Day 101 – Get behind me Satan

Daily Readings Judges 3-4, Mark 8, Psalm 67

He then began to teach them that the Son of Man must suffer many things and be rejected by the elders, the chief priests and the teachers of the law, and that he must be killed and after three days rise again. He spoke plainly about this, and Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him.

 But when Jesus turned and looked at his disciples, he rebuked Peter. “Get behind me, Satan!” he said. “You do not have in mind the concerns of God, but merely human concerns.” 

Mark 8:31-33

I have heard it said many times that friends tell you what you want to hear, but true friends tell you what you need to hear.

While I agree with this sentiment and find it absolutely true that we should always seek to surround ourselves with people in our lives that will challenge us, push us, and call out the best in us; it strikes me that this statement oversimplifies it a bit.

The reality is that friends, family members, and colleagues frequently love us so much that they just don’t want to see us struggle. They don’t want to see us in pain. They believe that their advice truly is in our best interest.

Sometimes it is.

However, sometimes, they are simply telling us to take the easy road when that is not God’s will in our lives.

As a friend it can be extremely challenging to know where the line is. It is difficult knowing whether a particular challenge in someone’s life is one that they need to remove themselves from or one that they are meant to push through and grow from. Unless you are incredibly close to the situation and have the full context, it is easy to offer bad advice. Sometimes, we even believe that we have 100% of the context, and yet there may be more to it than we realize.

Peter was trying to help. Peter didn’t want to see Jesus suffer. Unfortunately, Peter wanted to see Jesus live out PETER’S plan for Jesus’ life, not the plan that God had designed. And here is the thing, how many of us would have been much different than Peter at this moment?

The Jewish people spent hundreds of years picturing a Messiah coming in as a conquering war hero like the judges we read about today. They pictured the Messiah overthrowing the Roman Empire and establishing a new Jewish Kingdom that reigned forever.

God had a different Kingdom in mind, an eternal one.

Peter was quite literally Jesus’ right hand man. Jesus would later say that Peter was the rock on which he would build his church. I would dare to say that Peter would qualify as a true friend.

However Peter is also human, just like us.

So, when you get advice from a friend to remove yourself from a challenge in your life, when you are tempted to take the road that seems easier at the moment, when you have friends and family members asking, “Why are you still trying so hard to…” I think it is important to bring that question to God. It is important to spend time in God’s word, take SERIOUS time prayerfully considering whether this is a challenge in your life God wants you to push through and grow from, or whether your friends and family are right in their assessment.

It is so easy to accept advice from people telling us to the do the thing that would be emotionally easier in the moment. That is what we have desperately wanted to do as well! At those moments it is easy to think, “This is a trusted, wise, and Godly friend! I should heed their advice!” Sometime this is true and their advice is spot on.

However, sometimes they may be playing the role of Peter.

They may genuinely think they know what is best for you, not wanting to see you in pain, thinking they are giving Godly advice from a place of love, but ultimately missing God’s bigger plan.

In these times, we need to have the confidence to say, “Get behind me Satan.”

(Not literally, since that is a pretty easy way to lose friendships!)

For me, I have found the easiest way to discern God’s will is to really prayerfully consider big plans in my life before ever embarking on them. I know that there will come a point in any difficult endeavor where I want to quit. I know I am going to want to be like every major character in the Bible that wanted to turn back at some point in the mist of the challenge. So, I want to make sure I have thoroughly thought through my decision before I commit.

A mentor of mine said that it is important to pray over decisions and commitments while rational and then stick to what God has told you when you turn emotional. When we are emotional the easiest thing in the world to do is say, “I feel like God is leading me to…” and spiritualize our emotions in order to justify avoiding hard moments in life. I know I have been guilty of that!

At these moments, we probably have many Peters in our life ready to come with seemingly good advice that we are desperate to hear. We want an out. We want someone else to justify turning back from the path God has set us on. At these moments we need to really try to settle our hearts, turn back to God and ask with an open mind, “Have you changed the path you want me on, or is this a challenge I am meant to overcome?”

Sometimes the answers don’t come immediately. We live in such a western culture that demands the instantaneous. We do not serve a God that works on our timeline. He works on his.

My encouragement to you is this, if God has previously put something in your path that you really felt called to, continue to push through challenges until a door has been CLEARLY shut. Otherwise, we may be falling prey to our normal human emotions and miss out on the incredible work God has planned for us if we just trust fully in him and embrace the ups and downs that come with a life of service.

