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?

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?

 

 

 

Sharing our sin

Daily Readings: Deuteronomy 21-22, 2 Corinthians 2, Psalm 51

Have mercy on me, O God,
according to your unfailing love;
according to your great compassion
blot out my transgressions.
Wash away all my iniquity
and cleanse me from my sin.

For I know my transgressions,
and my sin is always before me.
Against you, you only, have I sinned
and done what is evil in your sight;
so you are right in your verdict
and justified when you judge.
Surely I was sinful at birth,
sinful from the time my mother conceived me.
Yet you desired faithfulness even in the womb;
you taught me wisdom in that secret place.

Cleanse me with hyssop, and I will be clean;
wash me, and I will be whiter than snow.
Let me hear joy and gladness;
let the bones you have crushed rejoice.

Hide your face from my sins
and blot out all my iniquity.

Create in me a pure heart, O God,
and renew a steadfast spirit within me.
Do not cast me from your presence
or take your Holy Spirit from me.
Restore to me the joy of your salvation
and grant me a willing spirit, to sustain me.

Then I will teach transgressors your ways,
so that sinners will turn back to you.
Deliver me from the guilt of bloodshed, O God,
you who are God my Savior,
and my tongue will sing of your righteousness.
Open my lips, Lord,
and my mouth will declare your praise.

Psalm 51:1-15

David had a long and hard fall. He went from being the shepherd boy chosen to be king, the savior of his people who slay the giant, and “a man after God’s own heart”, to an adulterer and murderer. It is hard to picture a fall from grace more pronounced than David’s.

We all fall short of the glory of God throughout our life. We may never commit adultery or murder, but Jesus told us in his sermon on the mount that, You have heard that it was said to the people long ago, ‘You shall not murder and anyone who murders will be subject to judgment.’ But I tell you that anyone who is angry with a brother or sister will be subject to judgment.” And also, I tell you that anyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart. 

The question is not whether or not we sin and fall short of the glory of God. The question is; how will we respond?

Throughout large chunks of my life I wanted to run and hide. I wanted to avoid time with God. I didn’t want the shame and guilt that I knew would accompany time with my father in Heaven because of my unrepented sin. This was a common path for me to walk. Sin, feel the weight of guilt and shame, withdraw from God, repeat.

At other times I would go down a different path in relation to sin issues in my life. Often I would just want nothing more than to minimize the sin in my own life as not that big of a deal. “I mean, look at that guy! I am in pretty good shape compared to him!”

I know I am not alone in this.

Having spent a large chunk of my life in careers where I am mentoring others, I will often ask the question of fellow Christians, “What has your heart captive right now? What sin issue have you been struggling with recently?”

One of the most common answers I hear is pride.

I always want to smile. I can relate. For the longest time, that would have been what I said as well. Pride is a nice, simple, relatable, and comfortable sin to confess. No risk of people viewing me differently because of struggling with pride! In fact they might appreciate my spiritual maturity for realizing my own weaknesses!

We all nod understandingly as Christians when someone says they struggle with pride. “Me too brother, me too.”

It is far more difficult for most of us to say:

“I am unbelievably materialistic. I compare myself to other people constantly and never feel that I will have enough. I will never have the house I desire, drive the car I want to drive, have the body I want to have, etc. I have spent far more time looking at Black Friday ads than time in God’s word over the last week.”

or

“I have been addicted to porn for as long as I can remember and it causes me to view women as objects and I hate myself for it. I lust constantly and I don’t know what to do about it. I have repented of it and sworn it off forever more times than I can count.”

or

“I am constantly gossiping about others. I don’t know why I can’t stop or why I do it, but I find myself frequently speaking negatively about other people when I am unwilling to bring up those same items to that person.”

or

“I can’t stop eating. I know that I am in a self-destructive pattern that is not God honoring in any way shape or form, but when I am stressed, felling down, or struggling with anxiety, I turn to food instead of God. I struggle treating my body like the temple God created it to be and I know it is slowly killing me.”

or

“I think I might be an alcoholic. I might not get black out drunk, but it is hard to remember a week where I didn’t have several beers 4-5 nights or the week or more. I certainly turn to alcohol as an escape instead of turning to God. I worry what path I might be on and where it might lead eventually.”

There is an endless list.

