the incredible occurs.
Are not five sparrows sold for two pennies? Yet not one of them is forgotten by God. Indeed, the very hairs of your head are all numbered. Don’t be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows. (Luke 12:6-7)
When problems will not abate, we are tempted to abandon God’s plan for something seems more reasonable. These decisions are often made from fear. Ironically, they can be the worst choices of our lives. The chaos may momentarily be avoided, but the long term repercussions are significant.
If God understands everything, then He must know how powerful fear is in our lives. Further, if He knows that we are going to fail when tempted, why does He allow the storm at all? Just as a child in first grade cannot possibly pass an analytical geometry class, it seems unreasonable to ask us to overcome something so innate.
Thoughts such as these are spiritually crippling. Do we really believe that God is cruel, foolish, or unloving? Will He destroy us because He is careless? Would He allow something horrible into our lives knowing that we could not possibly taste victory through it?
Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword? As it is written: “For your sake we face death all day long; we are considered as sheep to be slaughtered.” No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am convinced that either death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, or anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord. (Romans 8:35-39)
Nothing rattled Paul’s faith in the goodness of God. Even when he was imprisoned he never wavered. He emerged a better man from each of the storms that he faced. What may have seemed like madness to others, spiritually strengthened this apostle. This was all part of God’s perfect plan.
Today, Paul is in the loving presence of Jesus. He is enjoying the best comfort. Further, he is cheering for us as we discover our faith through the trials of life. Throughout eternity this saint will be highly honored for his incredible, unshakable, powerful, and transforming trust in God. Considering Paul’s example, how will we be remembered?