God never promised that serving him faithfully would be easy, but he did promise that he would be in the yoke with us. He did promise to share the load if we would allow him to walk alongside us.

Peter was eventually Jesus’ rock on which he built his church, but he was also human.

Appreciate the Peters in your life. Even if their advice is not always helpful at the moment and you instantly know is incorrect; remember that they love you. They are just trying to help.

God has bigger plans. Don’t be afraid to turn to the father and seek those bigger plans out.

Thought to ponder

When was the last time you were tempted to turn back from a path that God set you on when it was getting hard? How did you respond? How would you like to respond in the future?

Day 100 – That which defiles us

Daily Readings: Judges 1-2, Mark 7, Proverbs 12

Again Jesus called the crowd to him and said, “Listen to me, everyone, and understand this. Nothing outside a person can defile them by going into them. Rather, it is what comes out of a person that defiles them.” 

He went on: “What comes out of a person is what defiles them. For it is from within, out of a person’s heart, that evil thoughts come—sexual immorality, theft, murder, adultery, greed, malice, deceit, lewdness, envy, slander, arrogance and folly. All these evils come from inside and defile a person.”

Mark 7:14-15, 20-23

In the Jewish world, being defiled was a big deal. So much effort went into remaining “ceremonially clean”. By the time Jesus arrives on the scene the Jewish establishment spent far more time worrying about a handful of regulations than actually following the will of God.

Jesus wasn’t having it.

I love Jesus.

I love Jesus not only because he was the perfect son of God who came down willingly to lay down his life for us so that we might have an eternal relationship with his father in Heaven; but also because he was unafraid of speaking the truth boldly and calling out hypocrisy.

Jesus gets angry a handful of times throughout the Bible and it was never directed at “sinners”. It was always directed at those that would claim to be followers of God and yet lead others astray by focusing on the wrong things.

The religious leaders of the day were more concerned with appearing ceremonially clean than with truly seeking after the will of God and bringing that to life in a broken and fallen world.

Over and over again throughout the scripture Jesus goes after our hearts. He wants us to truly understand this.

“What comes out of a person is what defiles them. For it is from within, out of a person’s heart, that evil thoughts come—sexual immorality, theft, murder, adultery, greed, malice, deceit, lewdness, envy, slander, arrogance and folly. All these evils come from inside and defile a person.”

It got me thinking today about the American Church and what Jesus would say if he arrived on the scene now. If the Jewish leaders of the day were obsessed with being ceremonially unclean and seemed to miss the bigger picture, what would Jesus say we are obsessed with today that may be clouding our thought process and keeping us from truly striving to do the will of God?

It seems to me that there are two separate Christian universes in America today. There is the Sunday morning church service itself, where I see all sorts of amazing truth being preached. I see church leaders preaching fruits of the spirit, helping those in need, leaning on God, having courage in the face of adversity, etc. If we walked out of those doors and, as the body of Christ, were motivated to go live out what we had just heard, the world would be changed in a generation!

Then you jump on social media. Here we find a different universe entirely.

Social media does a great job of highlighting what people find important enough to share with the world. There is this beautiful platform where we can, quite literally, say anything we want to the entire world that is willing to listen!

How do we use it as a body of Christ?

Then you can click over to the news and see “Christian Leaders” on talking head shows that have been given an even larger platform to reach even more people for Jesus.

What message do we see there?

The overwhelming message Jesus would see people, who claim to follow him, putting out into the world today would be salute the American Flag, racism is a thing of the past and doesn’t need to be talked about so much, assault weapons are an absolute right that cannot be taken away, abortion is wrong, and homosexuality is ruining the country.

I am not trying to make a statement on any one of these issues. I am simply stating that 90-95% of the content that I see put out into the world from self-proclaimed Christ followers typically falls into one of those buckets.

In Matthew 7 Jesus told us, Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye? How can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when all the time there is a plank in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye.” 

In John 8 he said, “He that is without sin among you, let him first cast a stone at her.”

And today he challenges us saying, “What comes out of a person is what defiles them. For it is from within, out of a person’s heart, that evil thoughts come—sexual immorality, theft, murder, adultery, greed, malice, deceit, lewdness, envy, slander, arrogance and folly. All these evils come from inside and defile a person.”

Before God sent Gideon to take on the Midianites he told him to first get his own house in order. I think Jesus would say the same to us today.

What would the world look like if Christians first looked internally and challenged ourselves, our families, members of our church, and our self-proclaimed Christians leaders to live out what Jesus spoke of here?