Far easier to tell that Christian friend, “I am struggling with pride.”

I love David’s response today.

Create in me a pure heart, O God,
and renew a steadfast spirit within me.
Do not cast me from your presence
or take your Holy Spirit from me.
Restore to me the joy of your salvation
and grant me a willing spirit, to sustain me.

Then I will teach transgressors your ways,
so that sinners will turn back to you.

Deliver me from the guilt of bloodshed, O God,
you who are God my Savior,
and my tongue will sing of your righteousness.
Open my lips, Lord,
and my mouth will declare your praise.

David says, Lord use me. Give me strength, joy and a willing spirit. I want to use this fall to help others. I want to teach others your ways and declare your praise!

An amazing thing happened for me when I started being comfortable calling out every sin in my life, even if they seemed small or insignificant. God was faithful.

The battle was so much easier to fight when embracing the truth that the Holy Spirit truly does reside within us and wants to help if we will simply acknowledge the errors in our ways and ask for help.

I also realized quickly that we all struggle with the same things and that all of the condemnation I feared from other brothers in Christ was not coming. I lived for so long thinking that I wasn’t worthy of love, because I couldn’t seem to form good enough habits! I couldn’t seem to achieve Christ-like perfection! What was wrong with me that I would try and try and try again and year after year I struggled with the same stupid things?

“Don’t worry God, I will figure this out eventually.”

But there was no way I was going to confess what was going on in my life to others. What would they think? I am supposed to have it all together. I have worked hard at being a respected leader and mentor for others. How would people respond?

What I have found over and over again is that there is freedom in living authentically with other brothers and sisters in Christ. I have repeatedly found my fears to be unfounded and simply an attack from the enemy. In fact, when other people see your willingness to kick shame in the teeth and lay your struggles out there, you will find many people immediately want to follow suit. We all desperately want to be known fully and loved fully, baggage and all.

God can do amazing good through us when we are willing to live authentically with others and open up about what is happening in our lives, regardless of whether they are obvious sins like David’s or if they are quiet sins of heart that we would prefer to minimize as small and insignificant. God wants to use our falls to demonstrate his glory and bring freedom to others that have not yet experienced it fully.

David understood this.

So what will your prayer be today about areas you are currently struggling with? Will it be, “Lord, help me overcome this thorn in my side?” Will you be focused on somehow conquering this on your own?

Or will it be like David? Instead of hiding from your sin, will you write Psalms about it? Will you use it help others struggling with the same battle? Will you use it to bring glory to God and sing his praises because of the work he is doing in your life, how far he has brought you, and how he loves you unconditionally even in your sin?

We will all fall short. There is freedom in embracing David’s approach when we do!

Thought to ponder

If a brother or sister in Christ asked you what your current battle is, how would you respond?

 

 

 

Questioning the master potter

Daily Readings – Leviticus 18-20, Psalm 35, Romans 9

What then shall we say? Is God unjust? Not at all! For he says to Moses,

“I will have mercy on whom I have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I have compassion.” It does not, therefore, depend on human desire or effort, but on God’s mercy. For Scripture says to Pharaoh: “I raised you up for this very purpose, that I might display my power in you and that my name might be proclaimed in all the earth.” Therefore God has mercy on whom he wants to have mercy, and he hardens whom he wants to harden. 

One of you will say to me: “Then why does God still blame us? For who is able to resist his will?” But who are you, a human being, to talk back to God? Shall what is formed say to the one who formed it, ‘Why did you make me like this?’ Does not the potter have the right to make out of the same lump of clay some pottery for special purposes and some for common use?

Romans 9:14-21

Full transparency, this is a passage that I struggle with. I desperately want to take on the mindset of Paul and embrace that God is the master potter and he has the right to do with a lump of clay what he wishes. I badly want to simply accept that God has a master plan much bigger than I can ever conceive and that occasionally he needs to raise up a Pharaoh for the purpose of showing his glory.

But I struggle.

I was tempted to simply throw Romans 9 into the daily readings for yesterday knowing I was going to write about Psalm 34. Then I could skip writing about it! I honestly didn’t have the emotional energy to really dig in and contemplate the full depth of this section in Romans.