What would it look like if we hated greed with the same passion that we hated abortion?

What would happen if Christians used their platform to speak out against arrogance, slander, lewdness, and deceit with as much passion as they speak out against gun control?

Jesus came with a message of love and forgiveness. He came with a message of caring for your neighbor and loving God with all of your heart. He came with a message of first looking inwardly before trying to change the minds of the world.

What would it look like if we took that message to heart?

In Proverbs 12:18, 20 today we also read that, “The words of the reckless pierce like swords, but the tongue of the wise brings healing.” and “Deceit is in the hearts of those who plot evil, but those who promote peace have joy.”

The world is in desperate need of Christians who call out reckless words when they see them and instead strive for words of peace and healing.

God sent his son so that none might perish. We are his advocates in a broken and divided world. The world needs an army of Christians who strive to bring more people to Jesus, not push them away through hateful rhetoric. The world needs Christians who first seek transformation personally, then in their own family and church community, and then in the greater church as a whole.

When people see that level of peace in our lives, the authenticity of our relationships, and our commitment to helping those in need, it is amazing how there is a tendency for people to want to find out more about that Jesus character.

Now life change can happen. Now people can be saved.

If we first seek to remove the collective plank from our own eyes, remember how much time Jesus spent preaching that we should take care of the forgotten and vulnerable, and spread a message of love and peace; the world could be truly changed!

Thought to ponder

If I was to compare myself to Jewish leaders of the time that were too fixated on being ceremonially clean and missed the bigger picture, what Christian hot-button issue has a tendency to dominate my thoughts and may keep me from thinking about the bigger picture?

Day 99 – But as for me and my household, we will serve the Lord.

Daily Readings – Joshua 23-34, Mark 6, Psalm 66

But if serving the Lord seems undesirable to you, then choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve, whether the gods your ancestors served beyond the Euphrates, or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land you are living. But as for me and my household, we will serve the Lord.

Joshua 24:15

But as for me and my household, we will serve the Lord.

What a beautiful verse. There is power in a public declaration that your house will serve the Lord. This is a verse that has become one of the most popular verses in modern Christianity. If I had to guess, I bet this single verse can be found hung proudly in more Christian homes than any other verse in the Bible.

When reading the entirety of Joshua 24 today and the surrounding verses, something struck me today. As beautiful as this verse is, and as much we like to profess it as Christians in America on decorations we hang by our doorway, it is also a good example of what we tend to do with the Bible in general in America.

We tend to water it down. We have a tendency to pick isolated verses that give us the warm and fuzzy version of faith we desire and not dig into the rest.

Here are verses 16-22

Then the people answered, “Far be it from us to forsake the Lord to serve other gods! It was the Lord our God himself who brought us and our parents up out of Egypt, from that land of slavery, and performed those great signs before our eyes. He protected us on our entire journey and among all the nations through which we traveled. And the Lord drove out before us all the nations, including the Amorites, who lived in the land. We too will serve the Lord, because he is our God.”

Joshua said to the people, “You are not able to serve the Lord. He is a holy God; he is a jealous God. He will not forgive your rebellion and your sins. If you forsake the Lord and serve foreign gods, he will turn and bring disaster on you and make an end of you, after he has been good to you.”

But the people said to Joshua, “No! We will serve the Lord.”

Then Joshua said, “You are witnesses against yourselves that you have chosen to serve the Lord.”

“Yes, we are witnesses,” they replied.

When Joshua was making this bold proclamation and the Israelites were recommitting themselves to follow the Lord, he did not pull any punches. When we declare that we are turning our life over to God, he expects us to honor that. There are consequences when we don’t.

We are human and will always fall short in moments of human weakness. God knew this and, in his divine wisdom, sent his son to pay the price for our sins so that we could still have a relationship with him and inherit eternal life. We serve an amazing father in Heaven that gives us more grace than we deserve!

Even if we truly turn our lives over to Christ, there will be moments of weakness.

However, what we see throughout the Bible is that there is a difference between momentary human weakness, and turning sin into an idol that we worship.

We see this again in Psalm 66:16-20 today.

Come and hear, all you who fear God;
let me tell you what he has done for me.
I cried out to him with my mouth;
his praise was on my tongue.
If I had cherished sin in my heart,
the Lord would not have listened;
but God has surely listened
and has heard my prayer.
Praise be to God,
who has not rejected my prayer
or withheld his love from me!

Our natural tendency is to want to focus on verses like, “Praise be to God, who has not rejected my prayer or withheld his love from me!” 

It is less exciting to think about the verse immediately before, “If I had cherished sin in my heart, the Lord would not have listened.”

Again, there is a big difference between, “If I had I sinned…” and “If I had cherished sin in my heart…”

One speaks to momentary weakness; the other speaks to idolatry.

The combination of these verses really stood out to me today, because I think we have a tendency in the American Church to preach a gospel of confession without repentance. We have a tendency to put out there a message of, “Believe in Jesus and your sins are forgiven and you have punched your ticket to heaven!”

In the Bible what we actually read is that even demons believe in God and shudder. What separates Christians is acting upon those beliefs. When we gloss over this portion of the gospel, we do a massive disservice to those we are doing life with. If someone has given over their life to Christ, there is fruit in that person’s life. You can see a change. That is spoken of over and over again throughout the Bible.

These changes are not the reason someone is saved. You cannot do enough good deeds to earn your way into heaven. That is why Jesus came. Life change is not the way into Heaven, but it is the evidence that someone has genuinely given their life over to Jesus and not just simply believed in him.

I love what Joshua did when the Israelites said, “We are in! Sign us up!” He didn’t leave it at that and celebrate. He didn’t treat it as if the sale had been made, his motivational talk had worked, etc. He challenged them. He told them what they were committing to truly meant.

If we profess to be Christians, have we done this for ourselves? Have we looked inwardly and asked God to reveal any strongholds in our hearts? Have we asked him to show us any metaphorical altars we have built in our lives that are taking the place where he is meant to dwell?

I want to have the type of faith that produces fruit. I want to constantly be asking God to refine me. I want my family to truly serve the Lord and not just have the pretty artwork hanging by the front door.

But as for me and my household, we will serve the Lord.

Is that something we are willing to declare today? When Joshua goes on to challenge us about what that is going to take, are we willing to reaffirm that statement?

Thought to ponder

What altars have I erected in my heart? What sin do I not only succumb to, but also actually cherish, that may be keeping me from experiencing full life in Christ?

Day 98 – “Why bother the teacher?”

Daily Readings: Joshua 21-22, Mark 5, Psalm 65

When Jesus had again crossed over by boat to the other side of the lake, a large crowd gathered around him while he was by the lake. Then one of the synagogue leaders, named Jairus, came, and when he saw Jesus, he fell at his feet. He pleaded earnestly with him, “My little daughter is dying. Please come and put your hands on her so that she will be healed and live.” So Jesus went with him.

A large crowd followed and pressed around him. And a woman was there who had been subject to bleeding for twelve years. She had suffered a great deal under the care of many doctors and had spent all she had, yet instead of getting better she grew worse. When she heard about Jesus, she came up behind him in the crowd and touched his cloak, because she thought, “If I just touch his clothes, I will be healed.” Immediately her bleeding stopped and she felt in her body that she was freed from her suffering.

At once Jesus realized that power had gone out from him. He turned around in the crowd and asked, “Who touched my clothes?”

“You see the people crowding against you,” his disciples answered, “and yet you can ask, ‘Who touched me?’ ”

But Jesus kept looking around to see who had done it. Then the woman, knowing what had happened to her, came and fell at his feet and, trembling with fear, told him the whole truth. He said to her, “Daughter, your faith has healed you. Go in peace and be freed from your suffering.”

While Jesus was still speaking, some people came from the house of Jairus, the synagogue leader. “Your daughter is dead,” they said. “Why bother the teacher anymore?”

Overhearing what they said, Jesus told him, “Don’t be afraid; just believe.”

He did not let anyone follow him except Peter, James and John the brother of James. When they came to the home of the synagogue leader, Jesus saw a commotion, with people crying and wailing loudly. He went in and said to them, “Why all this commotion and wailing? The child is not dead but asleep.” But they laughed at him.

After he put them all out, he took the child’s father and mother and the disciples who were with him, and went in where the child was. He took her by the hand and said to her, “Talitha koum!” (which means “Little girl, I say to you, get up!”). Immediately the girl stood up and began to walk around (she was twelve years old). At this they were completely astonished. He gave strict orders not to let anyone know about this, and told them to give her something to eat.

Mark 5:21-43

Seeing these two separate stories juxtaposed next to each other really spoke to me today. In one case there is the woman who truly believes in her heart that “If I just touch his clothes, I will be healed!” She believed so thoroughly in the healing power of God to work miracles in her life!