I frequently catch myself falling into a common trap we see today in our Western World, where I would rather live in a world where bad things don’t have to happen for God to get the attention of his people. I want to create God in my own image instead of remembering that I was created in his. I want to say things to myself and to others along the lines of, “Well, a loving God would…” and then philosophize about how I would do things if I were God and project those items onto my heavenly father.

Then I remember that God loved us so much that he sent his only son to pay the ultimate price on my behalf. I remember that he loves me so much that, even though he has watched me fall short over and over and over again, he still welcomes me back as a loving father with arms wide open. He still showers me with blessings even when I have been a disobedient son. He loves us more than we ever deserve or could ever earn.

When I recalibrate in this way and take a step back, it is so much easier to trust God with his macro plan and not question every single micro detail. My human nature wants to fully understand every single thing that happens in life and ask God, “Why did it have to be done that way?” I am often so concerned with watching the stone hit the surface of the pond that I miss the ripple effect that goes cascading outwards.

It is so easy to miss the big picture.

And the truth is, Paul is right. God has infinite wisdom. Compared to God, I am a mere lump of clay.

This doesn’t mean that we should never try to dig in deeper and understand God better. God welcomes that. Throughout Psalms we see David going through constant ups and downs. We see him question God, frustrated with God, give praise to God, exalt God, and everything in between. And God called David a man after his own heart.

Our God is big enough to handle our frustrations, hurts, and anger. He wants a fully authentic relationship with us.

Don’t be afraid to dig in. Don’t be afraid to ask hard questions. Don’t skip over that passage you would rather not contemplate. There is beauty in depth. There is beauty in wrestling with God’s truth. There is beauty in coming to our father in Heaven and saying, “God, I don’t understand…but I want to.”

God wants all of us. Not simply the sanitized version. Today I will give it to him.

Thought to ponder

What questions have I avoided digging into and been unwilling to turn to God with?

As always, thank you for your continued support! Your comments and shares mean a great deal to me.

He leads me beside quiet waters

Daily Readings: Exodus 13-14, Psalm 23, Matthew 22

The Lord is my shepherd, I lack nothing.
He makes me lie down in green pastures,
he leads me beside quiet waters,
he refreshes my soul.
He guides me along the right paths
for his name’s sake.
Even though I walk
through the valley of the shadow of death,
I will fear no evil,
for you are with me;
your rod and your staff,
they comfort me.

You prepare a table before me
in the presence of my enemies.
You anoint my head with oil;
my cup overflows.
Surely your goodness and love will follow me
all the days of my life,
and I will dwell in the house of the Lord
forever.

-Psalm 23

Wow. So good.

Read that entire Psalm again but this time slow down. Let God truly lead you beside quiet waters as you read these beautiful words. Pause after each sentence to really let it sink in.

Psalm 23, for me, perfectly summarizes how I feel in my relationship with God when my heart is focused on him and when my eyes are on heaven and not on the daily moments of strife, worry, stress, frustration, or anger that this world can bring.

When my heart is aligned with God, even when “walking through the valley of the shadow of death” or “in the presence of my enemies”, he guides me. He gives me peace. He comforts me.

I love the imagery of leading me beside quiet waters because there is nothing more relaxing for me in this entire world than being alone with God on the water. There is something inherently peaceful about sitting quietly next to a large body of water and taking it all in. In those moments I am in awe of God’s majesty and all of his creation.

Today, actually choose to go live out Psalm 23. Let God lead you beside quiet waters. Let him make you to lie down in green pastures. The beauty of this Psalm is that David refers to our ability to let God give us this rest even when we are in the midst of trial and turmoil. We do not need to be physically resting and actually sitting alone next to quiet waters to have our souls refreshed. The Holy Spirit is ready and willing each and every day, regardless of what that day brings, to anoint our heads with oil and follow us with love and goodness. He is ready to help us dwell in the house of the Lord.

Today, let him.

Thought to ponder

What is the most peaceful and relaxed I ever feel? If I was writing Psalm 23, what would I replace, “He leads me beside quiet waters” with? That peace is available for you today regardless of what the world brings!

Gouge it out!