As this is still happening we read of other people coming from the house of Jairus saying, “Your daughter is dead,” they said. “Why bother the teacher anymore?”

As I was reading this morning it occurred to me that I have frequently been able to relate to each of these stories at different points throughout my own life. There have been times where I completely believe in the Father’s ability to heal me mentally, emotionally, and physically from whatever is holding me captive at the moment. In these moments I absolutely run after the Father know that if I can simply be in his presence all will be well. “If I just touch his clothes…”

Then there have been moments where I feel like I have failed over and over and over again at whatever battle I have been facing and it feels a lot more like the second story. I have felt completely defeated to the point where I don’t even want to bring my concerns to the Father. It feels hopeless. It feels like the last chance for God to work a miracle, in whatever that challenge was in my life, has died.

“Why bother the teacher anymore?”

Why bring this problem to God when I have let him down so many times in the past? Maybe it is just time to throw in the towel on this one and simply be thankful that Christ went to the cross for my sins and I have salvation as a result that cannot be taken away, because clearly I cannot overcome this struggle!

Jesus says, “Why all this commotion and wailing? The child is not dead but asleep.”

I wonder if Jesus has ever spoken this to you in an area of your life? I wonder if there has ever been an issue you have dealt with for so long when Jesus says, “This battle is not over yet…” the immediate response in your heart has become the same as in the story, disbelieving laughter.

God wants us to be the woman in the crowd.

“If I can just touch his clothes!”

The woman in the crowd had suffered her bleeding for 12 years before she received healing. The child in the house only recently became sick. Sometimes healing, whether emotional or physical, comes after years and years. Sometimes it is nearly instantaneous.

Healing doesn’t always come the way we picture it. Sometimes God’s plan is different than our own. I imagine Jairus didn’t picture his daughter dying as part of this story as he reached out to Jesus to come to his house and heal her. Sometimes the healing we are after is one type and yet Jesus uses our challenge to give us healing in a different area we never even realize we needed.

Press in. Draw near. Chase after his presence. Reach out and touch his clothes. Jesus is there and the Father is willing.

Thought to ponder

In what area of my life have I recently given up on the hope of healing? Where have I recently felt like “I should no longer bother the teacher”?

Day 97 – Thorns

Daily Readings: Joshua 19-20, Mark 4, Psalm 64

Again Jesus began to teach by the lake. The crowd that gathered around him was so large that he got into a boat and sat in it out on the lake, while all the people were along the shore at the water’s edge. He taught them many things by parables, and in his teaching said: “Listen! A farmer went out to sow his seed. As he was scattering the seed, some fell along the path, and the birds came and ate it up. Some fell on rocky places, where it did not have much soil. It sprang up quickly, because the soil was shallow. But when the sun came up, the plants were scorched, and they withered because they had no root. Other seed fell among thorns, which grew up and choked the plants, so that they did not bear grain. Still other seed fell on good soil. It came up, grew and produced a crop, some multiplying thirty, some sixty, some a hundred times.”

Then Jesus said to them, “Don’t you understand this parable? How then will you understand any parable? The farmer sows the word. Some people are like seed along the path, where the word is sown. As soon as they hear it, Satan comes and takes away the word that was sown in them. Others, like seed sown on rocky places, hear the word and at once receive it with joy. But since they have no root, they last only a short time. When trouble or persecution comes because of the word, they quickly fall away. Still others, like seed sown among thorns, hear the word; but the worries of this life, the deceitfulness of wealth and the desires for other things come in and choke the word, making it unfruitful. 

Mark 4:1-8, 13-19

9:30 PM: Check the current scores of a couple of games, respond to a text, check email one last time, click over to Facebook for two minutes, then Twitter, then back to ESPN. Put phone in airplane mode for the night.

4:30 AM: Out of airplane mode, check emails while getting a big glass of water. I would rather make sure nothing needs to be taken care of this morning before starting my God time that way I can maximize my time with God and with my kids once they wake up. I want to leave as late as possible for work knowing that there are no misc. things that need to be taken care of before my first concrete appointment. (Solid rationalization) Check final scores while here. Then Facebook briefly to see if there are any notifications…scroll down for 10 seconds while there before being mad at myself and stopping.

4:45 AM: Settle in for prayer, worship, and time in the word until 6:00 AM.

“Lord quiet my mind, help me focus on you…”

Other seed fell among thorns, which grew up and choked the plants, so that they did not bear grain…

“I still need to get that project done today…and when I am going to finish my taxes that I already filed an extension on…and I really need to have that conversation with a coworker I have been putting off…”

“Lord quiet my mind, I want this time to be yours. Thank you so much for the incredible blessings you have put into my life that are so undeserved. Help me to be a light today…”

“I can’t believe my friend posted that on Facebook. Don’t they fact check anything? That is what is wrong with the world today…Lord help your world heal…Lord, quiet my mind. I want to be able to just enjoy your presence without feeling pulled in so many directions. Maybe I should write a post about that…”

Prayer…to do list…prayer…think about post…prayer…to do list…prayer…

“At some point I really need to fire off a few emails this morning before the day gets going. It is going to be a pretty full day. I have no idea when I am going to be able to call that person back…Lord quiet my mind.”

“I need to spend some time in worship.”

Pull out phone to cue up favorite worship music. Refresh email.

“Why the heck did I do that? It is 5:10 AM. There aren’t any new emails. I hate myself sometimes. I need to stop being such a slave to this thing.”

Attempt to worship along with playlist.

“God you are so good. Thank you for loving me and being patient even when I am being so silly. Your grace and love sustain me!”

To do list…worship…to do list…worship…to do list…worship…

Grab phone to do daily readings. Quick check of Twitter for 20-30 seconds to see reactions about the playoff game last night. Back to Bible Gateway app to start reading. Annoyed with myself…why did I do that?

“Lord, show me what you have for me today.”

Attempt to focus on reading the Bible and really taking in God’s word…

Thorn, thorn, thorn, thorn, thorn…

Other seed fell among thorns, which grew up and choked the plants, so that they did not bear grain…

I imagine some of you can relate.

Why do we do this to ourselves? Why do we cripple our own ability to be present whether with God, our family, or our friends? Why do we train our brains to desire anything other than what we are doing at the moment?

We live in a society where people don’t even allow themselves to relax and enjoy watching a basketball game, television show, etc. We need a second screen in front of us seeing what other people are saying about that shared social experience. We need a distraction from our distraction…wait, what?

The Lord said, “Be still and know that I am God.” –Psalm 46:10

And yet even when I carve out that beautiful time to be still, even when I wake up early, go with less sleep, and really strive to prioritize time to God, I frequently self sabotage for 30 seconds here and 30 seconds there. It is not the sum total of 5-10 minutes out of the first hour and a half of my day that I choose to spend on petty distractions that robs me of truly enjoying my time with God; it is the mental clutter I bring upon myself.

We fill our brains with an overwhelming amount of stimulus and then wonder why our minds feel full and why we feel overwhelmed. We spend the last 2 minutes before bed flipping between 6 apps, 4 websites, and 2 more apps, and wonder why we can’t seem to turn our brains off and fall to sleep well.

Thorn, thorn, thorn, thorn, thorn.

Some days, I am great about not doing this. Some evenings, I am as well. However, there are so many when I self sabotage and hate myself for it.

I want a change. I want to declutter mentally. I want to be fully present. At home, at work, with friends, and with God. I want to be where I am.

In life you always have to want better for yourself badly enough that it is worth the pain of change. That is why breaking any addiction is so hard.

I hate my cell phone. I am ready for a change. I wonder if anyone reading this is ready for a change as well?

30 day challenge.

  1. When you get home from work, put your phone on the charger in your room and just be present at home. Don’t check it every few minutes. There is nothing that can’t wait for at least an hour or two without the world burning down around us. Human beings used to survive somehow without cell phones.
  2. When you are at work, put it out of arms reach. Get that thing out of your pocket! If it rings, you can answer it, but put it far enough away that you don’t accidentally grab it as an OCD tendency to check something that does not need to be checked. Only pick it up when there is a specific productive purpose.
  3. Leave it on the charger throughout your entire morning routine. Use a different source for music. Read an actual physical Bible. Don’t come out of airplane mode until a preset time where you are actually going to begin work.
  4. Put it into airplane mode an hour before bed and don’t touch it from that point forward.

For 30 days.

I am ready to be good soil again, every day, not just some days. I am ready to ruthlessly weed out the thorns in my life and help my brain slow down so that I am able to appreciate the little things in life that go unnoticed frequently because of my addiction to technology.

Who is coming with me?

Thought to ponder

If it is not technology, what is my thorn? What in my life sometimes rises up and chokes the plant trying to grow when the seed falls on the soil? How can I remove those thorns from my life?