Daily Readings: Exodus 5-6, Psalm 19, Matthew 18

“If anyone causes one of these little ones—those who believe in me—to stumble, it would be better for them to have a large millstone hung around their neck and to be drowned in the depths of the sea. Woe to the world because of the things that cause people to stumble! Such things must come, but woe to the person through whom they come! If your hand or your foot causes you to stumble, cut it off and throw it away. It is better for you to enter life maimed or crippled than to have two hands or two feet and be thrown into eternal fire. And if your eye causes you to stumble, gouge it out and throw it away. It is better for you to enter life with one eye than to have two eyes and be thrown into the fire of hell.”

-Matthew 18:6-9

I am going to go out on a limb and suggest Jesus isn’t a huge fan of the sin we allow to maintain a foothold in our lives! This idea of gouging out your own eye wasn’t just some over exaggeration Jesus threw out casually when shooting from the hip one day; it was virtually one of his greatest hits! We saw him give the exact same advice when delivering his Sermon on the Mount back on Day 5. Jesus takes the sin in our lives extremely seriously!

We know, as Christians, that we are saved by our faith in Christ and accepting him as our Lord and savior. We cannot avoid sin entirely. We are human and live in a broken and fallen world. We are incapable of perfection, which is why Jesus came to earth to present himself as the ultimate sacrifice on our behalf. However, Jesus wants us to accept him as our savior AND our Lord. Not just our savior. So what does that mean to accept Jesus as the Lord over our life?

Well, for starters it means praying the prayer that David prayed in Psalm 19:13.

Keep your servant also from willful sins;
may they not rule over me.
Then I will be blameless,
innocent of great transgression.

David does not pray that God would keep him from all sin. We will always have moments of weakness and sin in the moment. There will be stumbling blocks that we don’t see coming. David prays that God would keep him from willful sins.

There is a huge difference.

Through the help of the Holy Spirit, God wants to help us get better and better at conquering all of our sinful impulses that previously ruled our lives. However, it may take some time to allow God to fully break down our former habits, especially deeply ingrained ones. However, we can immediately choose to turn away from willful sins.

If you struggle with Alcoholism, be honest with yourself about what your triggers are that put you back into your old habit patterns. Stay away from bars. Avoid putting yourself in situations that tend to take you down that path. Get all of it out of your house. Let Jesus gouge it out! If you struggle with pornography and tried to quit over and over again without success, have you been willing to put accountability software on all of your devices and not just your computer? Have you taken legitimate steps to say, “No more! Jesus, I want you as LORD, not just savior.” or have you simply prayed about it without gouging it out? The list goes on.

If we are unwilling to take legitimate steps to gouge out these sins from our lives, then they become willful sins. They are no longer, caught off guard and didn’t see the stumbling block coming, type of sins. We are actively choosing to allow them to maintain their foothold. We want Jesus as simply savior, but would prefer avoiding embracing him as Lord over our lives.

Here is the thing, life is so much more rewarding, peaceful, and rich when we let go of these things! Jesus isn’t calling us to a bland, lesser version of life where we no longer “get to sin”. He is calling us to so much more!

A close friend of mine, Jason Redoutey who helps run Hearts Alive and Free Ministries, once said something to me that hit home. “Satan wants us to believe that sin is the fun stuff that you don’t get to do.”

That couldn’t be further from the truth.

Earlier in Psalm 19:7-8 we read this from David:

The law of the Lord is perfect,
refreshing the soul.
The statutes of the Lord are trustworthy,
making wise the simple.
The precepts of the Lord are right,
giving joy to the heart.

We should gouge sin out of our life with passion, not to “earn salvation”, but to allow Jesus to give us the good stuff! I have found over and over again in my own life that the words of David are true. When I am walking closely with Jesus and allowing him to work on my heart, I naturally desire to follow his commands. Sin no longer is the “fun stuff I don’t get to do”. Instead, by gouging it out of my life, God truly does give joy to my heart, wisdom to my decisions, and refreshment to my soul. Jesus loves you like crazy and wants you to experience the good stuff! He wants you to live life to the fullest and to cast off the millstone from your neck!

And that is something I would sign up for every day of the week!

Thought to ponder

What sin do I struggle with in my own life? If I am honest with myself, would God tell me that it is a “willful sin” like David spoke of because I have been unwilling to gouge it out? How can I gouge out this sin from my life so that Jesus refresh my soul even more and give me even more joy in my heart?

As always, thank you for reading! Your comments are a constant source of encouragement. If you think this post would be a help or encouragement to someone else, feel free to share it!

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