Day 96 – I think of you through the watches of the night

Daily Readings: Joshua 17-18, Mark 3, Psalm 63

Because your love is better than life,
my lips will glorify you.
I will praise you as long as I live,
and in your name I will lift up my hands.
I will be fully satisfied as with the richest of foods;
with singing lips my mouth will praise you.

On my bed I remember you;
I think of you through the watches of the night.

Because you are my help,
I sing in the shadow of your wings.
I cling to you;
your right hand upholds me.

Psalm 63:3-8 

Even since I left college, I have never been a good sleeper. I always marvel at the concept of sleeping through the entire night. I cannot remember the last time I didn’t wake up at least 3-4 times throughout the night and then roll around attempting to get comfortable.

If this last more than 20-30 minutes, now my mind starts wandering, responsibilities start flooding in, the to-do list for the day, week, or month begin to keep me up, and falling back to sleep seems an insurmountable task.

In the middle of last October God did a wonderful thing for me and asked me to stop fighting it. He asked me to just abide in him in these moments. He asked me to use that time in bed to spend time with him, thank him, lift others up, and just enjoy the presence of my heavenly father in the comfort of my bed.

There have been some nights since then where I have completely forgotten this prompting from God and failed miserably at this, but there have been many other nights where I have chosen to turn those seemingly frustrating moments of not being able to fall back asleep because of a sore back and active mind into beautiful time with my father.

I have imagined being curled up in his lap the way my children snuggle up to me around bedtime when we are reading books on the couch. I have imagined his smile as he puts his arm around me and enjoys the time we have together with no agenda other than being with his treasured child.

I don’t always fall back to sleep immediately when I shift the posture of my heart to one of abiding in these moments, but I wake up refreshed.

Psalm 63 was a great reminder this morning to choose to abide more often. It was a great re-centering of my heart on praising him on my bed and not just with my waking moments.

When I embrace that his love truly is better than life, as David writes today, and use those quiet moments to allow my heart to sing his praise, glorify his name, and cling to him; I leave fully satisfied.

Thought to ponder

When are moments throughout the day or night when I allow my mind to be cluttered and heart to stray from God, where I can actively choose to imagine this physical manifestation of God right there with me as a loving father looking down on his treasured child?

Day 95 – The Sabbath is for us

Daily Readings: Joshua 15-16, Mark 2, Psalm 62

One Sabbath Jesus was going through the grainfields, and as his disciples walked along, they began to pick some heads of grain. The Pharisees said to him, “Look, why are they doing what is unlawful on the Sabbath?”

He answered, “Have you never read what David did when he and his companions were hungry and in need? 26 In the days of Abiathar the high priest, he entered the house of God and ate the consecrated bread, which is lawful only for priests to eat. And he also gave some to his companions.”

Then he said to them, “The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath. So the Son of Man is Lord even of the Sabbath.”

Mark 2:23-28

Throughout the entire gospel we see a running theme of religious leaders struggling to grapple with the faith they have grown up embracing that was based on black and white rules that needed to be followed at all cost and the type of faith that Jesus spoke of. Religious leaders were most comfortable with a concrete checklist of things to do and things to avoid. Jesus went after the heart. Jesus came with a message of relationship with God. Jesus came to help people understand that God did not simply desire legalism and a group of followers that followed the religious laws to perfection, but followers that understood God’s desires for their lives and what they were called to do with their time here on earth.

Almost the entirety of Mark 2 follows this theme. Jesus heals a paralyzed man, but the religious leaders feel he blasphemed by saying, “Your sins are forgiven.” Jesus goes to eat with the sinners so that they may come to faith and the religious leaders grumble their disapproval. And finally they see Jesus and his followers simply picking a couple heads of grain as they walk and blow everything out of proportion.

I love the response Jesus gives.

The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath. 

I chuckled when I read this passage this morning.

The Sabbath is for us.

The almighty God of the Universe, creator of everything that was, that is, and that is to come is not having his day ruined by us knocking out some work on a Sunday afternoon. The Sabbath is not for him. The Sabbath is for us.

I desperately need the Sabbath. I need a day every week where I unplug, spend time with family, friends, and the body of Christ. I need to reenergize, fill my cup back up, and re-center myself on God.

The Sabbath is for us.

I imagine this applies to a lot of God’s laws throughout the Bible. So often we think of God’s laws and view them as a list of things that are inconvenient to follow and resent that we are “unable, as a follower of God, to just do what we want!” like an immature teenager that thinks their parents are so stupid for all of the rules they put in place until they reach their mid-20’s and realize, “Maybe mom and dad knew a thing of two back then…”

God wants us to live a rich, full, and meaningful life throughout the time we are blessed with here on earth. God want the best for his children. When my wife and I set rules for our kids it is not to try to restrain their fun or make life less enjoyable, they are always made with their best interest at heart. We are imperfect human parents and may occasionally make decisions with our children that we look back on and wish we could have over. Our father in Heaven is perfect.

Following all of God’s word does not guarantee an easy life for us. That is not what we are promised as followers of Christ. However, if we truly seek after the father’s will through studying his word and seeking to live it out, it does draw us closer to him. It does give us peace and perspective. It does keep us away from self-created adversity!

We all have some commands from God that we find incredibly difficult to follow. We all have a portion of his law that we push back against over and over again despite knowing that we shouldn’t. We are flawed and fallen human beings, which is why Jesus came in the first place. However, when we acknowledge that God has so much more for us when we embrace that his laws are perfect and lead us to a better life in the present, not just for eternity, they do become easier to follow.

Start with the Sabbath. It is almost impossible to follow any of other of God’s decrees when burned out and not centered on God. Give yourself that recharge. Have a day that is actually devoted to God and not knocking out an endless to-do list and catching up on things you fell behind on this week.

The Sabbath was made for you.

Thought to ponder

How could I do a better job of guarding the Sabbath?

Day 94 – Shelter beneath his wings

Daily Readings: Joshua 13-14, Mark 1, Psalm 61

Hear my cry, O God;
listen to my prayer.

From the ends of the earth I call to you,
I call as my heart grows faint;
lead me to the rock that is higher than I.
For you have been my refuge,
a strong tower against the foe.

I long to dwell in your tent forever
and take refuge in the shelter of your wings.

Psalm 61:1-4

Ever since our newest child, Andrew James, was born two and half months ago life his been a bit chaotic. The combination of bringing a fourth child into the world, 31 days in NICU, the normal lack of sleep that comes with having a new born after Andrew’s arrival home, and maintaining all of the normal family, ministry, and business obligations has left me stretched a bit thin.

There have definitely been many moments in the last couple of months where I felt like David when writing this Psalm and where my heart certainly felt faint.

God has been so good throughout and truly has been my refuge, but it has been a refuge I have not spent enough time turning to.

Earlier this week I had a moment when driving in my car that was not prompted by anything that had happened that morning where I just felt a deep sense of loss at how little time I had been spending with my heavenly father over the last two months. I began tearing up while driving and simply apologizing.

“I am so sorry that I have allowed ‘the season of life I am in with a new born’ to turn into an excuse to make my time with you cut short. I want more time with you father. I want more of you.”

When I read the last two verses above this morning, those same emotions welled up inside of me.

I want to dwell in his tent forever. I want to take shelter under his wings.

It is only by the grace of God that I have not completely collapsed the last two and a half months. I have been pulled in so many directions. It has only been because of those moments of prayer and worship where I remember to turn it all back over to him that I have had my strength maintained.

However, I have let my mornings slip away. I have allowed that private time every morning that had previously been devoted to our relationship to slip away in an effort to get a little more sleep or to self medicate by knocking one more item off of an ever growing to-do list, reading an article about the game the night before, or spending time on social media.

I have allowed sleep, work, and entertainment to dominate my mornings and take over the time formally reserved for God.

I want to go back to having my first and deepest desire of the day to dwell in his tent and seek shelter beneath his wings.

As human beings we are master rationalizers. It is easy for me to intellectually justify that this is simply a time of life where I need to keep my head above the water and may just need to spend a bit less time in God’s word and less time writing faithfully. I could tell you today that I have been spending time with God in other ways, which would be the truth, but would conveniently neglect the deeper truth. It would ignore the fact that my time in the word and writing is where I feel the most connected with God and where our relationship is at it’s fullest.

When life gets overwhelming, I want my default to be turning to MORE time with God, not less. I want my first response to be cutting out other items from my life, not allowing my time with God to be the first thing that is eliminated in busy times where I feel like there are not enough hours in the day.

I want my first desire to be for time beneath his wings. Today I will dwell in his tent.

Thought to ponder

When have you recently sacrificed your time with God because life got busy? What does true time with God look like for you and how can you guard that time better in this next week?

 

 

 

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